Looking back over the past two years of college, it is clear that my expectations I had the summer before freshman year have been greatly surpassed. I came into college as a reticent double major in Paper Science and Engineering and Chemical Engineering. Dr. Byrd and Mrs. Piercy dangled the enticing foundation scholarship and impressed me enough on my visit to give the dual degree program a chance. This is, without a doubt, one of the best decisions I have made thus far. The Paper Science program not only provides a close knit community but also the opportunity for internships and co-ops after freshman year. These early work experience opportunities are unique to the Paper Science and Engineering program giving us an advantage over all other engineering programs on campus.
My co-op experience came the fall after my freshman year. I interviewed with Georgia-Pacific in September of 2014 and within the week I had an offer to go to Big Island, Virginia as a process engineering co-op. While on co-op, I was assigned a paper machine and pulp mill as my area of focus. The pulp mill utilized Old Corrugated Containerboard (OCC) as the fiber source for the linerboard produced on the paper machine. With these two systems came several different projects and responsibilities. One of my main projects was working on a data baseline and subsequent performance guarantee of reverse flow centrifugal cleaners that were installed prior to my arrival. I was tasked with adding to a previous co-op’s data to ensure we were monitoring all necessary streams dictated by the performance guarantee. Once I had completed that portion, I calculated the volume of sample necessary for the guarantee to be tested under the given specifications. I then collected composite samples three times in a ten day period while testing each sample and recording my data. I then sent this data onto the manufacturer along with additional samples to confirm my results. Based on the performance guarantee data, I was able to justify the replacement of similar, but aged equipment.
Satisfying the Customer
Another important project was collecting a strip off the first reel of linerboard. Using this strip I would run various tests including caliper and tensile strength index. Those two metrics were analyzed to ensure that the company was meeting customer’s product specifications. If the caliper variation was over ten percent, adjustments would be made to the machine to decrease the variation and improve the overall profile across the sheet. The tensile strength index was a ratio of the machine direction fiber divided by the cross direction fiber. This gave a ratio that we would adjust using jet to wire ratios and newly installed fiber orientation sensors. After I had analyzed the data and updated management on our performance, I would run a ring crush test across the profile of the strip. This gave me a more representative average across the profile of the sheet than the operators took. Based on the results I archived over my co-op experience, I was able to justify the necessity to continue the increased ring crush testing because of the clear improvement my data provided over the existing method.
These are just a few examples of the responsibilities I had while on co-op. One of the best aspects was that I was given projects that were important to the efficient operation of the mill. I was also given projects that spanned several sections of the mill so I was able to gain some experience in most areas of the mill. The co-op experience was incredibly rewarding and provided me additional technical knowledge that has given me an edge in some of my current courses. I now eagerly await my next opportunity to gain more mill experience.
By guest blogger Kable Young