Paper, in myriad forms, has been around arguably for almost 2,000 years, but specialty (or functional) papers came into broad use only in the last 150 years or so. While printing and writing papers (P&W) dominate global production and consumption, their use is declining as the industry looks ahead to new packaging, bio-medical and printed-electronics applications.
This week’s Specialty Papers 2012 conference brought nearly 150 attendees to Chicago. As the only trade-press reporter on site, The Converting Curmudgeon gained exclusive insight into how new markets and the latest technologies will spur future growth for specialty papers.
Among the forecasts:
- Annual growth rates through 2015 for various specialty papers include product identification–2.6%, medical/sanitary–2.5%, food and general product packaging–1.9%, industrial wrapping–1.6% and non-food packaging–(-)0.5%.
- 2012 will be another weak year for global paper and paperboard production, up only 1.5%. Output may climb 3.5% next year and by 4.0% in 2014.
- While North American production of P&W papers will fall 3.9% this year and by 1.6% next year, Chinese production is predicted to rise 6.4% in 2012 and 6.1% in 2013.
- Global output of tissue/towel papers is expected to climb 4.5% in 2012 to 31.7 million metric tons, and by another 4.3% in 2013 to 33.1 million metric tons.
- North American consumption of fluorochemical-treated paper & board for quick-serve restaurant applications will rise >2% this year; pet-food packaging apps will climb >5% over 2011 due to–of all things–the aging US pet population and Baby Boomer spending on the furry members of their families.
- Promising new markets for functional papers: membrane separators for next-generation fuel cells; insulation for superconductive power cables; fire-retardant composites in transportation apps; bio-sensors, bio-chips and bio-filters; metallized paper coated with barrier plastic for printed-electronics touchscreens.
- Nanotechnology combined with bio-based materials is opening up radical barrier properties in search of end uses. For example, TEMPO-oxidized cellulose nanofiber-coated PLA film has achieved an OTR of only 0.1 ml/m2/day. The result is a renewable, transparent, bendable biopolymer film with a super-high oxygen barrier.
- Specialty papers with microencapsulated, digital imaging and printable single-layer coatings are capable of producing full-color images without the use of inks or toners. They need only be exposed to light in the proper wavelength to turn the desired color.
- New multilayer curtain-coating systems can offer specialty papers the following benefits: Defect-free coverage, precise yet lower levels of expensive coatings to reduce costs, improved smoothness, and high-speed and non-contact runnability. The process fits well for label, flexible-packaging and coated-paperboard coating due to higher efficiency and final quality compared with film press or blade coaters.
 Business Development Advisory, Inc.
 Daikin America