Japan’s Epson has developed a paper recycling machine for office use, the PaperLab. You feed waste paper in, and new, bright white printer paper comes out. Epson says this process is more efficient than sending paper to an off-site recycling plant, and is also more secure. The PaperLab, which breaks paper down into its constituent fibres before building them back up into new sheets, is also one of the most secure paper shredders available.
Within three minutes of adding waste paper to the PaperLab, it starts pumping out sheets of new white paper. The system can produce around 14 A4 sheets of paper per minute, or 6,720 sheets in an eight-hour workday. The PaperLab can also produce A3 paper. You can tweak the thickness and density of the paper to produce really thin white paper as well as thicker paper for business cards, etc.
Epson says that the PaperLab is the world’s first paper production system to use a “dry process.” Paper-making usually require a lot of water, but the PaperLab requires only a tiny amount of water to maintain humidity inside the system and does not need to be plumbed into the mains.
Epson have provided only scant details for how the PaperLab works. Using new patented technologies, the PaperLab first turns waste paper back into its constituent long, thin fibres – a process that completely destroys any data on the paper.
The second process is binding, where the fibres are stitched back together again. Epson says that different binders can be added to the machine, to create a variety of different papers: coloured papers, flame resistant papers, bright-white papers, or even fragrant paper.
Finally, during a pressure forming stage, the paper’s thickness, density, and size are decided.
Epson have not released a price for the PaperLab, nor details of its running costs or energy consumption. It is thought that overall system costs will compare very favourably with the costs of buying new paper and recycling old using current methods.
For some users, the secure destruction of information will also be an important benefit.
The PaperLab will go on sale in Japan in 2016, sales in other countries will follow at an unspecified later date. PaperLab is likely to follow the normal pathway for innovative Japanese electronic products and move through a rapid cycle of improvements that will bring costs down and make the machine more compact.