Cave drawings are the oldest legacy of documents drawn with pigment paint on a background.
Writing media made of inorganic materials are also known from ancient Egypt, e.g. soapstone. In ancient Greece, writing was done on papyrus with brushes made of soot and a solution of rubber. The papyrus consisted of stalks beaten flat, laid crosswise and pressed. The word "paper" is derived from the Greek word pápyros.
The invention of paper is attributed to a Chinese man named Cai Lun, who in 200 BC described for the first time the now familiar process of making paper. At that time, there was a paper-like material made from silk waste. The papermakers mixed this with hemp, old rags and a tree bark. The cleaned fibers were pounded, boiled and watered. Then, as today, individual layers were skimmed off with a sieve, dried, pressed and smoothed. This process produced a nice side and a sieve side. The deposits created a relatively homogeneous paper sheet. Translated with www.DeepL.com/Translator (free version)
In Europe, the mass production of paper emerged as early as the Middle Ages. In the process, the Chinese innovations were optimized.
With paper mills, the comminution process, which until then had been done by hand or animal labor, was mechanized. The first paper presses were developed along the lines of wine presses.
Die erste deutsche Papiermühle stand bereits im Jahr 1390 in Nürnberg.
Until the 19th century, the required fibers were obtained from used linen textiles. The rag collectors and traders of the time supplied the paper mills with the necessary raw materials. In the second half of the century, instead of rotting and cleaning, the fibers were bleached with chlorine (similar to today's de-inking). This reduced the loss of fibers and made it possible to produce white paper from colored material. Translated with www.DeepL.com/Translator (free version)
The shortage of old rags caused people to look for alternatives and experiment. In 1843, the German Friedrich Gottlob Keller invented a process to produce paper from groundwood pulp. Groundwood pulp was produced in conjunction with water on a grindstone. Soon he developed a wood grinder machine to produce the raw material for good quality paper. The papers made from groundwood pulp later caused problems. Due to various residual acidic substances, the development of air and humidity caused chemical reactions that yellowed the paper, reduced its tear and wet strength, and made it brittle. In the end, this caused a great deal of damage to written records between the 19th and 20th centuries. Translated with www.DeepL.com/Translator (free version)
Since 1980, the paper has been produced without acidic substances. The use of chemical additives creates an age-resistant paper.
The raw materials necessary for the production of today's paper are fibrous materials (e.g. groundwood pulp, cellulose and especially waste paper), sizing and impregnation (e.g. waxes, resins), fillers (e.g. gypsum, chalk, titanium white) and auxiliary materials (e.g. dyes).
There are two variants in the case of pulp. Firstly, the primary fibers, which are used for the first time in production, and the secondary fiber raw material, the recovered paper.
The proportion of recovered paper used as a secondary raw material is now around 70% of the new paper produced. Since waste paper has already been processed into paper once, the fibers have already been ground at least once.
Regrinding further damages the fibers.
On average, waste paper can be recycled five to six times. The decolorization of the fibers (de-inking) of the waste paper to release the printing inks is solved with the help of chemicals.
We come into contact with paper every day in a wide variety of forms. Whether as tissue papers in the hygiene sector (toilet paper, kitchen roll), graphic papers in art and picture printing, newsprint or cardboard and paperboard. Despite the further development of IT technology, paper is still one of the most important inventions of mankind.