The Meridian Blog: Tech News, Tips & More for SMB and Enterprise Environments

How to Avoid and Reduce Paper Jams in Your Printer and Copier

Juliana Lee

Posted by Juliana Lee
Tue, Jun 28, 2016

offset printerModern copiers and MFPs are one of the marvels of the digital age...it may sound silly, but I don’t say that lightly. Not too long ago, office copy rooms used offset presses. After a day of squeezing tubes of ink onto rollers, we'd all have a greater appreciation for today's advanced bizhubs.

Although office print solutions have evolved, they still share one main ingredient with their predecessors: paper

That said, there are some basic paper properties that anyone who has ever loaded an empty printer paper tray should learn:

  • Curl
  • Weight
  • Grain
  • Caliper
  • Moisture content

Why are these things relevant to you? It's simple — understanding these factors is the key to producing high-quality print jobs, with the lowest instance of jamming or malfunction. Read on to get started reducing your printing headaches!

RELATED: 5 Quick and Easy Ways to Speed Up a Slow Computer

1. Paper Curl

Paper has a tendency to bend in one direction. Just like a long piece of lumber, or a sheet of plywood, printer paper has a natural bow to it called crowning.

Open a ream of paper and cup your fingers loosely under the middle and you will notice the ends sag. Flip it over, do it again and there will be a difference in the amount of sag. Whichever side produces the most sag is the side with the crown is facing up.

RELATED: MFP/Copier vs. Desktop Printer: Which is better for your office printing needs?

If possible, load your paper tray to ensure that printing is done on the crown side. This will, to some extent, counteract the curling produced by printers as the rollers heat and press toner into the paper. Reducing curl is important because paper curl is a major cause of paper jams.

2. Paper Weight

Paper weight is expressed both in grams per square meter (g/m2), and in pounds per 500 sheets of a particular basis size, usually 17” x 22” for copy paper. Thus, a ream of multi-purpose copy paper may be designated at a weight of both 20 lbs and 75 grams. Higher quality paper might be designated 28 lbs and 105 g/m2.

RELATED: In-House Production Printing vs. Outsourced Printing

Because different types of paper use different sized basis sheets, the pound system (used only in North America) is not as exact as the metric system in comparing weights of different paper types. For this reason, settings for paper weight on most MFPs is g/m2.

This is an important setting because improperly entering the paper weight can be a factor in paper jamming.

3. Paper Grain

Going against the grain is not just a cliché when it comes to printer paper. Going back to that sheet of plywood, if you ever tried to cut one with a hand saw against the grain you know what I mean. Just like wood, paper always tears straighter with the grain.

Tearing those coupons out of the newspaper is a good way to experience paper grain. And, just like the newspaper, most 8.5”x11” copy paper is long grain in that the grain runs parallel to the long side.

Sometimes, larger sheets of copy paper are short grain. The paper labeling will indicate the grain in that the second dimension figure is the grain direction. Hence, 8.5”x11” is long grain; 11”x17” also means long grain, but 17”x11" is short grain.

RELATED: How Much Copier Speed Do You Need?

Grain awareness in printing is important because color documents that are folded along the grain will have less toner crack along the fold, resulting in a cleaner, more professional-looking finished product.

4. Paper Caliper

Caliper (thickness) depends on weight and pressing during manufacturing. Thicker paper is generally stiffer and rougher than thin paper. Caliper is expressed in mils (thousandths of an inch) or microns (millionths of a meter).

Caliper is an important paper property because thin paper with low stiffness can wrinkle and then jam a printer. However, thick, stiff paper can also cause jamming because it cannot bend as easily.

RELATED: How to Protect Yourself Against Office Supply Scams and Toner Pirates

5. Moisture Content

A high moisture content and curling go hand in hand. Paper with a  moisture content above 5.3% is too wet. Then again, if printer paper is too dry it may cause static electricity, which can lead to jams and misfeeds. Ideal printing paper moisture content is somewhere between 4 and 5 percent.

Because moisture content is important, care must be taken in storing printer paper. Moisture proof wrappers help keep paper from absorbing moisture or from drying out in storage. Use opened reams of paper promptly.

Also, consider recycling those half-used reams of mystery paper sitting around in your storage closet. We've all got one or two of these sitting around somewhere. They will be much more likely to create a misfeed or paper jam if you try to print on them. One cool idea is to have them converted into recycled notepads, which you can give to employees, clients or partners to use as scratch paper.

RELATED: DC Copier Service: 7 Reasons You Need a Copier Maintenance Contract and SLA

Keeping these tips and factors in mind will help greatly reduce the paper jams you have to deal with. When you do experience a misfeed or jam, the most important thing to do is relax. These issues do tend to happen at the most inopportune times, but staying calm and slowly clearing the jam is your best bet. If you let the jam get the best of you and try to pull it out too quickly, you risk leaving tiny, torn pieces of paper stuck in your device, which can cause more problems. When in doubt, call your copier/printer service provider.

Click here to download a DIY print assessment template.

Photo credit: http://cottenauctions.com/blax/photopage.htm

Editor's Note: This was originally posted by Robert Bruce on March 25, 2014 and has been updated for content and accuracy.

Juliana Lee

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