In March, Metsä Board held a highly engaging real-time virtual tour of its new Excellence Centre in Äänekoski, Finland. The two-story, 5,000-sq-ft center was created to provide an active operational environment for joint exploration, innovation, and testing to develop better and more sustainable fiber-based packaging solutions.
Hosting the event were Mark Beamesderfer, Packaging Solutions Director, Metsä Board Americas, joining from the U.S. headquarters in Norwalk, Conn., and R&D Laboratory Director Heli Kuorikoski, Graphic Packaging Designer Marko Leiviskä, and Structural Packaging Designer Iiro Numminem of Metsä Board, who conducted the live tour of the Excellence Centre.
Beamesderfer opened the event, sharing that Finland-based Metsä Board is the leading European producer of folding boxboard (FBB) and white top kraftliners, with “exceptionally healthy” growth in the U.S. Its goal is to create packaging solutions that respect nature. He shared that with consumers demanding a fundamental change in packaging to be more sustainable, collaboration is necessary to develop holistic new solutions. The Excellence Centre delivers an environment in which partners from the full supply chain can work together to create these solutions.
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Explained Kuorikoski, the center’s location, in a world-unique bioeconomy ecosystem in Äänekoski, in central Finland, provides the ideal setting for exploring the future possibilities of fiber-based materials, with sustainability as the key focus. Among Metsä’s assets in the area are sustainably managed forests, its Metsä Fibre bioproducts mill, its board mill for FBB, its board sheeting plant, and other facilities.
The center’s first floor comprises a number of laboratories, including a testing lab, a converting lab, and a lab focused on chemical analysis of the materials. The labs are staffed by 10 people, assisted by R&D professionals and are equipped with more than 100 test methods. Capabilities in the first lab include testing for creasing, compression, peel-force, friction measurement, and more. The converting lab tests coatings and adhesives, and includes conditioning chambers. Also in the converting lab is a 3D printer that can be used to produce tools for the center’s various equipment. The third lab provides safety-related analysis, including IR testing for microscopic fiber analysis.
Capabilities at the Excellence Centre include:
· A design studio that provides creative space for Metsä Board’s co-creation workshops. The company offers three different workshops—Performance Clinic, Challenge Us, and Explore the Future—tailored to the customers’ needs. All workshops consist of a preparation phase, an intensive session at the Excellence Centre, and follow-up partnerships to bring the ideas to fruition. The creative space offers room for up to 90 people to collaborate.
· Ability to create packaging prototypes through the use of special cutting tools and digital printing capabilities, even during workshops.
· A virtual store, where printed prototypes can be placed on a mocked-up retail shelf next to competitors and analyzed using eye tracking.
· A customer feedback center staffed by five professionals that analyze feedback from the field in order to respond to needs immediately.
At the last stop in the tour, Marko Leiviskä showed viewers the Packaging Showroom, which included prototypes of paper bottles as well as final designs, including a very popular carton created for Finnish spirits brand Arctic Blue Gin. Said Beamesderfer, the project is a great example of how Metsa’s Finland and U.S. sites can work together to produce new packaging.
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Learn more about the new facility at Metsä Board Excellence Centre.