Carbonless Paper: Everything You Need to Know

Have you ever heard of reprography? Even if the term is completely unfamiliar to you, you have almost certainly engaged in it, likely even recently. According to the Wikipedia article on the subject, “reprography is the reproduction of graphics through mechanical or electrical means.” The two examples they give are xerography — i.e. using Xerox machines — and photography.

Thinking on a larger scale, reprography is essential to the functioning of society as we know it. This can be most clearly seen any time someone needs to make a copy of a document or form. Examples of such occasions include filling out receipts, writing out checks, or signing legal papers. All of these documents require multiple copies for the main recipient, the signee, and any other parties that need access to the documents.

The most convenient way to create these copies is with an invention that powers much of society without most people ever giving it a thought. Here is some information on carbonless copy paper.

What is “Carbonless” Copy Paper?

To have a true understanding of what carbonless copy paper is, you should first learn about the type of paper that it serves to replace. After all, the name defines itself by what it changes from the original, and it makes little sense without that context.

Carbon copy paper is a thin sheet of paper coated with a mixture of various ingredients, including paraffin wax, mineral oil, and something called carbon black. The latter, which gives the paper its name, is a carbon pigment that also contains traces of sulfur, hydrogen, and oxygen.

For about 150 years, carbon paper was the standard for creating copies. People would simply sandwich a sheet between two regular pieces of paper. When they wrote on the top one, the push of the pen or typewriter key would cause the coat on the middle one to bleed onto the bottom one. This resulted in the creation of a seamless reproduction of the writing on the top paper.

Carbonless copy paper, also known as non-carbon copy paper and No Carbon Required (NCR) paper, eliminates the middleman in this process. To be precise, it eliminates the middle paper, along with its layer of carbon material. Instead, it consists of two papers that each uses coats of other chemicals to create copies of documents with writing.

How Does Carbonless Paper Work?

As we noted, NCR paper is typically a pair of papers that contain different materials from each other. Highly sensitive microcapsules of chemicals that produce color are embedded on the bottom side of the top sheet of paper. This layer is known as the CB, which is short for “coated back.” The microcapsules release their contents upon the application of force onto the areas containing them. This alone is not enough to produce an additional copy — you cannot reproduce writing if you use just any piece of paper under this sheet. The chemical within the CB can produce color, but it cannot release it without the help of another substance.

That is where the bottom sheet of carbonless copy paper comes in. Its top side has a layer — called the CF, which naturally stands for “coated front” — containing a reactive sort of clay. When the chemical from the CB is released onto the clay, the latter releases a substance of its own that can bring out the color in the former. The result of the ensuing chemical reaction is the perfect reproduction of writing from the top sheet to the bottom one. All of this happens without the use of carbon black, or any carbon — hence the name.

Benefits of Using Carbonless Paper

There are many benefits to using carbonless copy paper, especially when compared to its predecessor. For starters, it does what it is designed to do very, very well. This type of paper would not be in such wide use in the first place if it were not effective. The reproduced writing is clear and legible enough that it can, if necessary, be submitted for legal purposes. You simply need to make sure that you push your writing utensil down on the top sheet with any amount of pressure, which is hardly demanding.

We mentioned at the beginning that carbonless copy paper is often used for receipts, checks, and legal forms. To varying degrees, these documents are all of potentially great importance to the signee and the intended recipient. As such, security is a priority, including for any copies that may exist of these documents. The non-carbon paper reproduction process has a built-in security measure in the sense that the result is very obviously a copy. It appears to be printed, rather than written in ink, and in a unique manner that would be difficult to convincingly reproduce by hand or machine. Simply put, any tampering or mucking about would stick out.

None of this would matter if the dye could easily be smudged or smeared on the clay. This is especially important because NCR paper is essentially two sheets of paper meshing chemicals on each other. Thankfully, reproduced writing cannot be muddled that easily. As we noted before, the color-producing chemical only works when applied to the color-releasing chemicals on the CF. This is why you do not see any ink or coloration on the back of the top sheet.

Buy NCR Carbonless Paper Online

These are only a few of the many benefits of using carbonless paper. All of these innovations enable people to seamlessly transfer information onto multiple sheets at once. While the more traditional carbon paper remains in use in certain industries and certain countries, the carbonless paper has almost completely overtaken it.

Here at Label Outfitters, we know and understand that many companies across many fields use carbonless paper for a variety of reasons. Whether you work in a medical facility, a law firm, or somewhere else, we can supply the materials you need to make flawless reproductions of valuable documents. The products we offer are even compatible with inkjet and laser printers. Visit our online store today for genuine NCR paper made from National Cash Register.

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