A simple guide to selling your customers the best paper for the job
Paper comes in a vast array of colours, shapes and sizes, and it is very much a part of our everyday lives. To help your customers choose the best product for their purposes, you will need to understand what it is they want to do with it.
How paper is made
Paper is generally made from the fibres of wood, typically from pine trees. Trees are felled and delivered to a pulp mill in the form of logs, wood chips, waste paper or even paper pulp from other mills.
At the mill the logs are stripped of their bark. They are then either ground to fibres for mechanical wood pulp or processed to chips for chemical pulp. Recycled pulp is made using waste paper.
To grind wood into fibres, it is mixed with water and milled.
During a chemical pulping process, lignin, the natural “glue” that holds the wood fibres together, is dissolved. This frees up wood fibres. The resultant pulp is either sulphate or sulphite pulp, and the fibres are clean and undamaged. Paper made from chemical pulp is often called “wood-free” or “fine” paper.
Newspapers, cardboard boxes and magazines are de-inked as part of the recycled pulping process. This type of pulp is turned into things such as fluting (the middle layer of corrugated cardboard).
Whitening the pulp
As a natural product, wood pulp is brown. It must therefore be bleached in order to make white paper. This is done with chlorine or chlorine compounds, as well as with oxygen or hydrogen peroxide. Chlorine-based processes have a larger environmental impact, and so chlorine free processes are used.
Refining the pulp
In order to give the pulp the exact properties for a particular type of paper, the bleach pulp has to be refined. This is done by passing the pulp through a system of rotating and stationary blades. This enhances the way the fibres mesh together, increasing their bonding properties and making them stronger papers.
The mix, or furnish, consists of a blend of pulp. This blend is generally made up of differing proportions of hardwood and softwood, depending on the “recipe” for a particular type of paper.
At this stage, various chemicals are added depending on the particular specifications of the paper to be made. Chalk or clay may be added to enhance brightness and smoothness; dyes are added for shade control; optical brighteners are added for whiteness; and sizing agents are added to make the paper repel moisture.
All the components are dissolved in water and mixed with the pulps. Water is the most important component at this stage, and it takes approximately 100l of water to make 1kg of paper. This is then ready for conversion on the paper machine into a continuous sheet of paper.
The paper machine
This machine has three major components – the base sheet forming section, the press section and the drying section – and its primary function is to create a uniform web of paper.
The furnish is agitated to prevent the fibres from clumping. The furnish is rapidly de-watered, the fibres begin to bond and a mat is formed. From here, the furnish moves to the press section where it squeezed between a series of pressure rollers. From there, the paper moves to a drying section.
At this point the paper may have other elements, such as a surface coating with starch, added to it.
The paper is then wound into a large reel.
Calendering is a finishing process used on paper. Sheets of paper are placed between metallic plates and passed through spring loaded rollers in a calendering machine. This is to smooth the paper out and enhance the gloss. The paper passes through up to 16 rolls which apply pressure and temperature to the coated paper surface. These rolls have different surfaces. Steel rolls and elastic rolls achieve the various glazing and surface treatments. This process is also used to achieve different textures.
At this point the paper is cut to the size required by the customer. The jumbo reels are transported to a finishing department, where they are dispatched for delivery as is or processed into specific paper sheet sizes on a sheeter.
Characteristics of paper
Paper is available in a range of textures, from very smooth to quite rough.
Smoothness is an important characteristic, especially if your customers are using paper to print on. The smoother the paper is, the sharper the printed image. Certain types of paper are optimised for different functions. For example, laser printer paper is optimised for use in laser printers. It improves printer performance, especially for colour and complex graphics. Inkjet printer paper ensures images print cleanly without bleeding.
Rough papers have greater texture, providing an interesting element to an art project or painting. Watercolour paper and handmade papers are very rough.
The weight of the paper is also important. The higher the weight, the greater the thickness of the individual sheets of paper. Weight, or grammage, is measured in grams per square metre (gsm). Most paper for use in printers ranges from 80gsm to 160gsm. Tracing paper is very thin (40gsm) while card stock is between 200gsm and 250gsm.
Paper performance is usually determined by how well the paper is suited for the task at hand. As with most things, the more expensive a paper is, the more likely it will be to be good quality.
With regards to cut sheet paper, printing sharpness is important. How clear will the print be? Will the ink smudge or blur? Sharpness is provided via a combination of paper finishes and weight.
Cut sheet paper with consistent, reliable performance helps reduce printer wear and tear. Paper dust (a result of using poor quality paper) can harm printers in the long run.
The appearance of paper is also important. Papers with a low opacity will allow light to shine through. In general, that means ink will show through too. Multi-purpose paper is fairly translucent, while thinker papers tend to have a higher opacity. Thicker paper will be resistant to ink bleeding through.
Another aspect of appearance is whiteness. When it comes to cut sheet paper for a printer, whiter is better. The white the paper being printed on, the better colour and black and white copies will look.
Coloured papers should not leech colour.
Some types of paper come with a Forest Stewardship Council logo (FSC). This means that the timber used to produce the pulp was grown in a responsible manner and has been certified as such.
Types of paper
When selling paper to your customers, make sure to ascertain their needs. There are many different types of paper, and they are used for different applications. To determine which paper will be most suitable for your customer, ask them what they plan to do with it.
Continuous form paper
Continuous form paper is usually perforated at regular intervals and is joined together like an accordion. It is typically used by impact (dot matrix) printers. It can be single ply or multi-ply, with carbon paper between the layers. The highest grade of continuous paper is similar to typing paper, with a fine perforation. The most common sizes are 241mm x 279mm and 381mm x 279mm.
Continuous form paper is commonly used by businesses that are required to give customers copies of invoices, such as mechanics and couriers.
Cut sheet paper
The standard, white paper that your customers buy in a ream and use in their inkjet and laser printers is called cut sheet paper. It ranges in size from A5 (148mm x 210mm) up to A0 (841mm x 1 189mm) in speciality printers. Variations are offered in thickness, smoothness or a combination thereof. Paper is often supplied by printer manufacturers to ensure the best colour reproductions. Be sure to ask your customers what type of printer they use to ensure you sell them the correct paper.
Customers who want to print their own photographs will require special photographic paper, which is coated with specially developed chemicals for a glossy finish. The chemicals also ensure there is no bleeding or smearing of ink. The paper itself can be thin sheets of plain paper or thick, multi-layered paper. Different types of photo paper have different thicknesses and textures. Some photo papers have the grain and weight of watercolour paper or art canvas.
Thermal paper is a fine paper coated with a chemical that changes colour when exposed to heat. The paper, which comes in rolls, has a protective top-coating to prevent fading. Despite this, the paper is light sensitive and fades easily. This type of paper will usually be used by customers who print receipts, such as those with tills and credit card machines.
Security paper is a type of paper that incorporates features that help to authenticate a document as original. This is done through the use of watermarks or invisible fibres.
This type of paper is used for identification documents such as passports; certificates; and government documents.
Paper for arts and crafts
In general, the paper used for arts and crafts is different from other papers in that it is brightly coloured or patterned, and has different texture.
Tissue paper – this is a type of very thin paper with a smooth surface. It is available in a range of bright colours and is best suited to wrapping, packing or craft projects.
Tissue paper for crafts is usually sold in sheets. It is inexpensive but does tear easily.
Tracing paper – this is a very thin type of paper (around 40gsm) that is transparent enough to see through it onto the paper below. It is used in arts and crafts to trace and transfer patterns and images.
Crepe paper – this is another type of thin paper but it has a crinkled (creped) surface. This makes it slightly stronger than tissue paper and it can be stretched. Crepe paper is not colour-fast and will bleed if wet. It is used for craft projects and gift wrapping or table decorating.
Origami paper – this is a thin type of paper that is made with folding in mind. It is sold in squares and is often patterned on one side and plain on the other, although it can be found in solid colours or plain white. It is used for origami, scrap booking and card making. Origami paper is relatively expensive.
Construction paper – also known as sugar paper, this is a light- to medium-weight multipurpose paper with a slightly rough surface. It is available in a wide range of colours and is used in arts and crafts projects like papier mache, decoupage, printing, picture making and scrapbooking. It is especially popular with children as it is brightly coloured and relatively cheap.
Brown paper – this strong paper is ideal for wrapping, covering schoolbooks and making papier mache. It can be bought in sheets or rolls.
Parchment – also known as vellum, this is a thin but tough paper which a translucent quality. Parchment is ideal for crafts such as card making, stamping and embossing. It can be plain or patterned and is made from vegetable pulp that has been treated with sulfuric acid.
Watercolour paper – this is a type of very thick paper with a rough, textured surface. It is usually white and is used by artists who work in watercolour paints. Watercolour paper needs to be primed before use. Wet the sheet of paper and stretch it. Allow to dry before using.
Card stock – also known as pasteboard, this type of paper is thicker and more durable than normal paper, but thinner and more flexible than cardboard. It is available in a range of colours and finishes and is ideal for making cards and using in craft projects.
Paperboard – this is a thick type of paper that is available in a range of colours and finishes. Paperboard is always thicker than standard paper, and starts at 225gsm. It is ideal for book covers and school projects. Although it is a heavy duty paper, it is easy to cut.
Cardboard – this is considered to be any paper with a weight greater than 130gsm. Corrugated cardboard is a type of card with two or more layers of paper with a fluted layer in between. Corrugated card is usually brown, but it is found in other colours. This type of paper is ideal for craft projects because it is stiff and holds its shape.
Debunking paper myths
The paper industry often gets a bad rap from environmentalists and consumers alike, but all is not as it seems.
Did you know that:
* The paper industry is one of the most eco-responsible industries and contributes to reforestation.
* One person consumes 212kg of paper per year, on average. This is the equivalent of 500 kWH of energy consumption – but a computer consumes 800 kWH.
* Sending 10 e-mails a day for one year results in the same carbon emission as driving 1 000km by car.
* Paper can be recycled up to seven times without losing any of its original quality.
* A page displayed on a screen for three minutes consumes more energy that the printed equivalent.
* An electronic invoice sent via e-mail releases 242g of CO2 – the equivalent of the production and dispatch of 15 paper invoices.
Visit www.antalis.co.za for more information.
Acknowledgement: Sappi, Antalis