As the semester begins, this year’s seniors prepare for their final run. PSE 472, Paper Process Analysis with Dr. Pal, is one of the last classes taken by seniors, this is the famous course where seniors take a last stand against the mighty beast, determining their victory through their ability to operate each area of the pilot plant.
Plan of Attack
The structure of the laboratory course focuses on the paper making process including stock and equipment prep, furnish variations, additive selection, refining control, general operations of machine, and key variable controls. In order to fully immerse each student into the different categories, groups are established and rotated through each stage, in order to test the knowledge of the overall process. Each week a different grade is produced on the machine, and qualities are established to meet specifications defined for that grade. Defining the properties also falls to the responsibility of the seniors, prior to the weekly Monday run, the group assigned to paper testing each run, must test paper properties in order to set quality standard for the run. Also, prior to the machine run, stock must be prepared on Friday which entails adding needed chemicals that give the desired paper product its quality such as clay, starch or certain additives. The machine runs 250 OD lbs of fiber, during 3 runs each for 1 hour long. The three runs allow the students to adjust with the quality and test variability of the paper. All factors contribute to simulating a real mill operation in which engineers might find themselves.
After 4 to 5 years of college and varying work or industry related experiences, the time comes for the transition from school to work, this class being one of the last boundaries. Over the course of those years, a remarkable amount of knowledge pertaining to paper and its processes has been gained by each student. “This class has the ability to wrap all that knowledge together and bring your education full cycle”, mentioned Bruce Butler, a senior currently enrolled in this course. Being one of the more hands on courses, it really reflects what knowledges the seniors have gained during their time at NC State.
From the beginning of paper science academia, students are dropped in front of the paper machine and given the task of labeling various parts of this machine. Initially, students first impression creates excitement about all the interesting moving parts, but at the same time rattled with the concept of being able to understand it and how it’s possible to gain all the knowledge required to operate a machine as complex as the Wolfpack Baby. After years of studying, this class once again drops student off in front of the paper machine, only this time they are prepared, gripping the knowledge and experience they have gained, they invade the machine with critical view. The course allows students to look at a macroscopic process in a small version allowing for a detailed grasp of major paper concepts. And in the end it shows seniors a version of running a machine to gain confidence in their knowledge and respect for the operator running the mill.
Every year its still remarkable that students are able to apply their knowledge, and being proficient, students in paper science, actually run the paper machine by themselves. But as we all know, it is still a learning process so of course there are a couple bumps within the road. So far, the machine has run twice making book paper and printing paper.
By Guest Blogger: Winslow Gurney