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Making Paper & Pulp     

The “Pulping” Process
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Unless you’ve seen paper being made, it might be hard to imagine that it starts with a soup-like slurry called pulp. And this pulp is made-up of either finely ground wood, or fibers such as cotton. Sometimes, depending on the kind of paper being made, the pulp might be made from a combination of both wood and fibrous plant materials.

Of course, before paper is manufactured, the pulp must first be produced. And pulp is what we at Cheney manufacture. Our pulp products are made exclusively from specialty fibers.

Every step of the pulp making process affects the quality, color, and texture of the pulp. Which, ultimately, affects the look and quality of the paper made from that pulp.

Selecting the Right Raw Materials
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Producing a top quality pulp starts with just the right raw materials. We spend a lot of time selecting our sources for the cotton and other specialty fibers we use … looking for quality and consistency.

Most of our raw materials – primarily scrap cotton from the textile and garment industries – are waste that would otherwise go to the landfill. So we’re obtaining quality materials, and benefiting our environment!

We bring the raw material into our warehouse and carefully sort it to remove any contaminants or inconsistent material. Then, through various dry and wet processes, we work that material into a usable pulp for paper manufacturers.

Cooking Up the Perfect Pulp
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When the cotton scrap, or other material being used, is sorted and ready, we finely chop it, then mix it with water and chemicals, and finally “cook” it in large vats. These cookers are computer controlled to insure that the right amount of chemicals are used, and the material is cooked for the right amount of time, at the right temperature and pressure.

This process prepares the fibers for refining… the fibers no longer look like the fabric or plant matter that went into the cookers.

Triple Cleaning and Refining the Pulp gradiated line We now refer to this soupy mixture as the “stock” … and we put it through a cleaning system that is the most rigorous that we know of anywhere.

At our Cheney mill, we’ve created a triple-stage cleaning procedure that is unique in the industry. In fact, most pulping processes clean the pulp only once. We run banks of cleaners, set up in a series, for each cleaning step … plus require 3 separate cleaning steps before we finish the pulp.

We start by sending the stock through 2 banks of forward and reverse cleaners – the first bank removing heavy dirt and large impurities, and the second bank removing fine dirt and shives. The accepts (that is, the pulp that passed successfully through the cleaners) then pass through another set of cleaners, also in a series, called gyro-cleaners. Gyrocleaners remove even finer contaminants. The resulting pulp is the cleanest obtainable.

Only now do we finish the pulp, bleaching and refining it into the grade of pulp desired.

Drying and Baling the Pulp
gradiated line The stock is now put into thick sheets … drained, suctioned, and compressed to remove excess water … then run through heated dryers. When these sheets reach 85% air dry (or 90+% for international shipments), we cut and stack them into bales, ready to ship.

This baled pulp is called half stock, because it needs to be reconstituted and beaten again before it can be made into paper.

Making Specialty Papers
gradiated line When paper manufacturers receive our shipments of pulp, they reconstitute it by adding water, and then run it through a beater in order to completely soak and suspend the pulp back into a slurry.

The nature of the pulp determines the type of paper you’ll produce. For example, a bleached cotton-rag pulp will result in a bright white paper with a rich texture and hefty thickness. But only mildly bleached pulp, perhaps with some dyes added, can result in an off-white or cream colored paper. In addition, mixing in finely chopped hay, tobacco stalks, or other material will create a paper that has random speckles in it – which is a very popular style for stationery. But regardless of the exact style of paper that is being produced, the actual papermaking process is very similar. It’s the contents of the pulp that defines the paper.

Once the stock reaches the right consistency, the liquid pulp is sprayed onto a wide mesh belt
called the fordrinier, which moves very fast … at several hundred feet per minute. The water drips through the mesh, then is suctioned out, leaving the fibrous stock on the belt.

Still barely able to hold itself together, the soggy paper is smoothly transferred from the mesh belt onto a continuous felt cloth. It passes through rolls that compress it – like the ringer on an old-fashioned washing machine – which squeezes more water out. The paper then travels through a series of heated dryers.

But it’s not finished yet. In order to effectively hold any kind of ink or laser printing, a special smooth coating, called sizing must be applied to the paper. Finally, at the end of the paper machine, it’s either spun onto a huge roll of paper, or cut into flat sheets.