Procemex machine vision system on duty.
Procemex machine vision system on duty.

In Just a Decade, This Small European Tech Company Conquered the World’s Most Demanding Paper Industry

Industrial PRIME | August 30, 2016

In Just a Decade, This Small European Tech Company Conquered the World’s Most Demanding Paper Industry

Industrial PRIME | August 30, 2016

Procemex Ltd., a leading developer of smart camera-based solutions for the paper and printing industry, has grown from a small start-up to a top global player in its line of business.


In 2016, Procemex machine vision systems play a pivotal role in guaranteeing the high quality of modern paper production and printing across the globe.

Their imaging systems promote the quality of paper production through two individual aspects: by securing the quality of the output, and by reducing the unscheduled downtime of the production machinery itself.

Mr Pekka Hemmi, the agent in charge of Procemex’s sales in Asia, illustrates the benefits by referring to web breaks.

“A web break is perhaps the most common issue hindering paper production,” he explains. “The longest paper machines are nearly 500 meters long. You can imagine that as the wet paper web is transported through the machine with a speed of up to 2,000 meters per minute, it will break very easily in the occurrence of even the tiniest of problems.”

In the event of a web break, the Procemex Web Monitoring System (WMS) will receive a signal and immediately send video footage to the control room where the origin and reason of the web break can be studied.

In a similar way, the Procemex Web Inspection System (WIS) can send a triggering signal to the WMS system when it identifies a big hole, stripe, spot, or wrinkle in the paper. The reasons for such defects can then be identified through the Web Monitoring System. In the Procemex integrated web monitoring and inspection system the common server effectively enables this function.

“When they find out the root of the problem, they are able to take the required measures to prevent the same thing from happening again,” Hemmi points out.

In addition to such proactive work reducing future web breaks and other issues hindering production, the Procemex cameras, equipped with cutting-edge lighting solutions and low-angle inspection, can also be used to learn about the quality of the paper produced. This is achieved by examining a wide range of surface quality parameters.

“The cameras provide continuous data regarding the glossiness and the formation of the paper,” says Hemmi. “The formation is crucial in terms of printability and colour. Imagine, for instance, that you’re printing boxes for Marlboro cigarettes. You can be sure that the customer will want their boxes with exactly the right shade of red!”

With the aid of Procemex camera systems, the final result is a combination of paper production with better quality, production with less unscheduled downtime, plus a satisfied customer. Sounds like a good deal!




“In recent years, China has been the only major market for leading paper machine suppliers.”




Procemex smart cameras at paper machine's forming table

Procemex pinhole cameras at a forming table of a paper machine after the headbox. The cameras monitor the web for possible defects.




Dominant in China

According to Mr Hemmi, cameras are a relatively new phenomenon in the paper industry, where quality control has traditionally been based on sensors measuring moisture, basis weight, and other quality parameters of the paper.

“Sensors are still necessary, but it is a much slower method of online measuring,” he points out. “The role of cameras, on the other hand, has grown significantly thanks to the rapid development of digital technology and the amazing speed and resolution that cameras can offer today.”

Well aware of their superiority, several of the world’s largest paper mills and printing houses have gone for the camera systems developed by Procemex. Major clients include Germany-based Bertelsmann Printing Group, currently the largest printing company in the world.

But what is perhaps even more impressive is the way in which Procemex has managed to reach a dominant position as the undisputed market leader in its line of business in China.

Mr Hemmi’s company Nordic Ventures Group has represented Finnish high tech for the paper and pulp industries as well as the energy sector in Asia ever since 1991. His work with Procemex began 15 years ago. At the time, Procemex’s sales in China and the rest of Asia were nonexistent. But as we already know, a lot has changed since.

According to Mr Hemmi, China has been one of the few countries in the world to add paper production capacity and invest in large new paper machines. In fact, most of China’s current capacity has been built after the year 2000, whereas in many European and North American countries paper production capacity has been on the decrease.

“Consequently, China has been the only major market in recent years for leading paper machine suppliers such as Valmet and Voith,” Hemmi states.




“It’s quite impressive how this small tech company has achieved such a remarkable influence in China – and done it all in a mere decade’s time.”




Lacking its own engineering know-how, China wants to import the vast majority of its modern paper machines as complete units delivered with a performance guarantee. Naturally, getting the complete package from one supplier means that not all parts of the solution will be cutting edge.

“It’s like when you buy a car and want the best sound system as well,” Hemmi compares. “You’re most likely going to have to buy it separately.”

The Chinese can put up with compromises, but only to an extent: when it comes to paper machine automation, including the camera systems, they accept only the best. According to Hemmi, the camera system is bought separately for 90% of all new paper machines in China.

“This is to a great extent thanks to Procemex, now the number one choice among Chinese customers. It really is quite impressive how this one small tech company from Finland has managed to achieve such a remarkable influence in the quality control of paper production in China – and done it all in a mere decade’s time.”

Procemex’s dominant market share in China is an achievement, especially so because in China, just like in Europe, the paper industry has very strict quality criteria when it comes to the kinds of camera systems Procemex develops.

“They seem to be even more quality-conscious and demanding than in the United States or Australia, for example,” Hemmi states. “Indeed, Procemex’s lead is less obvious in markets where paper producers and printers are willing to settle for lesser quality. But when it comes to the most demanding customers, Procemex has an advantage.”


Text by Industrial PRIME, images courtesy of Procemex


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