Calendering is the papermaker’s last chance to reduce thickness variations along the length and width of the finished sheet, and to improve the sheet smoothness. A smoother sheet results in improved print quality, while more uniform thickness profiles improve the winding process. The calendering operation thus improves the quality of the finished product. In recent years there has been an increase in the loads, speeds and temperatures at which soft-nip calenders, whether on or off line, can be operated without mechanical failure of the cover; the result has been an improvement in the surface and printing properties achievable with mechanical printing grades of paper, and an increase in the production rates which can be sustained. As a result, these calenders have slowly replaced traditional machine calenders in new and retrofit installations.
The best available design and trouble-shooting tools for modern machine calenders are based on empirical models, whose coefficients have not been related to fundamental paper or fibre properties. New furnishes therefore require experimental determination of these coefficients, and extrapolation to new calendering conditions involves some risk. As well, there are no published models, empirical or otherwise, for the design and troubleshooting of soft-nip calenders, an unfortunate state of affairs given the increased number of installations of these machines. The purpose of this review is to outline the current understanding of the process, and to identify areas where further research could be useful to allow better prediction of paper properties arising from a change in the equipment or operating conditions.