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Welcome to the DT&G Design and Creative Department - Design Topic: Paper

Choosing The Right Paper for Laser Printing
Benjamin Frank, test link
Senior Research Associate, International Paper

Choosing The Right Paper for Laser Printing
Shopping for a good office paper can feel like a stroll down the cereal isle of your local grocery store- many choices from a variety of companies, all claiming to give you what you want. It may lead you to wonder how, or if, those papers are different, and which one you should buy. Which paper will feed well through your machine, and will choosing the wrong paper force you to spend most of your time clearing jams? With all your expensive hardware, can the paper really change the way the output looks, beyond issues of color and texture?
__ While you may be inclined to just grab a package at random or buy whatever is on sale, paper is often the major determining factor in how your print appears. The right paper will support a crisp, clean print. The wrong paper may appear dusty or dirty, and may even damage your printer. To get the best performance, it is important to choose the right paper.
__ Both laser printing and copying produce images by melting powdered toner to the sheet to form an image. This process has many advantages: it is fast, you can get crisp text, and the image does not wash off or fade. Inside a laser printer the image of what you want to print is first formed by toner attracted to electrical charges on a metal drum. In order to get the toner (and the image) off the drum, a nearby plate is given a stronger charge. This would normally cause the toner to jump from the drum to the plate, but paper is inserted between the drum and plate to "catch" the toner, transferring the image from the drum to the sheet. The toner is then fixed to the sheet in the fuser section of the printer, where the paper and toner pass between pressing rolls. The top roll is heated, melting the plastic toner into place. In order to get a good print from this entire process the paper must have a number of important properties.
__ The first step in producing a good print is avoiding paper jams in the printer. When the paper jams, not only do you not get a good print, you tend not to get any print. If the paper is too moist or wet (if it absorbed moisture from the air on a humid day), the paper may be too limp for the printer to feed properly. The rollers pushing the paper along will cause it to crumple up and jam. If the paper dried out and/or is too stiff it might also jam because it can not make it around the various bends in the printer. A limp paper would behave similar to a rope that was being pushed at one end, while a stiff paper might act like a broom handle pushed through the piping under your sink. In either case, the paper will not feed properly, leading to a jam. Paper might also jam, slip or crumple if it is too smooth, since the feed rollers will not be able to push it along well. Those rollers rely on friction to pass the paper along the paper path, and insufficient friction can cause the paper to get stuck. Finally, heating the paper during the fusing process creates a tendency for the paper to curl to the printed side. This curl may cause the paper to miss some of the feed rollers in the printer, again resulting in a jam.
__ One key to avoiding jams is to store the unused portion of paper in the original packaging. The packaging is designed to keep the paper as close as possible to the conditions of manufacture. Paper is made to specific moisture levels in order to avoid jams, and keeping the paper in the packaging helps preserve this moisture. Further, many wrapped packages of paper (reams) will include an arrow on one end of the package, along with the phrase "image this side first." This arrow is your key to getting the best print and avoiding jams. Since in copying and laser printing there is a fuser step which causes the sheet to curl towards the printed side, paper makers intentionally build in a compensating curl. This means that if you print on the correct side the curl from the laser printing process is canceled out by the curl in the page, and the result is a flat sheet. But, if you print on the wrong side, the curls add together and the result is a very curled sheet.


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