Emphasis on Environment Leads AMGRAPH, IdeOn to Develop EB Curable Gravure Inks

By David Savastano, Ink World Editor | 01.20.10

EB curable inks are free of solvents and volatile organic compounds (VOCs)

While there is tremendous interest in “green” printing, there are areas that have yet to be successfully explored.

Kenneth A. Fontaine, president and CEOof AMGRAPH Packaging Inc.
One such possibility is the use of electron beam (EB) curable inks for gravure printing. Essentially, EB curable inks are free of solvents and volatile organic compounds (VOC’s), and would eliminate VOC’s present in currently used solvent and water based gravure inks. It may also eliminate the need for an extra step for applying coatings or lamination, currently used with gravure inks.

EB gravure inks do offer promise, and a partnership between AMGRAPH Packaging Inc., a Versailles, CT-based flexible packaging converter, and IdeOn LLC, a Hillsborough, NJ-based Technology Company, specializing in ultraviolet (UV) and EB curable products, is bringing forth excellent results.

AMGRAPH just celebrated its 25th year in business, and the company’s leaders have always had a strong interest in being as environmentally friendly as possible. The late Kenneth L. Fontaine, the founder of the company, installed EB curable presses and focused on water-based inks when the company was first formed.

His son, Kenneth A. Fontaine, the company’s president and CEO, has maintained his father’s vision.

“We just celebrated our 25th year in business in November, and from Day 1, my father was very “green” in both his personal and business life,” Kenneth A. Fontaine said. “Our first major purchase was a custom-built Hamilton offset press with EB capabilities.

“We are always looking to incorporate environmentally friendly technologies,” Mr. Fontaine added. “There are very few water-based gravure flexible packaging converters, and we are focused on using VOC free inks, coatings and adhesives. We are working with IdeOn to jointly develop EB gravure inks that will completely eliminate VOCs.”

“AMGRAPH has been an example of a green converter,” said Dr. Subh Chatterjee, managing partner of IdeOn LLC. “They use EB offset and water-based gravure inks. Everyone wants gravure’s quality, but emissions are the problem, as there are very few environmentally responsible converters. AMGRAPH is one of very few water-based gravure converters.

“We are taking the technology to the next generation with EB curable gravure inks,” Dr. Chatterjee added.

“We believe this will be a platform technology for the industry,” said Dr. Mike Laksin, VP technology, IdeOn. Even if you use a water-based ink, there are VOCs, as you need ammonia to adjust viscosity. EB gravure inks don’t have this problem, and these inks are truly VOC-free. Dr. Laksin also noted that using EB curing eliminates the need for huge drying capacity and lamination.

“The goal is ultimately setting up a totally VOC-free pressroom,” added BJ Patel, VP manufacturing, IdeOn.

“The problem with water-based inks is that it requires more drying capabilities. Lamination requires an additional layer of film, which doubles the weight of the package, adds cost; complicates recyclability and goes against the green movement," added Brij Nigam, VP sales, IdeOn.

“EB gravure is a game-changing technology, as it is completely VOC-free. Cured inks offer rub resistance without adding coating for jobs that don’t require a coating.” “This allows us to go after jobs that don’t require a coating or lamination,” said Michael Fontaine, senior product and process engineer for AMGRAPH. “Our customers are excited about this technology.”

By law, emissions are a limit to many converters being able to add presses, as they are at the legal limit for VOCs. Mr. Fontaine noted that there are four levels of reporting in Connecticut, and AMGRAPH is at the lowest level.

“With this system, we can even eliminate that, while adding presses because we are well below the VOC limit,” he noted.

So far, the results of testing have been excellent. Sean Evans, director of R&D for AMGRAPH, said that the company is able to run jobs on its Bobst Rotomec press over 800 feet per minute.

“The technology has been validated on press,” Mr. Evans noted. “The color comes up quickly, and the cured inks offer much higher gloss and excellent rub resistance.”

Dr. Chatterjee added that AMGRAPH and IdeOn are working on expanding the scope of the technology and will license the technology to other interested printers globally.

Outside of printing, AMGRAPH is also concentrating on ways to improve its headquarters’ environmental impact, adding 50 percent more space while incorporating LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification principles.

“Our commitment to green is second to none,” Kenneth Fontaine said. “We recently completed a 35,000 square foot expansion of our manufacturing plant; using foam insulated concrete blocks that virtually eliminated thermal transfer. We recycle 96.5 percent of our waste stream. We have natural lighting, geothermal heating and air conditioning, and a good carbon footprint. We also had a study conducted to see if we could justify three wind turbines.

“We’re excited about the upcoming completion of our ‘Green Plant’ for a number of reasons,” said Mr. Fontaine. “First, it will enable us to better service the needs of our customers as they seek new ways to meet their goals for sustainable packaging. Equally important, however, we are pleased to further realize our vision for operating a plant that truly embodies our company’s commitment to the planet.”

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