While the benefits of choosing Kraft chipboard paper over standard cardboard are widespread and varied, many assume that this versatile, practical and economical material is a relatively recent innovation.
Therefore, it may surprise some to learn that the roots of Kraft chipboard paper actually go back as far as the late nineteenth century. Or to be more precise, to Sweden in the year 1879.
A meeting of Forestry and Chemistry
It was in 1879 that the Swedish chemist and entrepreneur Carl D. Dahl hit upon the idea of converting waste wood chippings into valuable wood pulp by soaking them in a solution of sodium sulphate and sodium hydroxide. This process had the effect of separating the cellulose and lignin fibres of which wood is composed by removing the hydrogen bonds which gives wood its structure.
In addition to making highly efficient fuel for burning, the resultant pulp could be used in manufacturing and for other industrial purposes. Dahl himself was involved in the establishment of the first mill which employed this technique in 1880, and patented his invention in the Swedish town of Danzig in 1884.
A Sustainable Innovation
Predictably, the use of this remarkable new technology would not be confined to Dahl’s Scandinavian homeland for long. Engineers and chemists skilled in the implementation of the technique would soon establish it as an essential component of the way in which wood mills operated across Europe, the United States and beyond.
However, there was still one other ingenious discovery on the horizon which would lead to the creation of the invaluable Kraft chipboard paper products we use today.
In 1932, Mr George H Tomlinson of Quebec, Canada, developed his revolutionary ‘chemical recovery furnace’. This machine harnessed a complex chemical procedure to enable it to recover otherwise surplus heat energy produced during the milling process which had been established by Dahl back in Sweden in the late 1800s.
Since the energy generated by this ‘chemical recovery’ process was sufficient to meet the ongoing power needs of the mill, Tomlinson had – in effect – created a completely self-sufficient system. While the industrialists of the time almost certainly overlooked the sustainability benefits of this, the economic case was obvious.
Before long, the combination of Dahl and Tomlinson’s complementary techniques was established as the foundation of wood milling. A refined version of this technique is still practised in the highly technologically sophisticated wood mills of today.