Manufacturing excellence

At Portals, we pride ourselves on our paper making excellence. We have been making paper for over 300 years, serving the world’s security and identity document needs. In fact, we first made paper on this site in 1809. With a long and trusted heritage behind us, we also have an exciting and focussed future ahead.

Read on to find out how it is done.

How paper is made

Following Solution Design, and Watermark Origination, next comes the actual manufacture of the paper.

This includes stock preparation, machine wet end and watermark formation, the dry end including dryers, presses and calendars and then finally to finishing where we convert the reels into webs and sheets according to customer specific requirements.

Stock preparation

The first step in the process is stock preparation. The basic raw materials that are used in the paper making process are wood pulp, dyes & pigments, energy, water and any durability or performance enhancing chemical treatments. Cotton can also be added to the mix if required.

We carefully blend the selected raw materials to produce a “stock”. These recipes are also known as “furnishes” and are specially engineered to ensure that the finished paper requirements for watermark clarity, durability, printability and any other technical specifications are met.

We will also add any security fibres, chemical sensitisation or other bespoke security features into the papermaking process at steady and consistent rate, ensuring the optimal mix of required features and furnish to meet the client’s desired paper specification.

Paper machine: the wet end

A stock of water, pulp and security features is pumped into a large vat at what is referred to as the ‘wet end’ of the paper machine. This is primarily because there is an awful lot of water involved at the start of the process!

A cylinder mould – the wire mesh construction that we use for watermarking – is then submerged into the vat and as the cylinder mould turns, the water in the stock drains through. Fibre is left behind on the surface of the mould cover and the paper sheet is formed. This is also when the paper fibres bond in and around the contours of the mould cover to create the watermark.

At this stage, if required, security threads are fed from bobbins onto the mould cover and will be either fully embedded or create a windowed effect in the paper as the sheet is formed.

As the paper emerges from the vat it is transferred to a porous woven fabric (known as the wire or deckle) which carries it to the next part of the paper machine – at this point, the paper is fully formed; however, it is still very wet at approximately 80% water.

Paper machine: the dry end

The watermarked paper is then subjected to a drying process in which it is wrapped around a series of steam heated metal cylinders known as dryer cylinders. Hence why we refer to this stage as the “Dry end” of the paper machine.

It may sound simple, but this stage is in fact incredibly complex. The pressure of the steam and the speed of the machine must be tightly controlled to ensure a gradual drying gradient down the machine that preserves the registration of the paper features whilst also achieving the correct end moisture for the finished paper.

Following an initial drying stage, the paper is then submerged into what is known as a ‘size press or bath’, where surface treatments, suitable for subsequent printing processes, are coated to the paper.

After the size press, the paper is fed though a second dryer section to dry the surface treatment.

The paper is then run through a set of smoothing cylinders, known universally as “calenders”. In this process the paper passes between two or more large rollers which are pressing against each other under high pressure. This process gives the paper its final desired thickness and smoothness.

Finishing: reels to sheets

Our high security papers can be supplied in either webs or sheets, depending on the customer requirement. If our customer requires web wrapped material, we will slit the reel into the desired web widths and wrap, ready for dispatch.

For all paper that is to be supplied in sheeted format, we count either as we cut the paper into sheets or using reliable, automated counting machines that count two corners of each ream simultaneously to guarantee an accurate sheet count.

Reams of paper (500 sheets) are then wrapped, or bulk packed onto pallets and stored in a secure warehouse ahead of dispatch.


  • Over 300 years of paper making expertise
  • Operators with a lifetime of experience in paper; on one shift alone, we have the combined experience of 125 years!
  • Commitment to training and education with structured pathways to develop trainees and skill sets, learning from their highly experienced colleagues


  • We combine the art and science of paper making
  • We check the paper throughout the process using both on-line quality systems but also by hand and eye
  • It’s a craft and skill you fall in love with; it is a long-term career that our employees choose to stay in; not many companies these days can boast a 40 years long service award!


  • We use the latest of scanning technologies and vision systems to ensure best possible quality output
  • We work with leading industry consultants and suppliers to develop best practice and the continual improvement of our processes
  • We challenge ourselves daily to look at quality, efficiency and waste to improve performance and sustainability


  • We have so much pride in what we do; the dedication and commitment of our people is second to none and it shows in everything we do
  • Portals is the only dedicated cylinder mould watermarking facility in the world
  • We have a tremendous heritage behind us – and a long and exciting future ahead!

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