Used in a wide variety of forms, paper and paperboard are characterized by a wide range of properties. In the thousands of paper varieties available, some properties differ only slightly and others grossly. The identification and expression of these differences depend upon the application of standard test methods, generally specified by industry and engineering associations in the paper making countries of the world.
Substance and Quantity Measurement
Weight or substance per unit area, called basis weight, is a fundamental property of paper and paperboard products. From the first uses of paper in the printing trades, it has been measured in reams, originally 480 sheets (20 quires) but now more commonly 500 sheets (long reams). The term ream weight commonly signifies the weight of a lot or batch of paper. Since the printing trades use a variety of sheet sizes, there can be numerous ream weights for paper having the same basis weight.
To determine basis weight, the sample is brought to equilibrium under standard conditions (24º C or 75º F; 50 percent relative humidity). The paper specimens must consist of at least 10 sheets with a total area of not less than about 600 square centimetres (100 square inches). Since the properties of paper change with moisture content, all tests are conducted under standard conditions.
The caliper (thickness) of paper or paperboard in fractions of a millimetre or inch is measured by placing a single sheet under a steady pressure of 0.49 to 0.63 kilogram per square centimetre (seven to nine pounds per square inch) between two circular and parallel plane surfaces, the smaller of which has an area of 1.6 square centimetres (0.25 square inch).
The density or specific gravity of paper is calculated from the basis weight and caliper and may vary over wide limits. Glassine, for example, may be 1.4 grams per cubic centimetre and creped wadding, used for packaging breakables, only 0.1 gram per cubic centimetre. Most common papers are in the range of 0.5 to 0.7 gram per cubic centimetre.