How Paper is Made

Posted on Updated on

By: Reychelle Alvero, Kristine Joy Alunan

What does tree trunks have to do with the most useful object?

All of us use paper every day. Yet, few realize all of the steps necessary to change plant material to this common, every day product. The fact that mankind ever stumbled upon this process is shear genius. But before that, let me tell you a short history about papers. Ancient Egyptians invented the first substance like the paper we know today called Papyrus. Papyrus scrolls were made by taking slices of the inner part of the papyrus stem, flattening then pounded into a hard, thin sheet. The Paper that we know today was invented by the Chinese in the second century, probably by a Chinese court official named Cai Lun. It is believed that he mixed hemp, mulberry bark, and rags with water, mashed it into a pulp, pressed out the liquid and hung it to dry in the sun. Recognized almost immediately as a valuable secret, it was 500 years before the Japanese acquired knowledge of the method. Papermaking was known in the Islamic world from the end of the eighth century A.D.

Paper making process follows eight steps. First is Logging, wood in industrial quantities is needed, with tree trunks and logs harvested and shorn of their branches. Second is Stripping, the trunks/logs are then sent through a stripping machine, which quickly and efficiently removes their bark. Chipping is the third step, the de-barked wood is then thrown into a chipping unit, which shreds them down into small strips. The fourth step is Pulping, the small strips are deposited into a large pressure boiler (digester), where they are mixed with large quantities of water. Next is De-mulching, the boiler produces paper pulp, which is one part fibre to 200 parts water. Most of the water is removed via a mesh screen loop. The sixth step is Drying, the remaining raw fibrous paper layer is then passed through numerous drying cylinders in order to solidify its structure. Next to that is Pressing, pen ultimately, the paper is fed through a pressing unit, which equalizes its surface texture and form. And the last step in making paper is Treating, the paper is treated with a starch solution that seals the paper’s surface and helps to avoid excessive ink absorption during the printing process.

Paper, whether produced in the modern factory or by the most careful, delicate hand methods, is made up of connected fibers. The fibers can come from a number of sources including cloth rags, cellulose fibers from plants, and, most notably, trees. The use of cloth in the process has always produced high-quality paper. Today, a large proportion of cotton and linen fibers in the mix create many excellent papers for special uses, from wedding invitation paper stock to special paper for pen and ink drawings.

Now that we are knowledgeable enough about our old friend paper, we shouldn’t waste a piece of it because the process of paper making is a very complicated thing, and to help conserve our dear Mother Nature.