Whittling Down Our Target Market with Pebble Paper
In my last article, I wrote about the first test of our inkjet-adapted stone paper material, Pebble Paper. It was a comparison with traditional photo paper from an Epson L1800. The results from that test weren’t too shabby, despite being a comparison between a matte and glossy finish. Since that article, there have been a few updates. Now, I am even more excited to discuss what business looks like for this new material. Let me tell you why.
I must admit, the original pricing from the engineers was too optimistic. I had been so focused on traditional coated inkjet papers, where we are significantly more expensive it turns out.
But after our first Test on a FujiFilm 750S with our newest semi-gloss paper, it was obvious that our coating is higher quality than run-of-the-mill digital inkjet paper. The detail reproduction is truly unmatched, even down to 0.01 pt (0.0004 cm) lines are produced perfectly. Colors are deep and saturated. It dries instantly at low temperatures.
That’s when my discussions with our investor really hit home. For a while, he had been explaining how our recipe and formula are intended to compete with resin coated (RC) photo papers. If you’re familiar with fine art printing, that might sound crazy. Resin coated photo papers are extremely expensive, up to forty thousand dollars per ton. They are coated on two sides with PE film to make them waterproof, and an emulsion comes on top of that to enable a high quality image reproduction.
Our Pebble Paper optimizes this process by completely skipping the expensive PE film and paper requirements. It already contains 20% PE, so it’s waterproof by nature. The paper core is unnecessary to retain adequate rigidity. The coating on top is just the secret sauce that we have replicated.
Now, after the last test and returning home to South Carolina to see how Americans use photo papers today, I think we might have an exciting opportunity. I’ll give a specific example.
When I visited my brother last week, I noticed his house was full of low to mid-quality RC photo papers. Almost every family picture was printed on the stuff. It’s a similar story in my parents’ house- photo papers everywhere. It seems like they are all from Kodak. If this is representative of most families in the US, certainly there is quite a market here. Previously I had estimated a global manufacturing capacity for RC papers at around 500,000 tons/year for reference.
Not only can we compete in this market with high quality and extreme sustainability, but we also cost around half as much as RC photo papers (seriously). Considering the near only drawback of our paper, a slightly lower stiffness, I think the compromise is a no-brainer.
Now, what I think doesn’t really decide if we are successful. That’s why I have arranged to do more RC paper testing with a fine art printer in South Carolina, after which I will release another video.
What do you think? Do you think I’m full of hot air? Could it be a game changer? Would you like samples?
Hunter Bliss is currently a strategic account executive for RR Donnelley Asia, based in New York City. Previously, during a four-year residence in China, he acted as the founder and CEO of Pebble Printing Group, a printer specializing in stone paper printing. Hunter is from South Carolina, was educated as a printer in Germany, and founded his company in Shenzhen, China.