Media Curl: How Much is Too Much?

Today’s printers are generally designed to be able to handle a little bit of media curl. However, some printers are more sensitive to curl than others so it can be difficult to determine exactly how much curl a printer can tolerate.

It’s always best to refer to the printer manufacturer’s specifications for media curl, but as a standard point of reference, most printers can handle approximately ¼-inch of media curl. Specialty forms such as pharmacy script labels or smaller sized sheet labels can be more sensitive to the amount of curl and may require higher scrutiny.

Inkjet printers are more forgiving than laser printers, primarily because of the simpler and shorter paper path in inkjet printing. Even so, most current inkjet printers have a tight 180-degree turn and thin platen, which is a long, narrow strip running across the width of the printer that the paper must negotiate after passing under the ink carriage.

Off press, such as in jogging and packaging processes, more curl can likely be tolerated than during printing. However, it is still highly important to ensure any curl eventually flattens.

When paper is properly packaged – a maximum of 200-250 sheets with sturdy chipboard top and bottom and shrink-wrap – curled media stock will typically relax back to lay flat. The stress of the shrink-wrap, sturdiness of the chipboard, and weight of other reams in the carton all help press and flatten sheets. Additionally, according to most paper manufacturers, when the face and liner are in contact with each other, they exchange moisture and help equilibrate or balance moisture contents. Another advantage is the perforation of the shrink-wrap. Not only does it prevent the shrink-wrap from bubbling out due to air entrapment during the packaging process, but it also provides a route for moisture exchange to the new environment while the sheets are held flat.

The bottom line? Do your due diligence and double-check the recommended curl specifications for your printer, but don’t be afraid of some media curl. Odds are, unless the curl is excessive and as long as you are properly packaging the media, it will likely still function properly.