What is the paper converting industry?

By Jim S

Unless you work in the pulp and paper industry, few people know or understand the term �paper converting� but it is an essential part of the process of taking raw paper, made at paper mills around the world, and creating a finished product such as a book or magazine.  Before we talk about the part converting plays in this process, let�s talk quickly about how paper is made.

Most paper is made from wood fibers called pulp. This pulp is boiled, bleached, strained, flattened and dried in a process that yields a continuous sheet of paper called a web. Then it is rolled into large rolls that can weigh up to 13,000 pounds and 137 inches wide. Since the majority of printing presses run rolls smaller than 137 inches wide, this finished roll or reel of paper must be cut down to size to be used.  This process of cutting the rolls down is called converting.

slitter-rewinderTransforming or �converting� these large parent rolls into smaller sizes consists of many different aspects but it�s an essential part of the process of making the finished product. Since there are many different size printing presses, changing the roll�s width and /or diameter is required to accommodate the printing press being used.  This is done using one of 2 types of converting processes. The first and most common is cutting the paper using a paper converting machine called a Slitter / Rewinder. This machine takes large rolls and unwinds the material through a series of blades that slit or cut the paper into smaller widths then rewinds the paper into new rolls.  The second type of converting machine cuts the entire roll into smaller rolls without unwinding or rewinding the paper. This piece of paper converting equipment is called a precision paper roll saw. The new resized rolls are now ready to be used in the various printing processes required to make our everyday items like books, boxes, bags and more.

converting-industry-sizeThe term �Paper Converting� comes from the fact that you are taking the paper and converting it into another product.  The converting industry in the U.S. is a $400 Million dollar industry and the process of converting rolled material for use in manufacturing is used in nearly every segment of the market. You can get some idea of the scale when you consider the sheer number of goods created every year and nearly every package, box, book, newspaper, magazine, sticker, label, bag, piece of paper etc. has, at some point, been through the converting industry. So, the next time you pick up your favorite newspaper or notice the packaging on your new TV you can be sure that some part of that product was �Converted�.