Entrained air: The invisible villain for process control
Of all the variables in your process that impact drainage stability—feedstock quality, refining, retention variations, weight and strength, drainage speeds, steam usage, etc.—entrained air is the invisible villain with the most ability to disrupt everything. When it goes up, drainage slows, defoamer gets overused, steam needs increase, and the likelihood of breaks, pinholes, moisture variations, and other defects grows in kind. But mills can’t just pause operations to root out problems. Increasing demand for all varieties of paper products means they have to push their processes to go faster and increase output—inadvertently creating more foam in the process. On top of that, customers are asking for more challenging grades with higher specifications (e.g., lighter-weight, stronger packaging), which require more precision and discipline from your team at every step.
But as the variables shift up and down, many of your operators prefer to switch into manual control, which can actually increase process variability. If they are getting an entrained air measurement into the DCS, they often don’t trust its accuracy, or they don’t see this single data point as more important than any others. They rely on their eyes, experience, and instincts, doing manual tests and running trials—for example, dosing more chemicals to knock down visible foam or strengthen fiber bonds. But the more that’s added to this “soup,” the more it costs in chemicals, energy usage, and man hours to try to balance it all. Meanwhile, your mills are living with variability that directly impacts output quality—which could endanger customer relationships and your ultimate revenue opportunity.
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