Bulky Paper

December, 2021

Can “Bulky” Paper Reduce the Costs of Reading Materials?

High end “bulky” paper is a recent innovation by paper manufacturers. It has been developed over the last five years as an alternative to the uncoated woodfree offset paper that is frequently used for book printing.

Bulky paper is a mechanically smoothed paper with a high wood fiber content (mechanical pulp). It is light and thick. It is mainly used to print trade books and textbooks.

The most notable characteristic of a bulky paper is the ratio between the weight and the thickness of the paper. This is called bulk or volume. On average, the thickness of a sheet of bulky paper is 1.5 times higher than uncoated woodfree paper of the same weight. This unique feature reduces paper costs and transport costs, which are the main cost drivers of books.

Another important characteristic of bulky paper is its rough surface. It is therefore particularly suitable for printing text and images in colour and for workbooks.

Fabrication of bulky paper

Raw material: wood chips or recycled paper

Paper is produced via thermochemical and thermomechanical processes that create pulp from wood chips. To obtain pulp, wood chips undergo various treatments, including the removal of the naturally occurring lignin in the fibers. In addition, a large proportion of paper pulp is made from recycled paper.

Chemical and mechanical treatments

The pulp is processed with the help of a refiner, and impurities are removed. After refining, the pulp is cleaned and screened. Finally, the paper pulp goes through a dryer to reduce its moisture content. The pulp can then be chemically bleached, depending on the whiteness required.

The characteristics of bulky paper

The technical characteristics of bulky paper are as follows:

  • Available uncoated or coated
  • Rough surface,
  • Light and thick
  • High fiber content
  • Grammage from 45 to 100 g/m2

The advantages of bulky paper

  • Thick

Bulky paper is 1.5 times thicker than uncoated woodfree paper but has the same weight. This makes it possible to produce books that have the same volume or stiffness as books produced with uncoated woodfree papers.

  • Durability

Thanks to its high fiber content, bulky paper is durable enough for textbooks and trade books.

  • Environmentally friendly

Unlike uncoated woodfree papers, which are produced by processing cellulose-based pulp, bulky paper requires less chemical treatment, is produced from mechanical pulp, consists of a large number of wood fibers, and always comes from sustainably managed forests when purchased from sustainable suppliers.

  • Less expensive than equivalent papers

Bulky paper is very similar to uncoated woodfree paper but has a significantly lower cost. Current demand for paper and supply chain issues makes it difficult to purchase 70 or 80gsm uncoated woodfree paper for less than 845$/To. The current price of 52gsm bulky paper is around 1,015$/To. This means that to produce an 80 page A4 book on 80gsm uncoated woodfree paper, the cost of the inner paper will be 0.178$ per book whereas it will be 0.139$ per unit on 52gsm bulky paper. For textbooks that have technical specifications that are otherwise identical, the cost of a textbook printed on 52gsm bulky paper book will be about 22% lower.

  • Reduces paperweight

The bulky paper also significantly reduces the weight that must be transported by road, air, or sea.

The weight of containers and trailers is regulated limited by local authorities, shipping companies, and port facilities. If a 80-page book weighs 220g in 80gsm when printed on uncoated woodfree paper, it will weigh 150g when printed on 52gsm bulk paper, but both books will have the same thickness. It is therefore possible to load approximately 100,000 books in a 40 feet container in the first case and 143,000 books in the second case, which represents a 30% saving in logistics costs.

Therefore, printing on bulky paper offers considerable savings for large book supply projects. The financial impact can be significant given the explosion in paper prices and transport costs due to the pandemic and related supply chain issues.

Conclusion

The use of bulky paper can reduce paper and logistics costs, without compromising quality.  These cost savings can be used to increase the number of books provided to learners and boost the impact of reading programs. The bulky paper also drastically reduces the weight of books that children have to carry between home and school.

If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact us. We will be happy to help you choose the best type of paper for your book provision project. Visit our website or contact BlueTree Group directly at info@bluetree-group.com

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