Sun Chemical has announced a breakthrough in water-based ink technology for flexographic printing on polythene (PE) film. The company's new approach offers a viable and cost-effective alternative to solvent-based inks, and allows printers to comply with pending European legislation that will affect the industry while
printing up to 600 meters per minute.
From October 2007, the Solvent Emissions Directive states that every printing firm that uses more than 15 tons of solvents per year must either invest in incineration units or find alternatives for 75 percent of its solvent-based print colors. In addition, the Integrated Pollution Prevention and Control Directive legislates that printing firms using more than 200 tons of solvents per year must be in possession of a specific environmental certificate and must strictly apply procedures according to "best practice techniques."
Sun Chemical's innovative breakthrough is the use of modified amine soluble resins, which crosslink after they transfer from the press to the substrate, making the inks fully water resistant when dry. Each of the inks – known as Barracuda, Piranha and Beluga – has been designed for specific applications.
Erik Segers, corporate product manager liquid inks, Sun Chemical Europe, said, "With the European legislation due to be introduced in October, only two real alternatives exist for printers currently using solvent-based inks for flexo PE printing; they make a significant investment in incinerating equipment, or they find alternative inks and lacquers. With these latest products, we believe we now have a water-based PE ink that not only offers printers comparable quality, but significant cost savings over solvent-based inks.
"Water-based inks are ideal for smaller printing businesses which do not have the capital to invest in the more costly incinerating equipment," Mr. Segers noted. "Additionally, unlike the use of incinerators, water-based inks will not increase printers' carbon emissions, which could be taxed in the future to address concerns about global warming. Early trials suggest the total cost of print could be reduced up to 20 percent by switching from solvent-based to water-based ink. However, this could vary depending on a printer's individual circumstances. The savings would be achieved primarily through the lower cost for emission treatment of the water-based ink.
"Together with our Wetflex electron beam-curing ink and UV-based flexo printing inks, the new water-based inks allow us to support our customers with a range of options that meet the new environmental regulations and help them meet the requirements of the steadily growing PE packaging market."