Fourdrinier machines transform wood pulp into enormous rolls of paper. They vastly reduced the manufacturing cost and, subsequently, the price of paper.
Even the smallest Fourdrinier machine is massive and requires an enormous amount of water. Frenchman Louis Roberts invented the papermaking machine. His friend and confidant, Sealy Fourdrinier, patented and commercialized the technology in England. Roberts was afraid to commercialize the technology in France due to civil unrest during the Reign of Terror following the French Revolution.
Making paper requires evenly distributing wood pulp across a large area. Too much in one place creates bumps in the paper but too little creates holes.
Fourdrinier realized that combining shredded wood pulp in a massive amount of water, then driving the water out via presses, creates consistent paper. The first step is a mix of, at most, 5 percent pulp to 95% water. Future steps eliminate water via presses between rollers and dehydration from heated rollers.
The machine enables economies of scale based on size and creating rolls of paper, rather than sheets. It also utilizes felt rollers to drain the remaining water towards the end of the process, creating a uniformly consistent sheet. Each set of rollers is slightly thinner than the prior set, squeezing the paper pulp together while draining the remaining water.
The final product is an enormous roll of paper that can be cut into smaller rolls for use on a web press or into individual sheets.