Fiber Thermoforming: Looks like plastic – made of paper!

13 Jul 2020

They look as if they were made of plastic: food containers and packaging, medical articles, inlays for mobile phones and other high-quality electronic devices, plant pots, even drinking cups and their lids. But looks can be deceptive. Fiber Thermoforming allows these products to be manufactured from pulp as well as plastic.

The renaissance of cellulose

When developing the new Kiefel Fiber Thermoforming machine NATUREFORMER KFT 90, KIEFEL GmbH (Freilassing) made full use of their plastics processing know-how. The result is a machine with a high degree of automation that forms high-quality products from pulp.

 

Gentle processing

Erwin Wabnig, Head of Fiber Thermoforming at Kiefel describes the capabilities of the process: "The product surfaces of the components made of fresh cellulose on our machines are so brilliant and smooth that only a trained professional can see any difference from plastic products. Depending on the additives, the products can handle hot drinks, hot foods and constant moisture." The performance of the products depends on the additives, the fiber length of the pulp and the process control. The NATUREFORMER KFT 90 forms without damaging the fibers. A suction tool dips into the raw pulp, which is processed in batches. The vacuum applied sucks up liquid and leaves the fibers in the tool, similarly to a filter cake. The suction tool, which is mounted on a robot handling system, then moves into the flexible counter tool of the pre-pressing station. This ensures even fiber distribution across the tool geometry combined with excellent dimensional accuracy. The suction tool then transfers the component to the hot press, where any remaining moisture is eliminated by temperatures up to 200°C in the upper and lower tool and a clamping force of up to 600 kN.

The automation up to the box originates from the plastics thermoforming machines. The machine building company adapts its modules to fulfill the customer's requirements. Testing and inspection systems for quality monitoring can also be integrated if requested by the customer. The NATUREFORMER KFT 90 has an automatic quick-tool change system. The robot system also changes the hot tool within 15 minutes.

 

Complementary procedure

A broad range of additives mean a lot can be done with cellulose. The attraction of the material is its recyclability. Wabnig describes the current debate: "There is always the question of how much and with which additives I have to modify the pulp so that it fulfills its purpose for the desired application. "Wax, brighteners, pigments, binders - they all affect the recyclability of the products. Therefore, Wabnig is certain: "Pulp will not replace plastic, but complement it. With Fiber Thermoforming, we offer our customers a complementary process to processing plastics, which builds on a lot of experience and process knowledge from our core business." A full scale pilot system of the NATUREFORMER KFT 90 is already operational and producing a reference product at a cycle time of 15 seconds. The first of several machines will be delivered to a customer in the middle of this year.

Upside-down suction process ensures a more even fiber distribution
Upside-down suction process ensures a more even fiber distribution
Pre formed products at hot press station
Pre formed products at hot press station
Product diversity of fiber formed products
Product diversity of fiber formed products

Downloads

Our PDF documents for more detailed information.

More News

News & information from Kiefel

07 May 2020

New CTO - Kiefel strengthens its management

Stefan Moll is the new CTO – Focus on medical engineering
Find out more
16 Apr 2020

Thermoforming meets fiber

Plastics Know-How for Fiber Processing
Find out more
Kiefel KMI 2.0 – The cooling activates automatically and only one important value needs to be input - the desired tool temperature.
28 Jan 2020

Innovative cooling concept reduces maintenance costs

New situation-specific cooling of thermoforming tools reduces wear
Find out more
28 Oct 2019

Mono-material hot fill cups out of foamed PET

Find out more
Kiefel is a market leader in the design of machines for blood bag production.
25 Oct 2019

Kiefel: Safe packaging for the elixir of life

According to World Health Organization (WHO) 2019 data, approximately 117.4 million blood donations are collected worldwide each year. The demand for blood bags is high. According to the Federal Centre for Health Education (BZgA) alone, clinics in...
Find out more
22 Oct 2019

Plastic is a valuable source

Kiefel Packaging introduces the Design for Recycling programme, in which products are “rethought” together with the customer. The main objective: How to make their plastic products more sustainable..
Find out more
Kiefel Packaging has re-engineered the egg tray: recycled post-consumer PET.
02 Oct 2019

Post-consumer recycled PET egg tray

Kiefel Packaging is showcasing a post-consumer recycled PET egg tray. 
Find out more
The Next Generation of the SPEEDFORMER KTR 5.2 Speed Cupforming System
30 Sep 2019

The Next Generation of the KTR 5.2 Speed Cup-forming System from Kiefel at the K 2019

KTR 5.2 Speed of KIEFEL: Integrated Optimization for more Quality and Efficiency! Enhancing production and efficiency - the thermoforming specialists at KIEFEL GmbH, Freilassing, have focused on the continued development of the tried-and-tested...
Find out more
Kiefel Packaging lauches a trim-in-place performance tool
25 Sep 2019

Kiefel Packaging launches future proof Performance Tool at K-Show

Kiefel Packaging added a brand new performance tool to the Bosch Sprang Thermoforming ToolsTM-series. A trim-in-place solution designed for maximum performance in 24/7 operation. Join the launch at the Kiefel booth during the K-Show, Hall 3, Stand...
Find out more
On more than 1500 m2, the education center offers Kiefel trainees and employees a modern training environment.
23 Sep 2019

New Kiefel Education Centre: On the pulse of time - future-oriented learning in a modern environment

KIEFEL GmbH, Freilassing, stands for high-quality machines and outstanding service. That would not be possible without the dedicated and well-trained staff. The new Kiefel training center was officially opened on September 20, 2019. It offers not...
Find out more