In the Middle Ages, before NCR Printing was even conceived, scribes would spend their whole lives duplicating precious scripts. If you wanted a copy it could take many months or years to produce. I guess you had to be pretty patient back then! Then along came carbon paper which could be inserted between two sheets of paper to provide a copy. However it was time consuming and messy, often resulting in smudges and inky fingers. Next came a eureka moment in the 1950’s when some clever chemists at the NCR Company invented carbonless paper, which for marketing reasons was called NCR paper (using the acronym no carbon required). For the techically minded amongst you, NCR paper actually comprises three types of sheet, using different combinations of coatings:
- Top sheet, known as CB (Coated Back)
- Middle Sheets, known as CFB (Coated Front & Back)
- Bottom Sheet, known as CF (Coated Front)
The top sheet has a pressure sensitive coating applied to the reverse. This is made up of tiny micro-capsules containing oil based dyes called colour-formers. These capsules burst and release dyes when pressure is exerted to the front of the top sheet using a pen.
The bottom page is coated with a clay-based absorbent to the front of the sheet only, which provides a clear image when exposed to the colour-former dyes released from the sheet above.
Middle sheets have a CF coating and a CB coating, therefore making it possible receive and pass on the image. In theory it is possible to have any number of middle sheets but in practical terms I would not recommend going beyond 3 middle copies, unless you have the writing pressure of Mike Tyson.
This entire process produces a good copy of what has been written on the top sheet onto second and subsequent sheets in the set. NCR sets provide a quick and easy method to generate copies without the need for printing devices; therefore, they are ideal for salesmen, tradesmen and service people, where the need for typed letters and forms are unnecessary.
There are endless business uses for NCR printing but some of the more common uses are invoices, restaurant bills, order pads, receipts, courier delivery tickets, agreements, registration forms, expense forms etc. Next time you complete or sign an NCR form maybe you’ll give some thought to the clever chemical processes that make it all possible. Imagine how much time it would take to make manual copies of every form you complete and NCR sets really begin to make sense.