The most commonly used substrates for commercial print methods – both digital & offset- are wood-based papers and boards. But what if you have a print project that needs a more robust solution? Something that won’t tear and is moisture resistant? This is where synthetic papers come in. GSM investigates…
The term ‘synthetic papers’ (sometimes shortened to ‘synthetics’) is a broad category of printable substrates made from materials other than wood pulp (the base material used to make most papers & boards). Synthetic papers are extruded from polypropylene or Polyester pellets to form smooth white sheets ready for printing. They display many of the properties of wood-based paper—but with two main advantages:
- Toughness & durability: resin is super-strong, making these stocks tear and scuff-resistant.
- Moisture resistance: Secondly, synthetics are waterproof—with some stocks also chemical or solvent resistant.
Note; this is very different from using woodbased paper and then laminating this for waterproofing or durability. Lamination can go tatty or peel reasonably quickly—moisture will work into this. In addition, laminating means the paper is no longer recyclable as there is no process to separate this. In contrast, many Synthetics are recyclable.
Uses for Synthetic Paper
With these factors in mind, synthetics are perfect for any project with a highhandling rate/long usage life—and/or—exposure to the outdoors/weather. Perhaps the most common everyday use of synthetic stock is for printing banknotes. Australia and New Zealand were the first countries globally to adopt synthetic stock as a replacement for traditional paper banknotes. Widespread circulation began in Australia in 1996, followed by NZ in 1999. The advantage of using synthetic stock for banknotes comes down to economics (literally)—hard currency is very costly to produce. On average, synthetic notes last four times longer than paper. Thus making it more cost-efficient over the lifespan of the banknote. Anyone who remembers the paper banknotes will no doubt have not-so-fond memories of taking two torn halves into a shop in the hope of exchanging them for a new note (…not everyone obliged).
On a practical level, the types of projects for which you might choose a synthetic stock include maps, menus, tags, wristbands, signage, point-of-sale display & in-store banners, and manuals. Synthetic stocks are often used by specific industries such as tourism & hospitality, sports & leisure, agriculture & horticulture, construction, the automotive sector, fisheries and primary producers, and mining. The common denominators here are exposure to outdoor conditions, and rough treatment of the printed piece. Imagine having to refer to a chart printed on standard paper on the deck of a fishing vessel or an installation guide for a product on a construction site.
Types of Synthetic Paper
Given the sheer breadth of use, unsurprisingly, there are many types of products available.
- Yupo: Developed in Japan, Yupo is a global leader in synthetic paper. It offers a wide array of options, weights and finishes suitable for traditional offset and HP Indigo digital printing. There is even an adhesive/sticker alternative stock—Yupo Octopus.
- Digituff: This advanced polymer stock is suitable for most dry toner printing (DTP) systems—i.e., laser printing. The Digituff range includes plain white (available in different weights) plus clear and frosted finishes, as well as a range of specialty products suited to the short run nature of digital printing.
Regarding finishing and binding, both the Yupo and Digituff products behave much like standard wood-based paper—and can be folded, saddle-stitched, sewn, grommeted, perforated, embossed, foil stamped, and die-cut.
The GSM19 Cover—Yupo Fast Dry
Recently, Yupo replaced an earlier generation product with new Yupo Fast Dry. This range of synthetic papers and cards are even better for offset printing—without the need for oxidising inks, making this stock quick and efficient to work with. We printed the cover of this issue of GSM on Yupo Fast Dry 200gsm—on a Heidelberg CD74 5-colour offset press using Pacifica FS Series vegie based inks from Huber Group.
GSM19 ‘Stick ‘Em Up’ Promotional Insert
We created this promotional insert (left) for this issue of GSM using Yupo Octopus Blue (note: if you are not the first reader, you may have lucked out… someone else may have already taken this and ‘Stuck ‘em up!’).
Yupo Octopus is a synthetic alternative to paper-based self-adhesive stickers—but with huge benefits:
- Yupo Octopus is highly water-resistant—perfect for outdoor uses or wet areas.
- The product uses micro-suction (so small you can’t see it) to adhere to any smooth surface—including glass and metals. And because there is no glue or gum, there is no residue left behind to clean up when the sticker is removed—great for application directly onto products such as whiteware, or as temporary signage/display on windows.
- Yupo Octopus can be removed and reapplied.
- Yupo Octopus comes in three versions for offset, Indigo printing, and commercial-level dry toner printing (DTP).
GSM would like to thank BJ Ball (NZ) + Ball & Doggett (AU) for assisting in writing this article.