Inks and Environmental Issues–Compliance vs. Quality

Water-based ink is the number-two choice of compliance-seeking printers. As more R&D dollars are spent in the water-based arena, improvements are being made in its drying, adhesive and print qualities.

Third-ranking soy-based inks are enjoying continued growth, as more R&D is devoted to this environmentally friendly bean from America’s Heartland. (See sidebar for more about soy.)

Waterless inks are tied with soy formulations for third place in environmentally friendly inks. The main advantage of waterless is the elimination of fountain solution waste, says Ken Ferguson, technical director of Van Son Holland Ink.

While growth in waterless has been slower than expected, Dennis Miller, general manager of Spinks Ink, believes waterless has significant potential and, therefore, should be an R&D priority.

“It makes sense to print without water,” says Miller. “Start-ups are quicker, there’s less dot gain, better ink laydown, quicker setting and drying, and it offers the ability to print higher resolution screens.”

However, what makes sense in theory may not necessarily hold true in commercial practice. Miller explains that in a commercial environment, operating conditions, such as press and pressroom temperatures, as well as plate sensitivity to marking, are factors that can be difficult to control.

“If improvements could be made in these areas,” concludes Miller, “there might be a higher level of interest in waterless printing.”

Improved “housekeeping” is another issue on the environmental agenda. Ink manufacturers, like Van Son, are improving their packaging by developing products such as vacuum-sealed cans that reduce contamination and skinning, and disposable ink dispensing systems that leave no residue in the cartridge. Furthermore, Ferguson says Van Son is working closely with press manufacturers, like Heidelberg, to incorporate the disposable ink system into next generation press designs.

Ink suppliers are also teaming up with industry organizations to provide other environmental services, such as the Great Printers Project, a self-compliance program for lithographic printers. The study was sponsored by the Printing Industries of Illinois in conjunction with the state EPA and paper and ink manufacturers.

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