Invention, History and Developments of Paper

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There are many theories about who invented paper and when. The general consensus is that around 105 AD, a Chinese man named T’sai Lun invented paper. T’sai Lun experiments on her own, inspired by the way bees assemble the fibers.

First Paper

Basically, paper consists of small fibers that are tied together by wetting and drying again. At that time these fibers were difficult to find and obtain, the paper was made entirely from recycled fibers such as cotton and rags. As time passed, plants such as bamboo and hemp began to be divided into fibers and turned into paper.

When paper was invented, China’s need for silk, which was much more expensive than paper, decreased. In this way, China began to export silk to Europe. This contributed to China’s entry into its Golden Age.

Arabs and Paper

Arabs understood the value of paper in the 8th century. The first Chinese papers had a rough surface, which was more suitable for brush strokes than others, this surface was absorbent and soft. The Arabs were trying to make a better paper than this. Using additives and starch, the Arabs allowed the ink to sit on the paper fibers instead of penetrating the paper. This combination also improved the strength and gloss of the paper. Thus, while writing on paper was much easier, the paper became much more durable.

The first real industrial paper mill was also established by the Arabs. In this facility, more consistent and thicker papers were produced than previously produced papers. Paper production had passed from an art to an industrial process with this factory.

Paper’s Departure to the Western World

Medieval laws required that paper mills be built outside the city periphery because of their smells and noises. By the 13th century, the use of paper had spread to Europe. Water-powered paper mills were established to mechanize production. This reduced the cost of paper production and expanded its use. However, production on a large scale was not possible as production was limited to the rags that the mills could collect.

In 1680 came a great innovation for paper production. The Chinese used bamboo to produce paper, but there was no quick, mechanical way to extract the fibers. The Dutch overcame this problem by inventing the Hollander Beater. This machine allowed for more efficient extraction of fibers from plant-based materials. Thanks to the machine, fiber sources could be improved.

94 years later, Justus Claproth invented paper recycling. The fibers could be removed from the paper, but the ink could not. By 1800, it was discovered that the raw materials used for papermaking could be an agricultural industry. In some cases, fibrous products such as flax were used to ensure a consistent supply of raw materials to paper mills. These crops did not provide dense fiber and were expensive.

Between 1800 and 1850, forest products began to be pulped with the mechanical pulping process. Instead of harvesting flax, trees could now be used to make paper. During this period, the Fourdrinier Machine was developed. Trees could be grown easily in many parts of the world, and factories were set up near forests. This process greatly reduced the cost and time spent making paper.

Nowadays, pulp is largely made from a chemical process. Many additives are used to make the paper smoother and brighter. People can choose the most suitable one among hundreds of different structures and sizes of paper and cardboard for their projects.

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