The popularity of synthetic paper is growing year after year. It is no longer considered to be a new and unknown material. This durable waterproof material behaves in the same way as cellulose, but at the same time is different, because synthetic paper is not as susceptible to scratching as cellulose is.
In fact, synthetic paper is a special kind of white matt plastic. Its peculiarity is that this material combines the major properties of usual paper and synthetic film. The major chemical compounds of the paper are polypropylene and polyethylene. The process of ‘creating’ synthetic paper is quite difficult and is divided into a few steps. Standard synthetic paper is processed to be suited for offset, screen and digital printing.
Synthetic paper large-scale production began in the second half of the XX century. The material was widely publicised in last few decades in high-developed countries. Recently, there has been recorded a steady demand rise on synthetic paper consumption. For example, experts forecast the consumer demand will soon reach 177,000 tons, or 343 million dollars. Today when choosing what kind of material to buy, printing industry manufacturers take a lot of parameters in consideration, among them – how long the print service life is. The usual paper is not in high demand already, as the usual paper print service life is limited, plus the paper itself can be easily teared and is affected by water.
Food and beverage packaging, cosmetics and medicine are the three key consumer fields for synthetic paper market. Cardboard boxes together with blister packaging are two more areas the synthetic paper market is about to conquer. It’s because it has high durability level, improved resistance qualities and prolonged service life, that made this material very popular when producing blister packaging and other forms of packaging and labelling.
The colour of synthetic paper is bright white with 93% opacity level. A big plus of this kind of material is that the paper doesn’t accumulate electricity. It results in paper shits which don’t stick to one another while printing.
Another big plus of using synthetic paper is that it suits a range of printing activities, for example printing or labelling:
- Final goods
- Identification cards
- Price tags
- Outdoor advertising
- Business cards
- Menus and instructions and many more.
Quite surprising, synthetic paper is often used to manufacture maps – geographical, tourist and topographic. Since this material is resistant to crushing and creasing, such maps will maintain their high-quality image for a long time. Nowadays, playing cards are often made of synthetic paper as well.
Also, synthetic paper is suitable and often used in printing books for children. The explanation is that children are obviously not among the best readers. They like tearing or crumpling books. Synthetic-based books will service a much longer period of time. Such books can even be washed!
The contemporary synthetic paper world market has a wide range of paper types on offer, each used for different applications. The types of synthetic paper available differ in transparency, density and thickness. For example, the paper’s transparency/opacity rate becomes very important when creating ads. It happens when people have to choose what kind of paper they want to use according to it admitting or reflecting light which is important for ads. If you buy the paper for labelling production, it is recommended to choose a type of synthetic paper with a lower density level. Some papers are easy to fold, other hold their shape for a long time – each type is different from another one.
Some kinds of synthetic papers may also contain UV-inhibitors. They help to prevent the paper from fading in case it is frequently exposed to sunlight. Sometimes, the manufacturers of synthetic paper add some coloured pigments and special additives, which increase the material suitability for digital printing. Synthetic paper market is diverse, and the material can be offered to consumers in both sheets and rolls.
Undoubtedly, synthetic paper can make a really promising offer to all the print industry manufacturers. We should emphasise that synthetic paper has a lot of excellent properties, such as resistance to water, tearing, moisture, adhesive coatings and ultraviolet rays which made the material so popular among print industry developers. Except these features, there are a lot of other useful things about it worth mentioning :
- It suits offset, screen and digital printing perfectly well
- The durability of the print applied on such type of paper is guaranteed
- Once applied, the prints are difficult to remove
- High suitability for cutting, foil stamping, embossing and glue applying
- High-quality lamination option is available – adhesion is from 2 to 6 times stronger than that with usual paper or plastic
- Resistance to high and low temperatures
- Wear resistance and high flexibility
The most advantageous feature that synthetic paper possesses is that it has the ability to confront difficult outer conditions, including rains, drafts and fading in the sun. That is the reason why synthetic paper is more expensive compared to usual offset paper.
Synthetic paper has a lot of differences if compared with usual paper. But what about PVC?
Unlike PVC, vinyl and polystyrene, when synthetic paper is being manufactured, chlorine, stearates, heavy metals and other harmful chemicals are not used at al. Therefore, the paper is a much more environmentally friendly product. Besides, the synthetic material can be easily laminated and holds the shape for a longer time compared to PVC and other materials like it. It’s because the synthetic paper adhesion to lamination film is stronger.
Apart from what was said, synthetic paper is smoother and whiter in contrast to PVC. The paper surface energy level is higher as well – around 42 – 47 dyne. PVC-like materials have only 38 – 40 dyne. This advantage ensures that you get a much higher-quality image when using synthetic paper in printing.
When using synthetic paper for printing, is is vital to follow some pre- and post-printing rules so that to ensure the best usage of this material. Here are some of them.
- Before printing, it is recommended to blow the sheets of synthetic paper with a fan so as to prevent them from sticking together.
- The best printing speed is 8,000 sheets per minute.
- In order to increase the image quality and get a better colour and line print, it is best to use a special lineature with the number of lines and dots equal to 175 per inch.
- Also, it is okay to use high-intensity paints with a minimal amount of mineral oils. But, before you begin the printing process, it is important to make sure that the paints have dried and contain no water.
- If offset printing is applied, you have to consider wetting. Some manufacturers use 10 – 15% alcohol solution or its substitute. Synthetic paper can’t absorb water, and monitoring the amount of water the paints contain is extremely important.
- It takes at least 5 hours for the paper to become dry. But if post-printing operations are used, you should leave the paper alone for as many as 12 hours and let it dry. The process of drying can be accelerated by using, for example, UV-drying.
The leading companies on the synthetic paper world market are Arjobex America Mill, Nan Ya Plastic Corporation, Yupo Corporation and Hop Industries. The product is nearly perfect. The only thing that can prevent it from conquering new fields of print business market is that the raw materials (polybutene, polypropylene, polyethylene) prices are fluctuating all the time.