TK's Korner's 15th (Woohoo!) Annual Paper Mill Tour was the first time we've toured an Uncoated Mill; we went to Neenah Paper's Whiting Mill located in Plover, WI.
After 14 previous tours of coated mills, I felt it was time to see what the other side has to offer. Boy, am I glad we did, Neenah Paper is recognized as a world-class manufacturer of premium writing, text, cover, specialty and private watermark papers. From elegant cotton fiber choices to unique translucent sheets, their products appeal to designers and corporate executives alike.
On the tour we saw, up close and personal, how premium paper is made and converted to printing sheets. The Whiting Mill's focus is primarily brands such as Classic Crest® Papers, Classic® Linen Papers, Classic® Laid Papers, Coronado® SST Papers, and Starwhite® Papers. This mill also does some custom made papers for individual customers as well as private watermarks.
We saw the entire papermaking process from the raw materials (fibers, fillers, dyes, etc.) through manufacturing and quality testing to the finished product. Compared to the large uncoated or coated mills I've toured in the past, I noticed many differences including:
- Smaller machines that put a focus on product performance and quality rather than a commoditized, "tons-per-day" mentality.
- A more hands-on quality assessment at multiple points through the process.
- Dandy rolls - which are used for general formation improvements and for watermarking.
(These were really cool and unique, and to be able to see them up close and touch them was a treat. The storage of them and retrieval process was also quite interesting. We even got to see a very expensive roll for a major national coffee shop.)
- A historic look at papermaking including a tour of the old waterwheel area. (It makes you wonder what it must have taken to make it back then vs how it is made now!!)
As a fine text and cover manufacturer, Neenah Paper's mills are non-integrated which means that the paper tour starts with a raw materials warehouse, rather than a tree nursery or pulp mill. The warehouse contains many different types of pulp such as post-consumer fiber, hard wood, soft wood, bamboo and sugar bagasse. (All of us were able to have a hands-on approach here by touching the actual pulp (Desert Storm Environment®) right out of the vat before it went onto the paper machine, which was running at the same time. We were able to see it start out and then work its way entirely through the process.)
The warehouse also houses the other materials that go into making paper such as fillers, brighteners, colored fibers and dyes. The raw materials are taken from the warehouse to the beginning of the papermaking process where they are mixed together and processed in the beaters and refiners. This was impressive as the huge batches of pulp were blended with a different recipe for each grade and color.
Paper pulp machine
Paper pulp blocks ready to be picked up and dropped into vat
Once the pulp was ready, it was sprayed across the fourdrinier wire which moves quickly - the pulp at this point is over 99% water. (The amazing thing about this tour was how close you could get to the paper being made - it's all right at eye level!) Once the pulp is running across the wire, the rest of the process is all about taking water out of the paper - down to about 5% by the end! The web of paper, about 100" wide, jumps from the wire to the felt section, where water is squeezed out, then to the dryer section where steam-filled rollers evaporate the remaining water content out of the paper. We saw where the watermarks are placed in the paper, where texture and sizing is added, and how the color is put in. The whole process was very interesting.
Paper making machine dryer unit - Boy, is that hot!!
Once the paper is made, the large rolls are cut down to smaller sizes, then either prepared for shipment to the end user as a roll, or sent to a different area for sheeting and packaging. All throughout the process there are many quality control stops so we could definitely see why the paper coming out of the mill is among the world's finest.
Finished roll being packaged
Neenah Paper is known for being a leader in environmental stewardship and we saw and heard about many of the things they are doing on this front. The mill we visited is planning construction for a new biomass generator that will take the sludge from this mill and burn it cleanly to create all the steam they will need to dry paper.
We had a chance to relax in Neenah's Guest House before heading back home on the big tour bus.
View link for more photos of fun and games ;-)
Intense game of Taboo being played here while riding in total comfort
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Now that you're caught up with the tour, the mill and just some of the awesome products Neenah has, as usual I have some appropriate questions asked of me by clients which I would love to share the answers with you!
I've been approached in the past with the questions of "When would you pick an uncoated stock over a coated one?" (like, what types of projects, subjects, etc.) and, "Can you run coating techniques on uncoated stocks?"
To help answer these questions, I enlisted the expertise of Kim Shannon - Senior Account Manager at Neenah Paper. She is a resource for designers, end users, printers and merchant customers primarily in the Twin Cities area.
Here's what Kim shares with us -
Generally the different times you might use uncoated would be for:
- The look (softer, subtle, more organic, more personable).
- The color or texture (obviously uncoated has a far broader number of options for color and texture plus you have the added bonus of the "feel" of the paper to add dimension to the project).
- For readability (reading large amounts of copy on coated paper is a drag - thus the need for matte or satin coated, uncoated has even less reflection).
- For usability (letterhead comes to mind first and foremost, but try writing a survey response on coated paper - sometimes functionality requires uncoated).
- Color reproduction (many of the trendy colors don't look right on coated paper - they require a more subtle surface with less reflection). A gloss varnish will dry into a sheet of uncoated and not give the pop that it would on a coated sheet. However, there are ways to get a glossy pop on an uncoated sheet, such as using UV coatings or foils. AQ or Varnish coatings are often used on uncoated as a protectant.
(I have many samples of interesting coating and ink techniques that we could go through together.)What types of projects can use uncoated? All types!
Identity (letterhead, business cards, pocket folders, envelopes)
Collateral (brochures and sales sheets)
Direct Mail, you name it!!
(Subjects like cars have traditionally been reserved for coated papers, but even those industries are now using uncoated papers to really have an impact - when they want to show the softer, more human side of their product.)
Further information on using uncoated papers -
- Traditionally, coated paper has been the first choice for designs that show detail and color that pops. Influenced by economic changes and an organic trend in colors, uncoated smooth and textured papers are making a comeback.
- Designers are now comparing uncoated with coated sheets for brochures, stationery, and manuals. To compete with the demand, a wider variety of uncoated papers are coming into the market.
- On a corporate level, uncoated papers are being used to project a kinder and gentler corporate image. Softer finishes, like silk and satin, are also in high demand.
- The other significant trend in the use of uncoated papers is the request for heavier paper stock. Already a standard in Europe, the trend is toward heavier weights and double thick covers. With an eye on tight budgets, heavier paper can make up for fewer pages and still give a credible, dependable feel.
- Uncoated papers come in a variety of colors. Some paper mills laminate two different colored sheets within one brand to create a duplex sheet. There are also different weights and textures available with many different surface treatments.
The following are some of the most popular uncoated finishes -
- Smooth/Super Smooth
Plain, un-textured paper is made smooth and level from the paper passing through sets of rollers during the papermaking process. A smooth finish is the most popular uncoated paper finish because of its hard, uniform surface that provides strong ink holdout and crisp dot resolution for sharper images.
Linen is an embossed finish that imitates the weave of linen fabric to suggest a refined and conservative look. Many paper mills offer subtle linen textures and others provide highly embossed versions of the linen pattern.
Laid papers have historically been a very popular stationery sheet with a surface pattern of distinct parallel lines. The requirements of laser printers have motivated paper mills to produce compressed versions of the laid pattern for a smoother laser-compatible finish.
This crisp, translucent paper with a subtle, rough surface comes in both solid colors and embossed designs. Vellum paper may be marbled, metallic, flecked with gold and silver, and embedded with leaves. Vellum is suitable for invitations, greeting cards, and anywhere a translucent paper enhances a printed piece.
Kim's note here: (We actually don't call these translucent papers Vellum - the crafts industry does however. We simply call them Translucent. Vellum refers to a texture that is subtly rough, like a cockle or antique.)
A felt finish has no obvious texture or pattern and is a highly absorbent paper. Expect dot gain when printing on a felt finish sheet. A 20% screen tint for any particular graphic element will print on a felt finish like a 35% screen tint would print on a smoother sheet.
Wove is a popular sheet for stationery and book publishing. This paper is bulky with only a slightly rough surface. Because of its bulk, the paper is ideal for laser printer projects and suggests quality and strength.
Printing on Uncoated Paper
With current prepress technology, the natural surface of uncoated papers is an ideal background for four-color process printing. Adobe Photoshop and new color-management systems make it possible for any designer and printer to create consistency and predictability on uncoated papers. Uncoated stock is absorbent, so inks, varnishes, and coatings perform differently than on coated papers. For multicolor and specialty printing projects, it is important to choose the paper that will print with the best uniformity and consistency. Good-quality uncoated papers are manufactured to adjust to the sensitive balance between ink holdout and ink receptivity.
The following tips and the right color management system will take the uncertainty out of printing on uncoated stocks -
- To ensure your design will print as you envisioned, consult your printer and prepress professionals at the beginning of a project and clearly communicate your design expectations.
- When designing a project, keep in mind that printing on uncoated paper stocks can increase dot gain in half tone and screened areas. For best effects, choose photos or illustrations with sharp contrast.
- Don't use varnishes to highlight designs on uncoated paper. Smooth sheets may seem as if they accept varnish like a coated sheet, but all uncoated papers absorb varnish. Although varnish won't create a highlight effect on uncoated stock, it can be used as a sealant after the design is printed.
- Folding and scoring a light-colored, raised surface sheet printed with solid ink can result in exposed, light-colored fibers. A fold shouldn't crack if scored properly and avoiding solid ink coverage that wraps around the fold can minimize cracking.
- Drying times vary, making it important to plan ahead for your piece to have ample time to dry completely.
Writing, Text and Cover Papers:
For an at-a-glance list of the 15 major Neenah Green grades, all with many colors, finishes, sizes and weights.
Visit www.neenahpaper.com for more information.If you have a production issue not discussed above that you would like me to address, or a project that needs to be looked at, please give me a call @ 612-278-1568 or send me an email. I will do whatever it takes to ensure you get the best value for every marketing dollar invested.
Referrals are greatly appreciated, if you know someone I could help, or who might like to receive TK's Korner, please let me know.
Make sure to check out other issues of TK's Korner!
You may also want to see the following TK's Korner issues -
Hope this helps and stay tuned for the next issue of TK's Korner. You never know what might be covered!
If you have a production issue not discussed above that you would like me to address, or a project that needs to be looked at, please give me a call or send me an email. I will do whatever it takes to ensure you get the best value for every marketing dollar invested.
You can also check out my profile, join my network and view more client comments on LinkedIn at: http://www.linkedin.com/in/tomkubinski
Referrals are greatly appreciated, if you know someone I could help, or who might like to receive TK's Korner, please let me know.
Take care and have a great day!
Tom Kubinski, Printing Consultant
Printing Consultant Who Helps You Make Good Impressions
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