How embossing impacts tissue roll characteristics and aesthetics

As few as 20 years ago, tissue embossing was mainly considered a volume-generating process. There were one or two design engravings available, both of which had a mechanical function — creating volume for rolled tissue product packs. Customers chose one or the other engraving pattern. There was no differentiation on the shelf.

In the ensuing years, tissue embossing transitioned from mainly functional to mainly aesthetic. As competition ramped up within the tissue industry, so did the number and type of embossing designs. Tissue manufacturers clamored for exclusive engravings and most were obliged. However, the focus on aesthetic designs came at the expense of the mechanical paper characteristics. Beautifully embossed rolled products pleased the eye, but were often scratchy, flimsy, and non-absorbent.

Understandably, substandard products don’t warrant competitive space among better performing tissue. It was a dilemma for tissue manufacturers. Create brand differentiation with unique engraving patterns, or compete on the quality of paper characteristics?

Having the luxury of both wasn’t a viable option until the early 2000s, when Fabio Perini recognized the opportunity to address both embossing and preservation of paper softness, absorbance, resistance, volume, and other desirable attributes. Innovative engraving technologies such as 4D and PIXEL minimize the destructive impact of the embossing process and remove glues and other impediments to softness.

A new generation of embossed tissue products combined that which tissue manufacturers sought most — performance and uniqueness — plus a number of other benefits:

  • Line efficiency resulting from well-designed embossing patterns that minimize possible production detriments such as log vibration, decreased speed, and premature rubber roll consumption.
  • Precision embossing and winding that allow for complex patterning and finished roll neatness, both of which greatly influence purchase decisions.
  • Global market diversity that is responsive to trends as well as aesthetic differences throughout the world’s markets and cultures. Japan, for example, emphasizes softness over embossed decoration in bathroom roll products. For kitchen towels in more mature European and American markets, absorbency and pattern differentiation on the shelf are primary embossing drivers.
  • Meeting customer demand for the three most-requested product characteristics: softness, strength, and compactness.

The delicate balance

Developing embossing patterns is as varied and unique as the engravings themselves. There is no standard route to achieving desired results, which makes partnering with an experienced tissue equipment manufacturer like Valmet essential. A deep understanding of how embossers and rewinders must work in tandem to properly handle various paper types improves production line efficiencies and, moreover, embossing and product quality.

Likewise, knowing what makes a quality product also means knowing which embossing technologies to implement to preserve paper characteristics. In some parts of the world poor paper quality may necessitate specific line configurations. In others, embossing technologies that control certain aspects of the process are critical. For example, not properly managing the amount of glue used on surfaces could impair tissue softness. Or, embossing patterns that are too aggressive for the paper could weaken the tissue strength and simultaneously make the product too absorbent.

The balance lies in taking a more scientific approach to development of new products and embossing patterns. Analyzing your markets, line, and needed capabilities is the first step, followed closely by discussing the best papers and embossing solutions with your tissue equipment partner.

Expert guidance proves beneficial, as does visionary thinking. Valmet sister company Engraving Solutions envisioned and implemented patented Ghost technology, which improves critical aspects of tissue production — line speed, output efficiencies, roll diameter, embossing roll consumption, and finished product bulk and firmness. 

And thanks to Pivot Solutions, the new center of excellence for the tissue industry, you can test the impact of the different embossing technologies through the high-speed pilot line and dedicated laboratories.

Contact the Valmet team to learn more about Ghost and the entire line of proven embossing solutions.