Inside the Digital Paper Labs at Xerox and HP
At Hewlett-Packard, paper is not as important as ink-jet cartridges, but "it's a close number two," says Dr. Nils Miller, ink-jet ink and media senior scientist at HP, in San Diego. HP devotes about 50 technical staffers to studying paper at its San Diego lab. "We look at the microscopic level to see what is going on, to continually improve image quality, permanence, and durability," Miller says.
There are 80 characteristics and measurable attributes overall that HP scientists and engineers look at when they examine a sheet of paper. For example, HP tests mechanical properties, looking at friction coefficients measured as paper travels through a printer, and when in contact with other sheets of paper.
"It's really important that paper stays flat, especially in environmental extremes," Miller says. To that end, and like competitor Xerox, HP subjects its papers to torture tests. At 95o and 90% humidity, engineers look for catastrophic failure, he says: "As you get outside the design box, things are more likely to be a bit off."
Both HP and Xerox integrate paper research with other parts of their product design. At Xerox, the paper wizards are literally in the same building as the toner and hardware wizards who are developing new copiers, printers, and on-demand presses. It was precisely this level of close, 'integrated' collaboration that drove development of the company's breakthrough DocuColor iGen3 digital production press.
At HP, while their researchers aren't necessarily physically working in the same room, their paper scientists will collaborate with the ink chemists, and likewise talk to the hardware and software engineers designing HP's printers and presses, to make certain the supply side keeps pace with engineering advancements.
For independent paper companies, such tight collaboration with copier, printer, and press vendors isn't necessarily available (indeed, it's usually not available). And many find opportunities supplying paper to Xerox, HP, and other major vendors.