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Commentary & Analysis

Materials Matter at Graph Expo and Beyond

At Graph Expo 2016 paper suppliers were clustered in the Materials Matter section of the show floor, described as the “hub that celebrates the essential role materials play in the print ecosystem.”

By Elizabeth Gooding
Published: October 3, 2016

Those who visited Graph Expo with an eye to investing in the various production inkjet printing technology on display should know that paper affects the color, clarity and cost of production inkjet. The production inkjet exhibitors certainly understand the importance of paper to the performance and marketing of their solutions. While there were a limited number of inkjet devices on the show floor, a wide array of printed samples was available from inkjet Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) as well as finishing suppliers and from exhibiting paper mills.

Exhibiting paper suppliers were clustered in the Materials Matter section of the show floor, described as the “hub that celebrates the essential role materials play in the print ecosystem.” Inkjet compatible paper exhibitors included: Appvion, Felix Schoeller, Glatfelter and Verso Corporation.

While samples covered many applications such as books, statements, direct mail, self-mailers and even newspapers and magazines, it was challenging to find samples that were truly informative for buyers. Ideally, buyers should be able to see various application samples that are clearly labeled with the device used, the ink (pigment, dye, specialty ink etc.), any pre or post coatings or treatments and the speed mode in which the job was run. Many devices have an option to run at top speed in a lower resolution or at a lower speed in top resolution. It is very important for buyers to know at which quality level samples were produced. Keep in mind that “highest quality” is not the main criteria for all buyers. 

Mills don’t make low-end paper grades because they are incapable of manufacturing high-end ones, they do it because they have customers who need paper grades at various price points with specific characteristics. Therefore, a mill’s approach to samples tends to emphasize the progressive print quality enhancement that can be seen as paper grade is improved, so that a buyer can assess the best cost/quality fit for their particular mix of applications.  

OEMs, on the other hand, are interested in using print samples to demonstrate the top quality that their devices are capable of delivering, even if a buyer is unlikely to use the device in that mode. That is why so many OEM provided samples were printed on high-end paper such as Mitsubishi Sword, with a few notable exceptions:

  • HP had the widest variety of printed samples from newsprint through transaction documents to high-end direct mail including several successful customer applications currently in production. They also had the only samples clearly marked with the device name, ink type, paper and production speed (performance or quality mode.)
  • Canon produced a stunning postcard pack with edge-to-edge images printed on the VarioPrint i300. The postcards ranged from 16# text (58 gsm) to 9pt gloss (249 gsm) and showcased Crown van Gelder, International Paper, Sappi, Domtar, Neenah, Felix Schoeller and Mitsubishi. (Note: the varied images made an exciting package, but it would have been more informative to see the same image replicated across paper grades for comparison.)
  • Domtar had a well-staffed counter within the Xerox booth offering an array of inkjet samples printed on various paper grades and marked with the device used. Domtar was also promoting a service for Xerox Rialto buyers including support with media selection as well as pre and post installation paper related support.

It benefits OEMs to have paper organizations in their booths to answer questions since paper performance and availability is one of the key concerns for inkjet buyers. Overall, the samples on offer at Graph Expo 2016 from OEMs and mills were a fabulous representation of just how far inkjet has come in the past year.


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