Featured markets: Consumables: paper & substrates and digital printers

Consumables: Paper & Substrates

Many people involved in the world of print have a special relationship with paper. Be it the designers, the production coordinators, the printers themselves or the end-user, the selected stock for any job is carefully considered, and inevitably faces tough scrutiny. They will carefully judge its thickness and weight, its brightness and its opacity; they may even smell it and caress it lovingly. I, for one, enjoy stopping by the paper supplier booths at trade shows to see the vast array of colours and textures available, and maybe even snag a sample or two. This passion for paper is well justified though. After all, it is an integral piece in the print puzzle; it is the substrate that carries the printed message.

It’s fascinating to see how innovation has been used to create paper with glitter, with ridges and grooves, or even paper that looks and feels like suede. Equally amazing is the inventiveness used to come up with more environmentally-friendly paper from unusual sources. This section will take you through some of the latest developments in sustainable substrates with ingredients derived from sugar cane, bamboo, coconut and wheat fibres.

Bamboo banner fabric

Adding to its EarthSmart line of eco-friendly products, Drytac has recently come up with a printable canvas-like banner fabric made of natural bamboo fibre. The substrate is reportedly 99.6 percent biodegradable and certified to be free of harmful chemicals. The bamboo used to make Panda Print is not harvested from forests – it is grown on an organically farmed plantation.

Bamboo is a hardy, fast-growing, easily-renewable resource that does not require the use of pesticides or replanting after it is harvested. The manufacturing process is environmentally-responsible and closed loop, according to Drytac.

The opaque fabric is compatible with aqueous, eco-solvent and UV inkjet printers and is claimed to provide excellent colour pop. The printable coating on the Panda Print substrate allows it to work with both dye-based and pigment inks. Its canvas-like feel makes it suitable for fine art applications. It is available in 36- and 50-inch roll widths and trims easily without fraying.

Sugar cane paper

This paper from Sappi uses a material called bagasse in its production. Bagasse is the dry fibrous biomass that is left behind after sugar cane stalks have been pulped. Triple Green paper contains 60 percent of this sugar cane by-product and is highly biodegradable.

Because the bagasse is leftover industrial waste, using it to make a new product is a very sustainable practice. The material is saved from being incinerated or dumped in a landfill. In addition, less bleaching chemicals are required in the refining of bagasse, due to its low lignin content. Pulp extracted from trees has more lignin and thus requires more bleaching to achieve desired whiteness.

Sugar cane regenerates annually, removing comparatively more CO2 from the atmosphere during its life cycle than trees. Triple Green is produced in close proximity to the sugar cane fields, and therefore the need for transporting the fibre over long distances is also reduced. The wood pulp produced is FSC- and PEFC-certified. The paper is available in weights of 115, 135, 150, 170, 250 and 300 gsm.

Coconut paper

A collaboration between Compadre, a packaging design and engineering firm, and Whole Tree, a green materials company founded by researchers at Baylor University, has resulted in a new packaging material made from coconut fibre. The goal of the collaboration was to develop innovative, sustainable packaging materials that allow manufacturing companies to achieve eco-friendly solutions that don’t hurt the bottom line.

The team at Baylor University has developed a non-woven fabric composite that uses up to 80 percent coconut fibre as a seamless replacement for currently used materials that are 100 percent petroleum-based synthetic fibres.

The coconut-based material is strong and stiff, allowing it to be formed into various shapes for packaging applications. When molded, the material is called coir fibre. Its properties are quite astounding. It has a natural burn resistance, as well as resistance to mildew and microbial attack. It can be made with variable densities, resulting in varying degrees of combinations of properties.

Wheat sheet

Another new fibre being used in the production of paper is wheat pulp. After the grain is harvested, an estimated 21 million tons of the wheat straw remains unused in Canada alone. Paper has been manufactured using wheat and rice in China before, however this concept has just recently been introduced to Western Canada where wheat is a major part of the agriculture produced by farmers.

In May 2008, Canadian Geographic magazine took the idea a step further and printed an entire issue using “wheat sheet.” In collaboration with Markets Initiative, a Canadian environmental group devoted to protecting the boreal forest; the Alberta Research Council (ARC); and Canadian Geographic printer Dolco Printing, the project aimed to show that high-quality magazine-grade paper can be made from a mix of fibres, including agricultural waste, like wheat straw.

The problem with wheat straw is that it has much higher silica content than wood fibre. When it is cooked for pulp, the silica actually turns into glass, creating production problems. However, the ARC scientists figured out a way to remove most of the silica before the pulp is cooked. Wheat straw is a great candidate over other grains like oats and barley because it is not used for animal feed. About 30 percent of it is the waste by-product of a crop that is valued only for its grain.

Digital Printers

This month, we’re looking at some of the hottest digital printers on the market. This is a fascinating and rapidly changing topic because it seems that this technology keeps getting faster, smarter and producing with better quality. To survive in this industry, the best printers utilize a balanced mix of both digital and offset technology in their shops. As industry expert Frank Romano said in this month’s “For the record” interview on page 28, the most important thing is to do your research and choose carefully which digital printer will offer your business the most flexibility.

HP Indigo 7500

Designed for high-volume production, this digital press can print up to 120 full colour pages per minute. Hewlett-Packard says it is the most flexible, technologically advanced high-volume sheetfed digital printing solution on the market today. Indigo products offer the widest and most accurate digital colour gamut on the market. The 7500 features 6-colour printing, matching up to 97 percent of Pantone colours.

A wide range of substrates are supported on this press, including coated, uncoated, specialty media and thick substrates like folding cartons. A white ink option enables the printing of high-value pages on specialized substrates including transparent, metallic and coloured media. The Indigo 7500 is also automated using the Vision System, maximizing uptime. The press performs automated calibrations and diagnostics.

Xerox iGen4

The iGen is an obvious choice when talking about the best digital printers on the market today. It can satisfy a variety of applications including books, manuals, direct mail, photo publishing, transactional and promotional materials. An array of finishing solutions are also possible, such as booklet making, case bound, perfect bound, stitched sets and tape bound.

Ninety-seven percent of the components that make up an iGen4 are recyclable or re-manufacturable. Non-toxic dry inks are utilized, allowing users to reduce their environmental footprint. An in-line spectrophotometer automates colour adjustments and calibrations to deliver consistent image quality and colour accuracy.

At 110 pages per minute, the iGen4 doesn’t require any drying time before coating and is compatible with a variety of media types. These include coated, uncoated, recycled, specialty stocks, labels, and more – from 7″ × 7″ up to 14.33″ x 22.5″.

Kodak NexPress

The SE family of Kodak NexPress digital colour presses features Print Genius, a suite of quality control tools that optimize quality and consistency. The press features efficient workflow productivity, processing files 30-70 percent faster. Complex VDP jobs like photo services and high-end direct mail are also possible with the Nexpress.

The SE3600 model, Kodak’s most productive press, is the only sheet fed digital production colour press to offer 3,600 A3 sheets per hour. For increased flexibility, a number of modular solutions are compatible with the device, including in-line and near-line feeding and finishing options.

NexPress dry inks do not contain VOCs, and the press is manufactured using recycled materials wherever feasible. Printed sheets can be de-inked easily, and the press can run many recycled and FSC-approved papers.

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