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Relative Humidity & Temperature

Understanding the signifi- ture, the fibers increase in size; as a
cance of relative humidity is diffi- result the paper sheet size actually During the papermaking
cult because it is a moving target. increases in size. The opposite process, as the furnish (the fiber
The effect of relative humidity is holds true for paper that releases its and water mixture) flows from the
directly related to temperature. moisture into the atmosphere. The headbox onto the wire, most of the
Relative humidity is the amount of overall dimension gets smaller.
water in the air, in vapor form,
relative to the amount of water that
the air could hold at a given tem-
perature . The effect of water va-
por in the air has a definite effect
on paper and how it processes and
reacts to its environment.
Paper, by nature, is hygro-
scopic. This means that it will pick
up moisture from its environment
and it will release moisture into the When printing close register work, individual fibers align in the ma-
environment to try to reach equilib- these dimensional changes in paper chine direction. There is a higher
rium with the moisture in the air size become a very important con- concentration of fiber aligned par-
surrounding it. Paper is said to be sideration. allel to the machine direction than
in equilibrium when it neither takes The expansion or contrac- across grain. An analogy might be
on nor looses moisture to the envi- tion of the fiber, as it picks up or a log floating down a river. Most
ronment. This physical character- looses moisture, is not uniform. logs will take the path of least re-
istic is a property to which the pa- The each individual cellulose fiber sistance and they will float aligned
per user must adapt. It can be ma- will expand or contract, due to the with the current (machine direc-
tion), not sideways (cross direc-
tion). As a result, the sheet grows
Paper is said to be in equilibrium when it neither more across (CD) the grain than
with (MD) the grain.
takes on or looses moisture to the environment. For this is the reason, pa-
per mills recommend printing only
nipulated and somewhat controlled moisture change, from two to five long grain paper (grain running
as discussed in this chapter, but the times greater across the width of parallel with the impression cylin-
principles never change. It is es- the fiber than in length, or in short, der) for the offset process. The
sential for anyone who uses or the individual fiber gets fatter, not
stores paper to have an understand- longer. (See illustration). Copyright ©, 2004. All rights are
ing of relative humidity and tem- reserved under all copyright laws.
perature conditioning and its effect Permission to copy or download
on paper at every part if its life cy- this document is limited to per-
cle. The lack of this knowledge sonal use only and may not be sold
can be very expensive and frustrat- or reproduced, or utilized in any
ing. way to produce a profit, without
As the paper (actually it's the express written permission of
the cellulose fiber) takes on mois- J. Brent Dunn Company Inc.

Basic Paper 101 Page 1

offset printing process uses water percentage of the maximum relative humidity. It's simply eas-
or a wetting agent to repel ink in amount of water the air can hold at ier as this does not vary with tem-
the non-image areas of the printing that specific temperature. perature. The numbers convert to
plate. As moisture is applied in The higher the air tem- the 40% to 50% range previously
each offset press unit, the sheet perature, the more water vapor it mentioned. Paper does, however,
picks up some of the moisture and can hold before reaching the satu- have an RH factor and must be
expands. With long grain paper, ration point or 100% relative hu- brought into equilibrium with the
the pressman has the option to cor- midity. As the temperature of air is environment of the pressroom or
rect for this growth by packing the lowered, so is its ability to hold trouble will occur.
plate or blanket cylinder. This in- water. Take, for example, air at a Above 35% relative hu-
creases or decreases the circumfer- temperature of 50 degrees with a midity, static electricity that is gen-
ence of the cylinder—thus increas- relative humidity of 50%--if the erated by moving a non-conductor
ing or decreasing the image length. temperature were raised to 60 de- against a non-conductor is dissi-
The pressman has no recourse grees, the relative humidity (RH) pated into the air; however, below
when the paper grows side-to-side would drop to approximately 35%. 35% RH, static electricity builds up
as with short grain paper. Mills Since relative humidity is causing feeding, jamming, and
rarely honor register problem com- a function of moisture in the air other problems. When the relative
plaints when the paper has been and temperature, pressroom RH humidity exceeds 65%, another set
printed short grain. can vary drastically throughout the of problems begins to occur, the
The moisture, or humid- United States. In fact, there is nor- sheet becomes limp. Therefore,
ity, in the air can be measured in mally a range of 10% to 90% papermakers tend to make printing
two ways--Absolute and relative. within the United States of Amer- paper between 40% to 50%. This
ica during the year. While paper is the range that works best in all
manufacturers are technically able conditions throughout the various
to make paper at a specified RH for geographical areas. Paper func-
a specific area, it would be imprac- tions best on the press when the
tical, however, to do so on a regu- RH of the pressroom is slightly
lar basis. Not only would they above the RH of the paper.
need to make a different product As air gets colder, it
for each geographical area, but a looses its ability to hold moisture.
different one each month. Re- An example would be as illustrated
search has found that paper works below. Outside air which has 75%
Absolute humidity is measured as in most environments if manufac-
the number of grains of water per tured in the range of 40% to 50%
pound of dry air (7000 grains = 1 RH at 72° .
pound). Air holds a predictable Paper is manufactured on
amount of water at any given tem- the paper machine to a specific
perature. At 80 degrees air can moisture content that tends to be
hold 156 grains of moisture per more accurate, reliable, and con-
pound. At 40 degrees it can hold venient to the paper maker than
36 grains per pound. This bit of relative humidity measurements as
information is very important in a means of production control. The
understanding how relative humid- number normally used by paper relative humidity at 30°F has 18
ity can be grains of mois-
manipulated ture per pound
to control Relative humidity (RH) is a measure of the amount of dry air.
of water vapor in the air (at a given temperature) When this air is
heated the ab-
Relative hu- stated as a percentage of the maximum amount of solute moisture
midity (RH) stays the same
is a measure
water the air can hold at that specific temperature. (18 grains/lb.),
of the but because the
amount of water vapor in the air (at mills is a percentage of total weight warmer air can hold more mois-
a given temperature) stated as a (Absolute Humidity) rather than ture, the relative humidity is lower.

Page 2 Relative Humidity and Temperature

Remember, the reason its called Grains, thus the excess 103 grains When cold paper is ex-
relative humidity is because the is condensed and turns to liquid. posed to air at normal Relative Hu-
amount of moisture is relative to When the conditioned air is reintro- midity (40-50%), the air around the
the temperature of the air. For ex- duced to the inside environment paper is cooled past its dew point,
ample, our 30° F, 75% RH air be- and reheated to 70°F., the relative or its ability to hold moisture. Like
comes 16% RH at 70°F. humidity becomes 54%. a frosty beer mug, the air con-
The effects of exposing denses its moisture and it is ab-
paper to a very low humidity press- sorbed into the edges of the stock
room can be disastrous. Paper will creating the condition known as
try to reach equilibrium With its Temperature wavy edges. .
environment and will release its When wet paper is ex-
moisture to the surrounding air. The temperature of paper posed to dry air the edges of the
can play and will play an important paper will loose its moisture to the
role in the temperature/relative hu- ambient conditions. When this oc-
midity equation as explained in the curs, the paper will develop tight
Summer time conditions: previous text. Therefore, the envi- edges. In the printing process, this
ronment in which paper is stored
Air conditioning can be used as a and used should be a major consid-
tool to reduce the moisture content eration for anyone utilizing paper.
of indoor air. To understand this This one factor can significantly
concept, one must have and under- effect ones ability to efficiently use
standing of the relationship be- paper in the printing or converting
tween moisture and air. Warm air process. In fact, careless exposure
can hold more moisture than cold to the wrong environment can ren-
air. Absolute moisture content is der it unusable. Paper mills will
measured in grains of water per not normally honor claims for cli- usually manifests itself in a wrinkle
pound of dry air. Air at 70°F can matic/moisture related problems if beginning in the center of the sheet.
the product was made to the correct This is the result of a baggy condi-
Paper is sealed in a mois-
ture barrier to contain its own envi-
ronment. The temperature of paper
within the controlled environment
and the relative humidity will re-
main constant because it cannot
react to the ambient conditions out-
side of the barrier. Therefore, the
paper can be exposed to extreme
hot or cold conditions and, as long
as the stock is brought to the same
hold 110 grains/lb., while air at 40° moisture specification. temperature as the pressroom when
F can hold only 36 grains/lb. The actual temperature of used, there should not be a equilib-
When warm, moist air is cooled paper when it is introduced to the rium problem.
beyond its capability to hold water, ambient environment is a very im-
the excess condenses and becomes portant factor in the practical use of
liquid. When this air is reheated, printing paper.
the lower absolute humidity trans-
lates to a lower relative humidity.
This is illustrated in the above ex-
ample. One pound of air at 85°
and 85% relative humidity contains
157 grains of moisture. If that air
is cooled to 50°F., its ability to
hold moisture is reduced to 54

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Basic Paper 101 Page 9