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Paper Ponderings

21 Apr, 2004 By: Ronelle Ingram imageSource

Paper Ponderings

Governmental legislation requiring the use of recycled paper continues to play
havoc with our high-speed printers and copiers. Adding to this are businesses
trying to reduce their day-to-day operational expenses by cutting costs in every
sector of their business. Buying cheaper paper always seems to be at the top of
the list. One of our largest customers buys the cheapest recycled paper they can
find. Then they call our service department and complain that their copier jams
in the duplex and is producing wrinkled and faded copies.

can have an enormous effect on the short and long term serviceability of
printing equipment. In today’s business world, customers are often penny wise
and pound foolish when it comes to purchasing paper. Many large companies,
school districts and municipalities are required to use recycled paper. Add to
these the large office superstores that sell cases (5,000 sheets, 10 reams) of
paper for under $12 per box and you can see the problem.

color printers and copiers become more commonly used at home and in business,
the quality and suitability of the paper is having enormous effects on the
overall serviceability and perceived copy quality of printing and copying
equipment. Paper quality, finish, brightness, opacity, cut, dust, packaging,
storage, handling and end user installation all have an enormous effect on the
end user’s perception of how their printing equipment is performing. Part of
your responsibility as the seller and supporter of printing products is to
diplomatically educate the end user on the nuances of the paper they use.

At a
recent visit to an office superstore, paper was being sold for $9.95 per 5,000
sheets (10 reamed case) to $49.95 for 50 sheets of high gloss photographic
paper. That is more than a 400 percent per sheet difference in price. I counted
over 40 different offerings of paper in this one store alone. No wonder our
customers, sales people and techs are confused.

trying to simplify your paper discussions with customers, here are some basic
items to discuss. Figure out how the paper is going to be used. High speed
copiers and printers (50+ prints per minute) with duplex and stapling ability
require much higher quality paper than a 15 print per minute personal copier,
fax or printer. The quality of color prints and copies will vary from marginally
acceptable to knock your socks off gorgeous, depending on the paper stock used.
Laser, inkjet and color all need different types of paper to maximize print

Paper Properties

Brightness:: The whiter the paper, the blacker the print appears. The contrast
between paper and image makes the entire print appear to be of a higher quality.
Copy quality problems can instantly disappear as the whiteness/brightness is


Poor opacity allows backlighting to washout or over shadow the printed image.
Opacity is the ability for the paper’s surface to reflect light.


Better quality wrapped reams of paper will have an arrow on the ream end paper
label. This arrow represents the direction the paper should be placed in the
paper cassette. This directional arrow reflects the importance of direction of
grain and cut into the paper’s usage. Cheaper paper rarely takes into
consideration these areas of importance. Paper feed, transport and duplex
ability is affected by the direction of wood grain and smoothness of ream cut.


Poorly cut or processed paper can bring bits of debris that can build up within
the interior of the printing equipment. Soon, the printer interior will be
covered with a layer of paper dust, affecting print quality and jamming.


Wrapping Paper: The strength, composition and sealing process (glue) of the
paper used to wrap the ream affects the amount of protection the paper receives
during transport and storage. Torn ream wrapping can cause moisture invasion and
bent, creased or bruised sheets of paper.


Paper must be slick enough to allow the toner to penetrate the surface. If it is
too porous, the toner will blast, causing a fuzzy looking image. If it is too
slick, the paper feed mechanism will have trouble picking up individual sheets.
Very slick paper designed for color printers creates a clear, sharp and colorful
image. This same high quality (expensive) slick paper can leave excessive
colored toner on the fuser rollers. The need to replace or frequently clean
fuser rollers will increase as the slickness or the paper finish increases. When
cheaper, more porous paper is used for color printing, copy quality diminishes
as fuser roller cleanliness increases. This is one of the few times that poor
quality paper actually increases the cleanliness of the equipment.

Types of Paper

Multi-use is "good enough" for everyday copier use. Laser paper is usually 24-28
lb. with a smooth finish that helps minimizes curl and improves whiteness
contrast. Inkjet paper is more porous, allowing the wet ink to penetrate the
paper fiber. Higher quality laser and inkjet paper will specify a DPI range.
Matching the DPI paper range with the printer equipment range will maximize
print quality.

End-User Paper Care

Even the best paper, when treated poorly, will play havoc with a printer’s
effectiveness. Paper should be stored flat, in unopened reams in the vicinity of
use. Paper that is stored in hot or cold environments, and then brought into an
office setting, needs 24 hours to adapt to the new environment. Paper that is
too cold is stiff, while limpness is caused by high temperatures. Both paper
feed and the ability to absorb toner is negatively affected by extreme
temperatures or poor storage environment.

Paper Weight

Twenty-pound xerographic quality paper is the standard. It is now common to have
printing equipment rated for use from 14 to 120 pound paper. The use of
different paper weights may require the use of the sheet bypass or universal
paper tray. Duplexing may not be possible on some weights of paper. Customers
must be made aware of the limitations of their equipment.


This is a subject of confusion. The composition of recycled paper is as varied
as the waste in your trash can. Each sheet has a history all its own. Without
getting technical, some recycled paper works and some doesn’t. As a former field
tech, my favorite paper comes from the "hard woods" of the American Southeast.
Anything that says ‘recycled’ is an unknown. Not only is it a potential for
problems, but recycled paper can vary from sheet to sheet.

simple piece of paper that is carelessly placed into a sheet bypass unit or
paper cassette can increase or decrease the end-user’s perception of their
printer equipment’s reliability and your company’s technical expertise.
Technicians must be trained to identify, explain and prove what the best paper
is for the end-user’s needs. Field techs can instantly prove the worth (or
worthlessness) of the end-user’s current choice of paper by always having
protected (we use self sealing plastic storage bags) sample paper (for color and
black) as part of their car stock. A picture (sample print on the appropriate
paper) can be worth a thousand words of explanation. Customer complaints of
inferior print quality or jamming in the duplex or sheet bypass can be instantly
explained and corrected. Indisputable creditability can be achieved when the
tech can produce a non-jamming, high quality print by merely changing the paper
that is being used.

your company does not sell paper, make sure you provide a current list of high
quality paper you recommend and a convenient place of purchase. Your customer
may not choose to pay the price for premium quality paper, but the burden of
providing trouble free, high-quality printing will no longer be yours.

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