Inkjet papers have become much more versatile over the past few years. There are a great number of printers just starting to move into inkjet production. What should these newbies to inkjet production know about inkjet papers?
The answer, says Normand Champagne, general sales and marketing manager for Cascades Fine Papers Group, is they need to know ink technology and choose an appropriate paper for the technology. “There are dye and pigmented inks and, in most cases, they will perform differently with different papers,” Champagne says. “Our paper has been designed to be compatible with both technologies, and work equally well. That’s been tested by the major OEM inkjet press manufacturers.”
Printers also must understand that if treated paper is not selected and used, the quality of the print will be affected. That’s because a treated paper will control ink absorption, ensure the intensity of the color will remain as desired, and will not totally penetrate the sheet, Champagne advises.
Finally, Champagne suggests printers get to know recycled product. “Our product at Cascades is made from 100 percent recycled product, and it will not have a lower performance on the machine than virgin product,” he says. “It actually looks like virgin product, because the surface treatment hides the contaminants from the recycled fibers.”
For his part, Garth Geist, director of sourcing for xpedx, believes printers must look at and optimize not just the paper, but the entire system, consisting of paper and ink. One of the earliest adopters of digital printing, even going so far as to write his own digital printing guide, Geist is an expert on the latest innovations and trends in inkjet systems.
“You can run a paper through an inkjet press, but if it’s not optimized or otherwise treated to enhance the quality of the results you achieve, you won’t be pleased with the results,” he says. “Manufacturers of the equipment and the paper mills are working more closely together to find that balance of the right papers for the right inkjet system, to provide end users with acceptable quality.”
It all comes down to the paper’s ability to absorb water at production rated speed, Geist says. “Whether they’re pigmented or dye-based inks, there’s a vehicle that carries that pigment or dye, and that’s water,” he adds.
In comparing inkjet papers, the old adage of you get what you pay for really rings true, Geist says, noting there’s quite a spectrum in quality levels of paper. “But these particular papers do get very technical,” he adds. “The process of putting ink on paper has always been a challenge, but these production inkjet systems are really pushing the limit and driving technological advancement between the paper and printing system like nothing before.”
The porosity of the paper, the basis weight of the paper, and the surface chemistry all come into play in determining how fast the sheet will dry and the level of quality obtained. Many paper companies worldwide have been working to find that elusive balance. “Whoever unlocks that secret of that balance at production speeds with the quality they‘re seeking, and offers that at a more economical price point will tap into a bigger part of the market,” Geist says.
Champagne believes the quality of inkjet printing has improved over the recent past not just because of the improvement in the quality of paper, but because of the improvement in the quality of the presses and inks. “For sure, in all of that evolution of the paper formulation for inkjet product, the latest technologies that have recently been introduced have contributed greatly to the result looking very much like offset,” he comments.