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The Determination of the Minimum Force to Initiate Abrasion Damage of Digitally Printed Documents and Photographs

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The purpose of the project was to determine the minimum levels of force and number of abrasion cycles necessary to produce a just noticeable difference (JND) in documents and photographs printed with digital technologies. The results of this work are intended to help cultural heritage institutions that collect these materials develop policies for use and care to prevent damage to their collections. The results may also benefit commercial services that offer prints made with these processes, manufacturers of the printers and media used to produce these materials as well as artists and photographers.

A variety of digital printers and papers were studied. Specimens were abraded using the Sutherland® 2000 Rub Tester with both ¼-lb and 2-lb loads. The lighter weight was an attempt to replicate physical handling of these materials such as sorting sheets in small stacks or sliding prints in and out of enclosures. The use of the heavier weight was an attempt to emulate documents and photographs being pulled from large stacks as well as the possible damage to materials in stacks during transport. The abrading surfaces included unprinted paper backs to simulate prints in stacks, storage envelope papers and clear polyester sheets to simulate individual prints in enclosures.

A series of abrasion cycles were produced for each of the materials to determine when JND could be observed. Visual observations were correlated with image analysis data to determine if a quantifiable threshold limit for this property was possible. Additionally, the relative sensitivity of the various materials to abrasion was also explored.

The tests included measuring smearing of colorant from a printed area to an adjacent white area as well as the resulting loss of colorant from the black area. The changes in average gray levels were measured with image analysis software for both the black patches and adjacent unprinted areas before and after abrasion. Also gloss measurements before and after were used to determine the extent of gloss change in the black patches of photographs.

The results show that the major factors influencing the extent of damage from abrasion are the printer/paper technology and the smoothness of the abrader. Transfer of colorant from printed areas to the adjacent white unprinted areas is quite noticeable in some cases. From previous work it was known that this smear of colorant is more objectionable than gloss change. However, with some digital printer/paper combinations noticeable gloss change can be seen before noticeable smear of colorant. While not as severe as smear, change in gloss, especially when it is uneven, is still of concern to museum, library, archive personnel as well as artists and photographers.

Results from the use of the lighter abrasion weight to simulate sorting of sheets in small stacks indicated that this or the use of polyester or envelope paper enclosures should not be a problem no matter which printing technology or abrader is used as no noticeable damage was observed either by measurement or visual assessment. The heavier abrasion weight showed differentiation of the sensitivity of the different printer technology/paper combinations indicating a greater concern is needed for objects that may be inadvertently subjected to higher forces. Also the results of this study reinforce the results of previous work that polyester is a good choice for enclosures in direct contact with the surface of prints.

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: January 1, 2013

More about this publication?
  • For more than 25 years, NIP has been the leading forum for discussion of advances and new directions in non-impact and digital printing technologies. A comprehensive, industry-wide conference, this meeting includes all aspects of the hardware, materials, software, images, and applications associated with digital printing systems, including drop-on-demand ink jet, wide format ink jet, desktop and continuous ink jet, toner-based electrophotographic printers, production digital printing systems, and thermal printing systems, as well as the engineering capability, optimization, and science involved in these fields.

    Since 2005, NIP has been held in conjunction with the Digital Fabrication Conference.

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