How Paper Is Made: From Sustainable Forestry to Your Office Printer

December 07, 2022
Paper is an essential part of our lives, helping us solve problems, express creativity, and connect on a personal level. Most people know that paper comes from trees, but have you ever wondered just how the paper you use gets from the forest to your desk?
Step 1: Select the trees

The paper-making process starts in the forest, where over 91% of wood harvested in the U.S. comes from sustainably managed, privately owned land. Expert foresters follow strict standards to carefully select groups of trees for harvesting at just the right time – taking care to protect forest wildlife, habitat, plants, soil, and water quality.

Step 2: Prepare the logs

Next, the harvested trees are sorted at a wood yard processing center and then sent on to saw mills and paper mills based on size. Once at the paper mill, logs are debarked and chipped into small pieces. The bark is used as fuel in the boilers and the chips are first aged in a storage yard and then pneumatically blown into the mill.

Step 3: Create the pulp

The chips are mixed with water and chemicals and cooked at 320-340 degrees for approximately two hours before they turn to pulp.

Step 4: Transform pulp to paper

Pulp stock is then poured onto forming wire where it forms a wet mat. The mat moves through the press section, where chemicals are added and water is removed. Now one continuous sheet of paper, the sheet comes off the wire and weaves through dryer cans filled with steam, which evaporate more moisture. Next comes the size press, which applies starch and other additives; then another round of dryer cans; and finally the calendar stack, where two rolls apply tremendous force until the paper reaches the desired thickness and surface properties. Throughout this process, gauging systems scan the sheet to continually monitor the paper’s quality.

Step 5: Convert paper for end use

After processing to its desired specifications, a machine called a winder cuts the massive roll into smaller, more manageable rolls. Those rolls are then cut into reams of paper, packaged in boxes, and shipped out to customers.

For a detailed look at the process, watch our video about how Boise Paper is made at PCA’s International Falls mill here.

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