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Digital paper

Mar 1, 2004 12:00 AM


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New press introductions have resulted in an almost bewildering range of paper sizes. Nonetheless, that old standby, the 8½ × 11-inch sheet, remains the most popular choice. “Most digital-printing equipment was designed for cutsize sheets and many will accept an 11 × 17-inch sheet,” says Merilyn Dunn, a consultant with CAP Ventures (Norwell, MA). “HP Indigo will image on a sheet up to 12.6 × 18.7 inches. On the offset side, Heidelberg Quickmasters can accept a 13⅜ × 18⅛-inch sheet. Inkjet media is offered in a wide range of size categories, from 4 × 6-inch photo printers up through 13 × 19 inches for some inkjet printers.”

We asked Dunn to update us on recent digital-paper developments. You'll also find some new product introductions on p. 30.

“Digital printing” can encompass dry- and liquid-toner based devices, inkjet equipment and direct-imaging presses. How do you define this market?

Digital imaging is any printing process that produces an image on paper or another substrate from a digitized file transmitted to an imaging device. These devices include single and multifunction printers, facsimile machines, networked copiers and direct-to-press equipment.

When commercial printers are evaluating digital-printing options, what priority do they place on substrates?

A printer's success or failure depends on the paper he or she uses. Printers are familiar with many grades, weights and finishes, know what runs well on their equipment and what adjustments need to be made for others.

In evaluating a new digital-printing option, they surely would consider whether the papers:

  • Are the same as the papers currently being used, enabling apparently seamless production from different printing processes
  • Will generate incremental revenue because they perform a function impossible to achieve on their current equipment.

How big is the current digital-paper market? How has it changed over the past five to 10 years?

A decade ago, digital printing represented only about two-thirds of all business printing. Five years ago, that percentage had grown to more than 70 percent, and the pace is accelerating. Today, 91 percent of all business printing is created on a digital device.

But digital printing has been slower to penetrate the world of commercial printing because:

  • Runs are longer and variable data is a smaller portion of the total run
  • Digital printing is slower and more expensive on a per-sheet basis than conventional offset.

The biggest advantages digital printing brings to commercial printers are:

  • The ability to produce offset quality for short runs
  • Reduced setup and makeready times
  • Reduced clean-up times because the press is always ready to go on to the next job
  • The ability to incorporate variable data into print jobs, creating a personalized message.

Two years ago, Pulp & Paper magazine reported an upheaval in the uncoated free-sheet paper segment, “as cutsize demand [was] expected to grow two to three times faster than overall uncoated freesheet demand, thanks to the rise of digital on-demand printing and sales of inkjet and laser printers.” Has this trend continued?

Yes, and it's likely to continue. Personal computer prices are less than $500, and they are frequently bundled with an inkjet printer. Color inkjet printers capable of producing photo quality are priced well under $100 and many don't require a PC to produce prints. Even color laser printers are in the market for under $1,000. These factors are continuing to drive cutsheet demand as users discover new and innovative printing opportunities.

Production digital printers typically can handle 20-lb. bond to 90-lb. cover. Do you see any changes in this range?

Equipment manufacturers are finally realizing that their customers may need to print on heavier and lighter weight stocks. Much of the new digital-printing equipment can run a broader substrate range — some feature straight paper paths that impose fewer paper restrictions.

For digital printing to challenge commercial printing, lighter paper weights need to be incorporated into the product design to reduce direct-mail costs — especially as postal rates increase — and enable the efficient production of books and manuals.

In recent years there's been an influx of European papers into the U.S. market. Is this also the case for digital papers?

Yes. European mills that have already penetrated the U.S. market include Stora-Enso, the second largest paper company in the world, through its acquisition of Consolidated Paper. Asia Pulp and Paper (APP) also sells into the U.S. And Brazilian mills have increased exports of fine papers to the U.S., producing excellent high-brightness papers and selling at commodity prices. Austrian-based Neuseidler is a relative newcomer, having entered the U.S. market this past November.

What about digital-paper prices in general?

Prices for uncoated papers, if anything, have declined even if they are considered digital-printing papers. Coated paper prices are naturally higher and some of the digital-printing technologies require special coatings that can raise the price to well over $1 a sheet. In 2003, however, Eastern Fine Paper and Domtar introduced sheets for HP Indigo printers that performed well without specialized coatings.

Some digital-paper requirements

In our March 2003 issue, Steve Johnson, president of Copresco, a Carol Stream, IL, on-demand printer, offered some tips on avoiding on-demand paper pitfalls such as wrinkling, cracking, flaking and rubbing. “Papers in toner-based presses are exposed to warping, drying and blistering temperatures that approach the ignition point during image fusing,” wrote Johnson. “If the page is printed on both sides, it endures the process twice. Therefore, control of moisture content, both in the paper and the ambient pressroom atmosphere, is critical.”

Other digital-paper considerations include the following.

Dry toner

Basis weight and stiffness — sheets must be rigid to run smoothly in a digital press. Sheet formation also is essential for avoiding paper jams. The caliper must be consistent so that the finished documents feed and stack level.

Appropriate coatings can improve brightness, opacity and smoothness, but they must withstand high-fusing temperatures.

Liquid toner

Toner and substrate compatibility is vital for creating the best quality image. Changes in the liquid toner formulation may require changes to previously qualified sheets, especially if the pH is adjusted.

Inkjet

High fluid content necessitates coatings and fillers for ink absorption/dissipation. The media's pH should be compatible with the inks'. Inkjet substrate issues are similar to those of liquid toner, but compounded with varied coatings for different applications. Sheets must not cockle or bleed when exposed to the high fluid content and heavy ink coverage of photographic printing.

Source: CAP Ventures

Eastern Paper faces liquidation

Eastern Pulp and Paper Corp. (Amherst, MA), parent company of Lincoln Pulp and Paper Co. (Lincoln, ME) and Eastern Fine Paper (Brewer, ME), faces liquidation after a hoped-for $3.8 million emergency loan failed to materialize.

This past February, a federal bankruptcy judge initiated the liquidation of the company's assets. Eastern Pulp and Paper Corp. had been operating under Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection from creditors since 2000. Eastern had closed the Lincoln and Brewer mills in January, but had hoped to resume operations. An interim trustee will determine if the mills should be sold or permanently shut down.

Product rounup: A portfolio of digital-paper products

Ream-wrap prackaging alternative

Boise Paper Solutions' (Itasca, IL) paper packaging reportedly enables users to load paper into printers and copiers three times faster than regular ream-wrapped paper. The speed-loading box (“SPLOX”) is a 25-lb. box containing 2,500 sheets of unwrapped office paper. An integrated handle makes it easier for users to carry two 25-pound SPLOX boxes vs. one 50-lb., 10-ream carton of ream-wrapped paper. See www.boise-paper.com.

Free kit on business papers collection

Domtar's (Montreal) Business Papers kit highlights Domtar Microprint premium digital printing papers, text and cover designer papers, general-use virgin and recycled copy sheets, Domtar Colors in 13 shades and Domtar Hots with 18 vivid fluorescents. Call (800) 6-Domtar or e-mail samples@domtar.com for a free kit.

Production color laser papers

Sappi's (Boston) Voltage is designed for high-quality production-color laser devices. Its arctic white shade has a GE brightness of 92. It is available in a comprehensive range of weights, sizes and finishes. Voltage is manufactured from elemental chlorine-free pulp and is acid-free (pH >7) for greater longevity. See www.ideaexchange.sappi.com.

Fine paper for HP Indigo presses

GPA's (Chicago) Ultra Digital joins the vendor's existing line of pressure- sensitive papers and specialty substrates optimized for HP Indigo presses. The Ultra Digital line is available in a variety of basis weights, and includes coated and uncoated text and cover grades, as well as cast-coated C1S and C2S papers. Applications include business cards, brochures, booklets and posters. The Ultra Digital line has been certified by RIT for use on both the UltraStream and HP Indigo 1000 sheetfed presses. See www.labelexperts.com.

Paper for printers, presses and copiers

International Paper's (IP) (Memphis, TN) “Digital Dream Machines” booklet showcases six digital printers, presses and copiers as well as papers. Color equipment featured includes the Xerox DocuColor iGen3, Canon CLC 5100, HP Indigo 3000 and Nexpress 2100. On the monochrome side, the promotion highlights Xerox's DocuTech 180 and Heidelberg's Digimaster 9150i.

IP's digital portfolio includes more than 1,000 digital-paper offerings, including more than 516 color stocks and 485 whites in 36 sheet sizes. To get a copy of the “Digital Dream Machines” promotion, call Fulfillment Plus at (800) 892-5467.

Pressure-sensitive sheets for digital printing

MACtac's (Stow, OH) Starliner digital printing products, part of a line of pressure-sensitive sheets, are available in a range of weights and textures. The sheets are compatible with a variety of inks, including subliminal dyes and traditional, laser and thermal-transfer inks. The entire Starliner series features an enhanced adhesive, MP-2003.

A digital swatchbook, printed on a Xerox 2060 and Heidelberg QMDI-4, features eight separate swatches: Teslin, used for point-of-purchase, drum labels and packaging; Chorus, a satin rayon cloth for name badges; Indigo-compatible products, sapphire-treated 60-lb. cast-coated and matte sheets; Lyric, a matte-coated sheet for packaging and corporate identification; Blinding White, a label stock, and Matinee, a C1S sheet, both for packaging, products or promotions; Novelty, a 60-lb. uncoated litho sheet; and Premiere, a clay-coated, tear-resistant polypropylene film. See www.mactac.com.

Premium uncoated paper line

Stora Enso (Wisconsin Rapids, WI) digital papers include 4CC Color Copy, 4CC Art and Silk Paper, Futura Laser, Hi-Res, Centura and Productolith. 4CC Color Copy is a premium, uncoated paper with an ultra-smooth surface and a 96-brightness level. It is said to be ideal for use with color copiers and inkjet and laser printers.

4CC Art Paper is a C2S high-gloss, art-printing paper designed for on-demand jobs that require visual impact. The paper features a 91-brightness level. The 4CC Silk Paper, a C2S matte-finish, art-printing paper, has a soft feel and 93 brightness. The 4CC digital paper range is available both in reels and sheets — see www.storaenso.com/4CC.

Online paper database

PaperSpecs.com (Palo Alto, CA) has expanded the capabilities of its PaperSpecsPro database. Users can sort results by brand, manufacturer, color or finish, search for papers by PMS color, order swatchbooks and more. See www.paperspecs.com.

Equipment-based paper selection

Mohawk Paper Mills' (Cohoes, NY) digital-papers line includes new pre-treated papers for HP Indigo presses, a wide variety of Xeikon papers and Mohawk 50/10-plus coated options.

Mohawk's Digital Papers Swatchbook offers an equipment-based approach to digital-paper selection. Navajo, Satin 2.0, Superfine and 50/10-plus have been organized to revolve around four major digital equipment categories, including printer/copiers, HP Indigo, Xeikon and direct-imaging presses. Navajo, Satin 2.0 and 50/10-plus Gloss, both text and cover, have a new sheet size, 20½ × 14⅓ inches, for the DocuColor iGen3. For a copy of the digital papers swatchbook, call (800) THE-MILL or see www.mohawkpaper.com.

Textured laser papers in various finishes

SMART Papers (Hamilton, OH) Kromekote color-laser textured papers are available in canvas, premium linen and silk finishes. The vendor also offers a coated two-side Kromekote laser high gloss paper as well as a Kromekote laser high gloss CC1S (cast-coated one-side) for use on the Xerox iGen3. Products are available through North American paper merchants. SMART Papers and CAP Ventures have also updated “Today's Digital Imaging,” which explains digital-press technology and profiles some popular color and monochrome devices. Call SMART Papers at (800) 443-9773.