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Shredder makes paper

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Epson has developed what they call "the first ever in-office paper recycling machine", which takes used documents and turns them into clean, white, blank sheets, in just 3 minutes, reported FESPA (global federation of 37 national associations for the screen printing, digital printing and textile printing community).

The PaperLab, which Epson claim will "revolutionise recycling" is capable of reusing 14 sheets of A4 paper per minute, meaning 6,720 sheets could be produced in a regular eight hour day.

It can also produce different kinds of paper, A3 sheets, thick paper for business cards, coloured paper and even scented paper.

The machine looks like a large photocopier and pulverises printed sheets into individual fibres using a process Epson calls defibrating. The process removes inkjet inks and toners, reducing the printed sheets to their naked paper fibres.

Water consumption is also minimal and the technology incidentally saves the trouble of shredding documents. There is a considerable carbon footprint attached to the shredding process, which generally involves secure and expensive transport to dedicated offsite shredding facilities.

With the PaperLab, secure documents can be dealt with onsite with a managed process that is even more secure.

The recycled material is turned into new sheets of paper through the addition of a special binder and a little water. The binder adds strength and chemicals and can also colour the sheets or enhance their whiteness.

The mix is pressed and calendared to produce new sheets, and can even be scented. PaperLab uses far less water than conventional papermaking and although it is initially intended for office environments, the technology can be scaled up.

Minoru Usui, Epson’s global president says that PaperLab will transform workplace behaviours and practices. “PaperLab can recycle waste paper in the office using a dry process, therefore creating an office ‘eco-system’ that reduces CO2 emissions, increases savings on collection, disposal and logistics, ensures secure disposal of confidential documents and saves water, which is used in huge volumes in traditional recycling processes.”

It takes about three minutes for PaperLab to produce its first new sheet of paper once the machine is loaded with waste. When we first heard about the technology last year it was rated for 18 new A4 sheets per minute, but that figure is now 14, to produce 6,720 sheets per eight-hour shift. The machine can also produce A3 sheets and in a variety of weights from office sheets to business card stock.

Epson reckon it will take a year or so to ready PaperLab for the commercial market, a market they estimate to be worth €2 billion. And that’s just in the office sector. The opportunities for Epson to deploy PaperLab in markets such as graphics where they have such broad expertise in substrates and inks are surely vast.

Taking place from May 8-12 at the Hamburg Messe, in Hamburg, Germany, the exhibition will play host many major brands from across the global market.

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