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Green Printing: Perception vs. Reality and the UV Edge

October 16, 2010 By C. Clint Bolte
C. Clint Bolte & Associates, Chambersburg, PA
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Corporate America has continued to follow the impetus of the rest of the developed world in committing to operate “green,” buy “green” and simply be “green.” Perhaps surprising to some printers, many corporate print buyers raise an eyebrow as they scrutinize their printer(s) and many of the printed products they purchase.

Corporations, and even many consumers, perceive that too many trees are being sacrificed on the altar of printing, select printing processes are more green than others, and believe the Internet is the epitome of being green when it comes to the dissemination of graphics information and documents.

The reality is just the opposite. And printers, their suppliers and their trade associations need to beat their educational drums and market the facts of how environmentally friendly the printing industry is. Printers can and should do a better job of informing their corporate client partners of how “green” their printing and packaging is. This, in turn, helps these corporate entities to stand taller in their own media messaging and advertising to the ultimate consumers of their high-profile eco-friendly stature.

This article will highlight the eco-friendly advancements made in only one segment of the printing industry. And this segment, considered to be among the highest print quality processes, is “greener” than it has ever been. Rich, vibrant colors and sparkling gloss that appeals to high-end label and packaging clients, is the standard genre for ultraviolet (UV) printing. In addition, UV opens up a new world of substrates, from plastics (lenticular, static cling vinyl) and foil to specialty grades and board.

UV has established itself in Europe as a mainstream printing process, which holds true across a broad range of sectors, even newspapers. It is seen as guaranteeing higher print quality without having to compromise health and safety rules for the equipment operators.

“In the European narrow web sector, around 90 percent of printers are now using UV – in most cases as an alternative to solvent-based inks,” said Klemens Ehrlitzer, managing director of the German label printers association (VSKE), in an article in Ink World magazine.

UV’s Eco-friendly Steps and Components

The UV drying or curing process with ultraviolet lights results in a very quick polymerization, or cross linking, of the ink. Unlike conventional oil-based inks, UV printing dries instantly, as soon as the sheet passes under the light. At that time it turns from a liquid to solid state. UV inks are not absorbed into the stock or substrate but rather remain on top of the sheet. Therefore, more vibrant print and visual effects result.
 

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Most Recent Comments:
Mark - Posted on January 06, 2011
Clint, With respect to how "green" UV technologies really are, I strongly recommend that you personally wash up a UV press. After you've accidentally spilled those solvents all over yourself and inhaled a bucket full of those fumes you may want to revisit this, (and at the same time be thankful that you aren't a teenager who is still in their final stages of neural development). Further, it was my understanding that paper that was printed/coated UV was no longer recycleable. If you want to reduce VOCs there are vegetable oil inks that are only around 3%, i.e, virtually none.
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Archived Comments:
Mark - Posted on January 06, 2011
Clint, With respect to how "green" UV technologies really are, I strongly recommend that you personally wash up a UV press. After you've accidentally spilled those solvents all over yourself and inhaled a bucket full of those fumes you may want to revisit this, (and at the same time be thankful that you aren't a teenager who is still in their final stages of neural development). Further, it was my understanding that paper that was printed/coated UV was no longer recycleable. If you want to reduce VOCs there are vegetable oil inks that are only around 3%, i.e, virtually none.