What Is the Paper Manufacturing Process?

Larry Ray Palmer

The process of making paper dates back to ancient Egypt. This manufacturing process uses organic fibers and materials, liquid, and pressure to create paper. While the equipment and materials used in the paper manufacturing process have varied over time, the actual process remains basically unchanged.

Cut paper goes out to consumers for home or office use.
Cut paper goes out to consumers for home or office use.

In the paper manufacturing process, organic materials such as wood or bamboo are separated into fibers or ground into a fine powder. The purpose of this step is to create uniform fibers that are then soaked in an acid or base solution to create cellulose in a process called pulping. This cellulose material is the main component of paper. In specialty papers, such as parchment, cloth fibers may also be used in place of cellulose as part of the paper manufacturing process.

Recycled paper goes through a process called de-inking to be made into new paper.
Recycled paper goes through a process called de-inking to be made into new paper.

There are three methods used in the pulping process: chemical, mechanical, and de-inking. The first two processes are used to make virgin paper, while de-inking is used to make recycled paper products. Each of these pulping methods has its own advantages and disadvantages in the paper manufacturing process.

After the organic fibers are pulped and turned into cellulose materials, filler materials may be added to create special characteristics in the end product. This process is called sizing, and it can be used to create paper with a higher ink absorption rate or to alter the color of the finished paper. These filler materials may include china clay, bleach, chalk, or other additives.

The treated cellulose pulp is run through a drying process in a paper machine. This machine uses heat and pressure from rollers to remove the liquid from the pulp. As the pulp travels from the wet end to the dry end of the processing equipment, it is pressed to manually remove the bulk portion of the liquid. Forced heat is then used to evaporate the remaining fluid, leaving dried, uncoated paper with less than 6% water content.

Uncoated paper is sometimes treated with additional sizing. The paper is given a thin layer of sizing materials that aid it in accepting ink more readily or to add a specific finish to the paper. By adding coating to the paper, high gloss, matte, and semi-matte effects can be achieved.

The product of the paper manufacturing process is a single continuous piece of paper. This finished paper is collected on reels for storage or sent to a paper cutting machine. Reels of finished paper are used in the printing industry, while cut paper is often sold for use by consumers.

Wood is first made into pulp to begin paper manufacturing.
Wood is first made into pulp to begin paper manufacturing.

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