Energy efficiency is fast becoming the biggest challenge among the industry’s sustainability objectives. This is not only because of the urgent need to cut emissions of greenhouse gases, but also to cut costs because of escalating energy prices.
“Energy efficiency is becoming a more and more important topic as oil prices soar,” said Mike Mordente, global head of inks and printing at Ciba Specialty Chemicals, Basel, Switzerland. “The graphics industry is continuing to seek energy saving solutions in production – from faster dispersion pigments to inks with quicker drying speeds.”
He believes that energy costs and the need to find alternatives to oil-based raw materials will “influence the next generation of product developments in the whole graphics industry supply chain.”
Energy was given a high profile at drupa, the world’s biggest printing exhibition, held in Dusseldorf, Germany, in late May and early June. Printing equipment companies and suppliers of inks and other consumables announced a wide range of innovations and initiatives aimed at helping printers to reduce energy consumption and cut CO2 emissions.
nk producers, dispersion specialists and makers of pigments, resins and other raw materials were particularly anxious to show they can make a big contribution to the efforts by printers to curtail their energy costs.
“We form an integral part of the supply chain of printing companies, so we have a key role to play in helping them achieve their environmental objectives as well as providing products which function as they should,” said Felipe Mellado, corporate vice-president, marketing and technology at Sun Chemical Europe, the region’s market leader in inks.
Concerns about energy and environmental matters are not confined to companies in the printing sectors of Europe, North America and Japan. The printing industries in the emerging economies of Asia, such as China, are also giving priority to energy efficiency as a key part of sustainability.
“The future development of the Chinese printing industry shall not only meet the needs of socio-economic development but also energy saving and eco-friendly requirements,” Yongzhan Yu, president of the Printing Technology Association of China, told a drupa conference on printing and the environment organized by the World Print and Communication Forum (WPCF).
An indicator of how energy consumption and global warming will influence future trends in the printing sector was shown by the way companies – possibly for the first time in a major international printing exhibition – were highlighting data on CO2 emissions and energy use. Such information could soon become a vital marketing tool in the industry.
Heidelberg has developed a system for calculating the carbon footprint of its machines. Manroland produced figures from its own research which give a breakdown of the carbon footprint of each major component of the printing process. The carbon data covered life cycles, so it included CO2 emissions from the production of the actual manufacture of equipment and materials, such as paper and inks.
Paper accounted for 76 percent of the total carbon footprint, machine usage 12.5 percent, transport 6 percent, plates 5 percent and ink only 0.5 percent, according to the manroland study.
The company believes that the biggest potential for cutting energy consumption during printing lies with ancillary operations and systems like air supply, dampening solutions, cooling and drying.
One of manroland’s innovations has, for example, been able to cut by as much as 45 percent energy consumption in the cooling of inking units.
Data on carbon footprints is not only being used to compare the print media with other means of communication but also as a platform for promoting different printing processes.
DuPont’s plate making business, which specializes in the supply of plates for flexo printing, claimed that there would be substantial energy benefits if printers switched from gravure to flexo. A transfer from gravure to flexo amounting to one million square meters of printed plastic substrate would save the equivalent of 25,000 gallons of gasoline in non-renewable energy, the company claims.
Even digital press manufacturers are using energy saving and other environmental benefits as a selling point for equipment based on inkjet ink or toners.
“Digital’s distribute-then-print processes reduce energy-intensive transportation, print-on-demand lessens costly warehousing and landfill waste and personalized printing cuts page volumes by targeting information more precisely while making each page more valuable,” said Tom Witjen, vice president worldwide graphics communications, Xerox Corp.
Waterless Presses and Inks
In the offset sector, waterless presses and their inks were being heavily promoted at drupa because of their combination of energy and environmental benefits and lower costs.
Printing equipment manufacturers reported accelerated growth in demand for waterless presses, partly as a result of an expansion of the technology into bulk printing segments like newspapers. This broadening of the market has helped bring down the costs of equipment and consumables.
Koenig & Bauer Group (KBA), which has been a pioneer of the waterless technology, announced at drupa the sale of its 14th large Cortina waterless press, to the south German newspaper group Suedkurier Medienhaus.
The company demonstrated at the exhibition three waterless versions of its Karat, Rapida and Genius sheetfed machines, with the emphasis on low emissions due to little start-up waste, elimination of dampening solutions and plate chemicals and fluid-free blanket washing.
“A big selling advantage with waterless presses is the lower energy costs,” said Andreas Bachmann, a KBA sales executive. “Everyone is interested in ecology but they also want more economical printing. Waterless is now one of the few printing technologies which offers a way of getting your money back reasonably quickly.”
With its 74 Karat waterless press, KBA offers CO2 monitoring software, which enables the printing company to tell its customers the carbon footprint of each print job.
Siegwerk is among a number of ink producers which have been expanding their output of waterless inks as the process starts to gain wider acceptance among printers.
“Demand for waterless web offset is growing rapidly,” said Ulrich Michaelis, web offset sales manager for North and Central Europe at Siegwerk, which is setting up a separate production line for its waterless inks. “With the new line, as well as with extra resources for research and development, we are responding to the market’s demand for high quality solutions in the sector.”
Toyo Ink is exploiting its experience with waterless processes in its home Japanese market , where the technology accounts for 10 percent of the printing sector, to make waterless inks a key niche for its business in Europe. It has introduced a range of waterless UV curable inks suitable for printing on CDs, DVDs, bank cards and all-purpose labels.
In order to help printers save energy, ink producers have also been introducing heatset and other inks which dry more quickly. But increasing these inks are also being applied with more productive drying equipment.
One of the latest technologies is integrated regenerative thermal oxidation (RTO) dryer-oxidizers, which requires no additional energy because they use the process solvents as a fuel source. Manroland’s Dual-Dry RTO technology guarantees, compared with conventional dryer systems, a 50 percent reduction in emissions of CO2 and nitrous oxide, an even more environmental harmful greenhouse gas.
A study made available at drupa on energy efficiency in web offset printing found that types of paper combined with ink densities could determine levels of energy used for drying. A paper with a low moisture content could reduce energy consumption by 35 percent while a highly porose paper could increase it by 40 percent, according to the report by the Print City Alliance, whose members include companies throughout the printing supply chain.
In terms of energy efficiency and print quality, dryer systems have to be compared with UV curing, which has become an alternative to drying.
UV is being made more energy efficient through more effective photoinitiators. “We continue to develop solutions that are more energy efficient by launching photoinitators with higher reactivity, that require less energy in activation and that increase the speed of curing for faster and more reproducible printing,” said Mr. Mordente.
UV equipment is also being improved by raising the energy intensity of lamps. IST Metz has developed integrated reflectors for lamps which ensure that substantially more energy reaches the substrate. The reflector geometry can be adapted to meet the exact requirements of specific production processes.
The longer term future of more energy efficient UV could lie in the application of light emitting diodes (LEDs), whose power consumption is 25 percent of that of conventional UV systems and has considerably lower CO2 emissions.
Toyo introduced at drupa a range of LED curable inks which it has developed in collaboration with the Japanese print equipment manufacturer Ryobi. The inks, which are based on Toyo’s own pigments, resins and photo-polymerization initiators, are designed for use on thin paper.
“We believe that the collaboration between such new inks and LED systems will bring about major innovations in conventional printing systems, making it possible to save both energy and space,” said Kensuke Koga, general manager, radiation curing products at Toyo.