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Like most industries, people become comfortable with what they are used to and despite the benefits of switching to more environmentally friendly inks, there is still some reluctance to make the change. With more and more of the big ink manufacturers producing an alternative however, it looks like it could be time to make the switch.
Sales and marketing manager for SunJet, the inkjet division of Sun Chemical, Pete Saunders, said: "At present, wide format printing for point of sale, billboard and other advertising makes up a large part of our inkjet business. This type of printing has been dominated by solvent inkjet technology but we have seen a move towards UV inks, firstly on flatbed printers but now also in roll-fed printers.
"Solvent inkjet inks contain a high level of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and when they evaporate, those VOCs go straight into the atmosphere. Solvent inks also typically require pre and post print heating, leading to higher energy consumption during printing.
"UV curing inks on the other hand are 100 per cent solids and dry by polymerisation, not evaporation. The curing process is rapid and uses less energy than traditional drying, but we are also working with customers and partners to develop inks which cure with even lower energy. This will provide faster print speeds but also leads to a reduction in CO2 emissions.
"Efforts are also focussed on using LEDs to cure ink. Standard UV curing lamps contain mercury and the production and use of mercury and the lifecycle of mercury-containing materials is of concern, particularly in certain US states. As a result, the ink and coatings industry is looking at alternatives with a push towards LED curing lamps. They do not contain mercury and they are said to consume less energy. SunJet has a range of LED UV curing inks under the Crystal brand, which have rapid cure characteristics and functional performance such as resistance and flexibility.
"Moving forward, SunJet is investigating the role of aqueous or water-based inks. We're looking at ways to include water in UV formulations with the view that more aqueous-based and entirely aqueous inks will be used. Aqueous inks are environmentally friendly, though their use at present does come with compromises."
More and more manufacturers are working to adopt environmentally friendly practices for inks, substrates and media and to facilitate recycling of printed materials. The recent launch by Colorific of new environmentally conscious third-party products shows just how well the industry is reacting to that demand. Described as a high quality, wide gamut alternative to solvent-based formulations, the Colorific Bio range is 90 per cent biodegradable, ISO9001 compliant and aims to allow print service providers to offer greener results.
Available in CMYK, plus light cyan, light magenta or orange and green, the range is formulated for use in the sign and display industry, using a combination of biodegradable food-grade solvents and high quality pigments. The ink is classified non-flammable, non-toxic and non-hazardous and doesn't require any extraction of fumes for compliance with health and safety regulations. Colorific claims there's no compromise on quality with excellent adhesion on common media.
Colorific European sales director, Colm Garvey, said: "Put simply, end users want to know that their print service providers are doing their bit to offer an ecological alternative. Not only can display producers use these inks with confidence, knowing that they have been tested extensively during formulation and production, but they can pass on the benefits of greener production to their customers."
Inks in the Colorific Bio range can be printed onto uncoated materials with no separate lamination or coating process, making them especially suitable for outdoor applications. They are also resistant to alcohols, cleaning fluids and scratching. Similarly, full hardware and UV face resistance warranties are offered, and the inks have an extended shelf-life of 18 months.
Quest for quality
There are a lot of things to consider before you change your inks for environmental reasons, the main one being compatibility with your machine and ultimately the quality which you can offer customers.
HP addresses this issue with the introduction of its new Designjet L65500 wide format printer - the first to use HP latex inks. These pigmented, water-based inks are designed for commercial and industrial printing applications. They use HP's aqueous-dispersed polymer technology to provide print durability and display permanence, said to be comparable to solvent inks. The water-based formulation helps reduce the total impact of printing on the environment and facilitates an improved print production environment.
Compliant with Nordic Swan certification, HP latex inks do not produce ozone emissions during printing and contain no hazardous air pollutants. This means improved working environments for PSPs and a greater range of places, particularly indoors, where graphics can be used.
Among other dealers, the HP Designjet L65500 printer is available from i-Sub Digital. Director of i-Sub Digital, Andy Spreag, said: "We've been keen to add a more environmentally acceptable solution. The HP L65500 is a productive and versatile machine capable of printing on both water and solvent based media at high speeds. It is suitable for indoor and outdoor applications, achieving the quality required for both with the durability normally only achieved by solvent inks. It will interest customers looking for an alternative to solvent inks."
You may be getting fed up with hearing about what you should and shouldn't be doing to protect the environment, but the fact remains that we need to take action. The good news is that taking action on the environmental agenda no longer means making a compromise.