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Take a Look at Domtar’s Lightweight Paper Business

Categories: Industry Insights
Learn more about Domtar's lightweight paper business

What do religious texts, pharmaceutical inserts and financial reports have in common? They’re all made of lightweight paper. And if they were printed in North America, chances are that paper was made at our mill in Port Huron, Michigan.

Domtar’s lightweight opaque specialty paper ranges in weight from 40 pound to as light as 18 pound – lightweight enough for use in books and in applications that require multiple folds, yet strong enough to run through presses without tearing.

“Our customers value runability,” said Howard Hunter, director of technical and business development at Domtar. “This paper is very thin, but it has to print well, which means taking the ink well and running without web breaks through presses that are very fast.”

Our lightweight paper also offers excellent opacity, allowing customers to print on both sides without sacrificing readability.

“Because the paper is so thin, some of it is almost like tissue paper,” said Susan Boisclair, product manager for Domtar specialty papers. “You want to be able to clearly read what’s printed on both sides and not see through to what’s on the back of the sheet. Good opacity and formation are critical.”

Because Domtar is a leader in producing high-quality lightweight papers, we are a preferred supplier for religious publishers, pharmaceutical companies and other users of this special product category.

Lightweight Paper Applications

Religious Texts

A large proportion of the Bibles, Torahs and other books of prayer and prophecy produced in North America are printed on Domtar’s ultra-lightweight paper. These books sometimes have thousands of pages, must be easy to hold and must last for decades – even centuries. The paper used to create them must therefore be thin enough to create a book that is compact while also having good opacity and durability.

Domtar paper can be used to print as many as 1,800 pages per inch of thickness, which is extraordinarily thin. It also offers the necessary archival qualities to survive years of use.


Like religious texts, textbooks also require lightweight paper. “Textbooks and religious books have the same requirements,” Boisclair said. “They require ultra-lightweight paper, and we are the only manufacturer in North America that can manufacture an 18-pound sheet. When you’re that low in basis weight, opacity and formation play a critical role.”

Domtar’s lightweight paper is known for having these qualities, making it a significant player in these markets.

Pharmaceutical Inserts

If you’ve purchased medication recently, you’ve probably seen a pharmaceutical insert. It’s a thin, tightly folded paper filled with important medication information, including dosing instructions, potential side effects and much more.

These inserts include critical disclosures that can help protect consumers and pharmaceutical companies. Therefore, it’s essential that the information printed on this 24- to 40-pound paper is legible. But due to the amount of information that must be included, the paper also needs to be thin and highly foldable so that it can fit into the product packaging.

“Our customers are looking for sheets with multi-fold capability, as well as clean sheets, meaning when they print, they don’t have dust or particles on the sheet that can appear to be a period or a comma where there shouldn’t be one. There has to be absolute clarity of information,” Boisclair said.

Domtar’s pharmaceutical insert paper has a good reputation for cleanliness and for going through folding equipment without jamming or slowing things down.

Financial Printing

Lightweight paper is an ideal choice for printing quarterly reports, prospectuses, forms and other documents that financial institutions are required by law to send to their investors, clients and other stakeholders. It allows companies to print a great deal of information in a lighter document, which reduces shipping and handling costs.

“For financial printing, clients also want an inexpensive sheet that prints well, because at the end of the day, it is a throwaway item,” Boisclair said. “But what’s even more important than the paper, in this category, is the service.”

Because the financial market is volatile, paper suppliers need to turn product quickly so companies can respond to changing market conditions. Domtar’s production agility and deep understanding of the needs of the financial market make it a leader in financial printing paper.

Innovations in Lightweight Paper

As the printing industry moves more toward digital inkjet printing, we have developed lightweight and ultra-lightweight papers that are well-suited for this new technology.

“It’s a brand-new market,” Hunter said about digital printing. “No one has offered an ultra-lightweight inkjet sheet in North America. People just didn’t think it could perform well. Inkjet ink has very low viscosity, and it penetrates through standard offset sheet. So we’ve created an ultra-lightweight product that is inkjet compatible. It’s really a first of its kind in this basis-weight range.”

The introduction of inkjet-compatible lightweight paper opens up new opportunities for highly customized religious texts and financial documents. For example, someone might soon be able to order a custom Bible with family tree information, family photos and other personalized features printed right inside the book. Companies also might be able to customize their prospectuses and other critical financial documentation for the recipient. Even textbook publishers might want to move into customized printing using this technology.

Domtar is working with Mac Papers on an initiative to develop a custom Bible product for the marketplace, and Canon recently produced a sample Bible using our 22-pound TitaniumJET™ paper as a demonstration that their device can print well on ultra-lightweight paper.

“This is an exciting new product category that is timed right to be in sync with the industry conversion to inkjet digital printing,” Howard said.

Learn more about our other specialty papers: