About 10 years ago, several Chinese enterprises showed off their first tobacco heating equipment at the international trade fair, and at that time, almost no one was interested in it. However, this has attracted the attention of multinational tobacco giants. Since then, Fimo international has invested a lot of money in the research and development of complex iqos for many years, and finally launched it in 2014. Within two years, British American Tobacco and Japan Tobacco International launched their own glo and ploom respectively. Imperial brand and KT & G also launched their own brand of heated tobacco. These companies are also constantly innovating, producing more and more sophisticated heating tobacco equipment, which has been listed in many countries or regions, giving birth to a new "next generation products" (NGP) category, with more and more end consumer fans.
Heated tobacco is popular in the international market. For a time, as the main component of heating tobacco consumables, reconstituted tobacco (RTL) seems to have experienced a renaissance. In the early stage, only cut tobacco was used to fill the pellet, but the result was not satisfactory. Later, reconstituted tobacco was used, whose composition could ensure a more uniform heat distribution, thus releasing smoke below the burning point temperature.
Now that heating tobacco has started the acceleration mode, new technologies emerge in endlessly, and new products surprise consumers, people will think that leading manufacturers and traders of reconstituted tobacco will also take advantage of the rising demand. However, the global picture does not seem to be so consistent.
European market: actively developing new alternative technologies
As we all know, the main production methods of reconstituted tobacco are papermaking method and thick pulp method, which are the two most widely used forms at present. However, the production equipment of these two production methods requires large space and energy consumption. In addition, they also face challenges in taste, dehydration and tensile strength.
Now, garbuio, the leading mechanical expert of Hongni group, has developed an alternative technology, called tobacco dust fusion (TDA), which is also an evolution of thick slurry technology. Firstly, tobacco, hemp or clove are ground into powder, then glycerol, water, adhesive and other wet components are added to produce fiber mass, and cellulose microfibers are added to ensure the stability of tobacco sheet.
TDA uses cellulose microfibers, which are pressed into granules by an extruder and then transferred to a rolling mill. Under high pressure, the roller presses it into a uniform slurry and then dries it. Through this process, uniform and controllable thickness of tobacco sheet can be obtained, which can not be achieved by thick pulp method. In the future, reconstituted tobacco will be mainly used for heating tobacco. The accuracy and stability of the material thickness of reconstituted tobacco will play a decisive role in ensuring the consistency of downstream processes and helping to ensure that important product specifications, such as nicotine content, are always within the specified range.
Advantages of TDA
As for papermaking process and thick pulp process, the moisture content of their raw materials is as high as 95% and 60% - 70% respectively. In contrast, TDA technology requires very little water, and the moisture content of the fiber mass is only 20% to 40%. Therefore, the drying process of TDA is greatly shortened. It uses a dryer instead of a long drying line, and does not need a preheating process. Therefore, the water and energy consumption of TDA technology is much lower than other reconstituted tobacco technology, and the plant area is much smaller.
Because the drying speed of TDA reconstituted tobacco pulp is much faster, the effect of nicotine and flavor retention is better. However, the paper-making process and thick pulp process of reconstituted tobacco will lose some flavor due to the long drying process. In addition, TDA process uses less binder, which reduces the adverse effect on flavor during combustion.
New pilot plant
Rainbow Group has set up a TDA pilot plant in Bergdorf, Hamburg, Germany, where customers can try to develop new products with various raw materials and produce small batch products for the pilot market. Customers are very interested in the pilot plant, and since the installation of the production line at the end of 2019, a large number of tests have been carried out by leading cigarette manufacturers. In November 2020, Hongni group sold a pilot plant to a customer, who believed that it had great potential to produce reconstituted tobacco and could significantly reduce energy consumption.
The experimental plant can produce 300 mm wide reconstituted tobacco leaves with an hourly production capacity of 40 kg. Now it is only a small batch production, and the width of reconstituted tobacco leaves for general industrial use is about 1000 mm. However, the company said capacity could be expanded at any time and adapted to local demand to help manufacturers respond quickly to market changes. Hongni claims that compared with papermaking and thick pulp technologies, the investment and production cost, complexity and energy consumption per kilogram of reconstituted tobacco prepared by TDA technology, as well as the scale of the factory are relatively low, while the filling power is medium to high and the flavor is excellent.
Matching cutting and wire making process
In order to further process tobacco produced by TDA technology, gabio recommended a special cutting and silk making process, such as neon cutting machine (SCM). The machine takes the reconstituted tobacco leaves from the reel, cuts them into long and identical strips with the width of 1 mm at the speed of 200 meters per minute, and turns them into tobacco mandrils, so as to further combine them into the final product.
This is very important for the production of heating tobacco equipment. Some tobacco heating equipment uses the circumferential heating method to heat the cartridge, which is easy to insert or remove the cartridge, and easy to clean, and does not need to push the tobacco into the heating element. However, tobacco needs to be heated by paper, and its smoldering temperature is lower than the evaporation temperature of nicotine. Others use central heating method to heat tobacco. If the rod-shaped cartridge is made entirely of unstructured cut tobacco, it may be difficult to insert or remove the cartridge. SCM provides a solution for manufacturers to stabilize the smoke bomb without loosening it. It creates a parallel arrangement of reconstituted tobacco strips in the mandril. In this way, the loading and unloading of cigarette bombs can be more convenient.
Hongni has also developed a cross cutting process for TDA reconstituted tobacco, which can cut narrow strips into shorter parts. By crosscutting the tobacco sheet, the orientation of the fibers can be affected to make them as parallel as possible, but there is still a little random orientation, which makes them have greater filling force. The shorter strips are then processed in a way more similar to cigarette making.
Asian market - not yet focused on heated tobacco
Pura group, Indonesia
Although the European market has a good development momentum, the role of reconstituted tobacco used in the field of heating tobacco seems to be negligible for some leading Asian suppliers of reconstituted tobacco.
The Pura group in Indonesia is deeply rooted in the printing, papermaking and holographic industries. The group's No. 10 paper mill, which previously mainly produced cigarette paper, joined the ranks of reconstituted tobacco in 2013 when it opened its first thick pulp production line. At that time, there were not many producers of reconstituted tobacco, and the factory gained a large market share. Today, 90% of the factory's annual production is recycled tobacco, and the remaining 10% is colored cigarette paper.
However, the reconstituted tobacco leaves produced by the factory are mainly used for the jacket and jacket of cigarettes, cigars and cigars. They are basically used in traditional tobacco products, and none of them is supplied to the field of heated tobacco. Of course, this special situation may be related to the fact that the company can only produce thick pulp reconstituted tobacco "paper" at present.
In addition, at present, the major heating tobacco equipment companies have their own contract suppliers to produce specific reconstituted tobacco formulations for them, which is difficult for other factories to enter. Of course, this does not mean that heated tobacco will always be a no go area for the Indonesian company. Heating markets around the world are expanding, and the group will consider increasing investment if the time is right.
Star Agricultural Technology International Company (SAI)
Star Agricultural Technology International Limited (SAI), a well-known tobacco company headquartered in Singapore, began trading reconstituted tobacco for the first time in 2014 to supply tobacco monopoly enterprises in the region. Sai acquired those small and medium-sized enterprise customers who were looking for cost reduction opportunities to increase returns in time, and thus developed its own reconstituted tobacco business, which currently accounts for 1 / 4 of the company's total annual trade volume. The company has its own reconstituted tobacco manufacturing plants in Brazil, Europe and Indonesia.
So far, however, Sai has not been involved in the heating tobacco industry. In recent years, the heating tobacco sector of several major tobacco giants has been growing steadily, but only in Japan, South Korea, Australia and some Western European countries. Compared with traditional cigarettes, heated tobacco represents a much smaller market. The company believes that from an economic point of view, there is no reason for large-scale investment to enter the heated tobacco market now.
No matter where the market access barrier of tobacco recycling suppliers is, one of the major problems is the patent access barrier. For example, "heets" of Fimo international has adopted a technology to cut and press reconstituted tobacco into the heating bin of cigarette cartridge, and has applied for a patent for this process. The physical indexes of reconstituted tobacco used in iqos are greatly different from those of reconstituted tobacco in traditional cigarette process. This means that other manufacturers need to find other ways to use reconstituted tobacco in their heating rods to deploy. For example, if the flue gas is to be produced by heating, the ignition point of reconstituted tobacco must be changed.