How Paper Is Made

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How Paper Is Made

The public perception of the paper industry might be widely linked to the fictitious company Dunder-Mifflin featured in NBC’s hit sitcom “The Office” for much of this generation. Portraying the mundane and boring lives of the employees of the company’s Scranton, Pennsylvania office; the mocking documentary {aka “mockumentary”} style comedy depicts the not-so-exciting work of a regional mid-market paper supplier. However, the process of making paper is different story. It is fairly safe to say that a large majority of people would know that paper is a product derived from wood, but not as many people actually know the process by which lumber is transformed into a sticky note. Paper manufacturing is an extremely large industry; and it is not as simple as one might think. From start to finish, the raw materials undergo a variety of different treatments and are processed in a number of different ways before the final product rolls off the lines. Now let's take an inside look at how paper is made.

how paper is made

So the wood used to manufacture paper tends to come from one of a few sources. It might come from small trees, which are grown and harvested solely for the purpose of making paper. There are tree farms that cultivate smaller trees that are not intended to be used as lumber, but only as a source of wood for paper. But this method tends to be used left often than others. It is more common for a paper company to procure the materials from lumber companies. Most paper manufacturers will take the remnants left behind by the lumber mills, such as the wood that was not suitable to be made into lumber. The final source comes from recycled fibers that were previously contained in paper. Clearly, this is the most eco-friendly way of doing things. It is estimated that approximately 50% of the paper products used by Americans are recycled and reused for other purposes. There are so many different types of paper- some will use additives or other synthetic materials to treat the paper in a certain way- but nearly all paper will be primarily formed by natural wood fibers. Paper derived from hardwood lumber has a smooth surface that makes it ideal for writing and/or printing, but it is weak and can’t hold much weight. On the other hand, paper sourced from softwood lumber is rather rough, but it benefits from being stronger and sturdier.

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how paper is made

When the wood arrives at a paper mill, it is cleaned to remove any dirt or other impurities. Then it is broken down into wood chips, which will eventually form the wood pulp to be used in paper. During the pulping process, the wood fibers are separated from one another and into individual fibers. The way by which the wood is pulped depends on the intended purpose of the paper. It is mixed with water, and in some cases other chemicals or additives. The mixing process also ensures that the pulp mixture is even and that there aren’t troublesome clumps of pulp that throw off the balance of the substance.

how paper is made

Mixing is an extremely important step in the paper manufacturing process. It combines the fundamental ingredients that are used to make paper. Wood pulp looks like a thick semi-solid substance, and a sizeable amount of it is water. The next step is to remove the excess water from the pulp mixture, also known as papermaking stock. In order to drain the water out, the stock is sprayed onto a wire screen, and the water is filtered out through the screen. This water will be stored and saved to be used over and over again. Once the water is removed, the pulp begins to bond; and it forms an extremely thin mat. The mat will be pressed together by rollers, which will effectively drain out any water that wasn’t removed on the wire filter. From there, the pulp is moved through steam-filled enormous steel cylinders; in which it is pressed by hot rollers that seal the paper together. This is a gradual process, and it might have to be repeated several times to accomplish the desired effect. But will eventually result in sheets of paper, which will be cut down to a proper size and sent off tom be sold.

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Sources

tappi.org

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