Vacuum-Assisted Wet Shaping of Paper
Busch, Amanda J.
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Premium absorbent paper products (e.g., two-ply towel and tissue) can achieve higher fluid holding capacity per unit dry weight by means of increasing their void volume per unit weight. In turn, high void volume can be attained by increasing the overall thickness of each ply through molding the paper into a three-dimensional ("mini-egg-crate") structure before drying it. This research investigates the effect of three types of parameters: mold geometrical, operational, and paper parameters. These variables are examined with respect to their effect on the resulting overall thickness. Because the experimental research is fundamental in nature, it employs molding structures of a simplified geometry (produced via rapid prototyping techniques) rather than the geometrically complex molding fabrics used commercially. A goal of the project is the understanding of the physics of the wet shaping process, in which vacuum is used to deform the wet paper web into the openings in the molding structure. Another goal is identification of limitations or boundaries of the wet shaping process (e.g., conditions for which "pinholes" occur in the paper). Supporting theoretical analysis of the shaping/molding problem is performed, to provide bases for correlating experimental data and for the optimization of molding geometrical parameters. The result of this study provides quantitative information for some variables that affect the final sheet thickness.