Let’s Have a Hand for…Inkjet Papers!

I know you’re thinking, “What’s he talking about?” I decided to go off the track a bit this week. In the 80s, I worked with early inkjet commercial print systems. I absorbed enough of the technology to become mildly dangerous on the subject. The surge of inkjet technology into commercial print got me thinking about the role that paper was playing in inkjet. So I’ll divert from my usual finishing perspective and explore paper’s part in this drama.

Bill Brunone of The Brunone Group in Marietta, GA, specializes in helping potential inkjet buyers make the best purchasing decision. Brunone says, “Paper impacts inkjet technology more than any other type of printing.” Most commercial high-speed inkjet systems employ two types of ink. Dye-based inks contain a powerful color dye which is completely in solution with the water carrier. The ink “drop” is completely absorbed by the paper substrate. Pigment-based inks contain minute color particles that are left on the surface of the paper once the water is absorbed.

Since both are mostly water, the challenge for inkjet printer and paper converters has been to enable inkjet printers to print with acceptable image and color quality on a wide variety of paper types. To achieve this, the paper folks have long offered a variety of specially-treated stocks designed especially for inkjet inks. Coated papers (for example) may be treated with a proprietary formulation of chemicals, including salts, which create tiny holes in the coating to allow more color particles to penetrate the substrate surface.

Until fairly recently, inkjet papers came with a hefty price premium over their offset brothers. Anywhere from 20 to 100 percent over offset stocks for some coated inkjet papers. But competition among the paper companies has brought the price delta down considerably. The various paper treatments have also been fine-tuned to allow printers to “dial-down” their ink coverage when using some of these papers. Since inkjet ink is the most expensive consumable, this reduces the overall paper cost. Color “pop” gas also been a consistent issue with inkjet, and inkjet papers have been honed so that maximum color vibrancy can be achieved. Bill Brunone thinks that inkjet paper offerings have never been better. Brunone says, “Inkjet substrates are a critical part of the success of high-speed commercial inkjet, and the paper solutions will only increase and become more competitive. This is good news for printers considering inkjet, and for current users.”

Don has worked in technical support, sales, engineering, and management during a career in both the commercial offset and digital finishing sectors. He is the North American representative for IBIS Bindery Systems, Ltd. of The United Kingdom.
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