Stora förändringsmöjligheter för pappersåtervinning

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Laurel Brunner.

Epsons Paperlab-maskiner kommer att vara miljö-stjärnan på årets Drupa, enligt Laurel Brunner, som i veckans Verdigris-krönika diskuterar framtiden för papperstillverkning och återvinning.


At a recent drupa press event previewing new announcements for the show, the sustainability messaging was curious. Messe Düsseldorf, the exhibition’s organisers, failed to mention the environment in their opening remarks, deferring instead to the exhibitors. Fortunately the exhibitors participating in the press conference had a lot so say, rather putting Messe Düsseldorf to shame. For those of us keen on managing, improving and promoting the positive environmental impact of print, the star of drupa 2016 will most likely be a truly astonishing Epson technology.

The company is developing an onsite instant paper recycling system. PaperLab is a machine initially intended for office environments but with massive scope to totally upend the traditional pulp and paper industries. The Epson technology can be applied to all types of printed paper and be deployed for different printing and paper production environments. It produces new recycled papers for all types of print applications, using waste paper loaded into a machine that looks a bit like a large photocopier.

PaperLab uses a dry fibre technology to pulverise the printed paper, something Epson calls defibrating. The colorants in the paper whether they originate in inkjet inks or toners, are then removed. Binder and a little water are added and the mix is then pressed and calendared to create new paper sheets. The only water involved is the water used to create the new paper. The new papers can be coloured, scented or plain depending on the composition of the binder used and from 100gsm to thin card. This range will grow.

It’s early days yet, but already PaperLab can produce 18 new A4 sheets per minute, that’s around 7,000 in an eight hour shift. The technology can be scaled up and applied for industrial applications. This is disruption on a mega scale, putting recycling and paper production slap bang at the point of use. With PaperLab the emissions associated with waste management transport and paper delivery go away. Printers could produce their own papers, with recipes optimised for a particular printing method, ink, application, or all three!

The possibilities for PaperLab’s underlying technology to disrupt supply chains and conventional business models are massive. It could pose an existential threat to conventional pulp production and paper making. Supply chain disruption and collapsing traditional models is what progress is all about, so we are looking at an interesting few months. Based on efforts with the prototype machine, Epson reckon they will have a viable product in a couple of years time. They estimate that the market for PaperLab is €2 billion.

– Laurel Brunner

The Verdigris supporters who make the blog possible: Agfa Graphics, Digital Dots, EFI, Fespa, Heidelberg, HP, Kodak, Mondi, Ricoh, Splash PR, Unity Publishing and Xeikon.

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