The idea of a paperless society was advanced more than 30 years ago, but even in this age of Kindles and Nooks and iPads it remains just that—an idea. Paper has yet to disappear even as electronic media grab larger and larger shares of the communications cycle. That said, the same digital...
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The idea of a paperless society was advanced more than 30 years ago, but even in this age of Kindles and Nooks and iPads it remains just that—an idea. Paper has yet to disappear even as electronic media grab larger and larger shares of the communications cycle. That said, the same digital technology that has enabled this electronic communications also has driven more printed communications from offset output to digital production.
"Our paper sales for color digital print applications, such as production inkjet, are growing exponentially as we continue to build strong business relationships around technical problem solving in the pressroom," said Tony McDowell, VP Sales and Marketing, Finch Paper. “We plan to continue to re-align our sales and technical resources as customers shift from lithography to digital print output."
There are basically three ways to put marks on paper—analog offset, digital toner, and digital inkjet. Offset produces a static printed piece and, while capable of high-end color quality, is most economical with longer press runs. As this technology gives way to digital output, both printed and electronic, paper volumes used for offset will continue to decline. This leaves digital as the only potential growth area for paper. In fact, paper for digital presses is now the fastest growing category in paper manufacturing.
Toner vs. Inkjet
For commercial production printers, digital output can be divided into two categories—inkjet and toner. Each presents its own set of considerations when it comes to paper selection. Currently, toner is far and away the leading digital output technology in the commercial printing industry. However, developments in inkjet are allowing that output technology to make inroads, particularly in the areas of transpromo, direct mail, and book production. (Inkjet is also a major player in the wide-format arena, which can involve substrates other than paper.)
Inkjet production presses are available now from major vendors such as Océ, HP, Kodak, and Xerox. Papers for use in those devices must be adapted to the characteristics of inkjet printing. With high water content, inkjet inks tend to soak into uncoated papers or sit on top of coated stock. Paper manufacturers have worked with inkjet vendors to formulate papers that address these drawbacks. As inkjet devices become more common, the variety of both coated and uncoated inkjet-compatible papers is increasing.
According to Frank Edmonds, Senior Vice President, Global Paper and Supplies Distribution Group, Xerox Corporation, “Inkjet papers are custom designed for inkjet applications, particularly full color applications. They are surface-treated to ensure good text definition, low color mottle (non-uniformity in the image color), and minimal feathering. The surface treatment also acts as a barrier to control ink drop penetration. This maximizes the brightness of the colors. It also enhances the sheet's smoothness, which affects image quality as well.”
Among the players in the inkjet digital paper arena is Appleton Coated, which offers an inkjet coated paper. According to Ann Whalen, Appleton's senior vice president of marketing and customer services, "In 2011, we firmly established Utopia Book Inkjet as a premier coated product for the new high-speed web inkjet platforms emerging in the publishing industry, and are now developing dull and gloss coated Utopia Inkjet products for the expected growth in commercial print and direct mail applications."
Toner-based devices present an entirely different challenge when it comes to selecting the most suitable papers. Since this remains the dominant digital output technology for commercial printers it deserves a more detailed look into the necessary characteristics of paper for use in toner-based output devices.