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FLEXO Magazine : November 2008
FIGURE 6: Average Digital Flexographic Plate Imaging Impact. (Source: DuPont Life Cycle Assessment Flexography & Rotogravure Printing Public Report, September 2008) use. The non-renewable energy use range for the residual solvent range is 22-143 MJ/m2 and the GHG emissions are 1.7-10.5 kg/ m2. Therefore, determining the best balance between solvent replenishment and solvent recycling is the key to reducing the tradeshop’s overall energy consumption and emissions with sol- vent systems. IMPACT OF PLATE THICKNESS For solvent plates, the non-renewable energy consumption and GHG emissions increase with plate thickness. Thicker plates need more solvents and have a higher energy consumption (longer drying time) in the drying and recycling steps. Reductions are es- pecially significant when moving from a .250in. solvent plate to a .155in. or .125in. plate (Figure 7). Plate thickness savings ripple up- stream, reducing manufacturing and raw material production im- pacts, creating measurable savings in both energy and emissions. ECO-EFFICIENT CHOICES The World Business Council for Sustainable Development de- fines eco efficiency as: “the delivery of competitively priced goods and services that satisfy human needs and bring quality of life while progressively reducing environmental impacts of goods and resource intensity throughout the entire life-cycle to a level at least in line with the Earth’s estimated carrying capacity.” In its simplest form, eco-efficiency is defined as doing more with less. Based on findings from this study, flexographic print- ing and thermal imaging systems are eco-efficient choices for the packaging industry, providing comparatively low material-to- product and energy-to-product ratios. Regarding cost competitiveness, flexo printing is a well-estab- lished high-value, cost-effective printing process. Flexo thermal platemaking systems increase users’ productivity and throughput by one to three times over solvent systems, delivering increased levels of competitiveness. Instead of normalizing or averaging cost models to deter- mine lifecycle costs on a broad basis, DuPont helps customers model their unique footprint and the expected savings based on their individual business practices and conditions. From its ISO- compliant LCA, DuPont Packaging Graphics can analyze its cus- tomers’ businesses and help them understand their potential sav- ings based on how they manage solvents, reduce gauge or move from solvent to thermal systems. For customers who are making choices today regarding platemaking processes, LCA insights and benchmark factors can be used to guide best practices and esti- mate the environmental impact of the platemaking systems and plate types they specify. SUMMARY The LCA critical peer review report states that “as yet the print- ing industry is predominantly cost-driven. LCA is a new factor in- forming decision making in the printing industry: This LCA study (Flexography & Rotogravure Printing) can thus only describe the current status and provide some hints at improvement potentials from an ecological point of view. As this study demonstrates how an LCA of printing technologies can be conducted, further studies may follow and the printing industry can include ecological con- siderations in their continuous improvement.” For now, we can state that there are clear differences in the choice of print process (flexography versus rotogravure) and there can be significant choices within flexography depending on the choice of platemaking process (thermal versus solvent) and plate thickness. DuPont Packaging Graphics is committed to these continuous improvements. Further, DuPont will use the LCA findings to drive its own R&D in an ongoing effort to reduce its environmental impact while sharing the findings with the industry to help cus- tomers and colleagues evaluate the sustainability of their printing and platemaking choices. ? FIGURE 7: Impact of Downgauging Plates. Endnotes 1 Details are available in the Peer Review Report at www.cyrel.dupont.com 2 Details of Analog workflow are available in the Peer Review report. Only digital systems are discussed here for brevity. www. f l e x o g r a p h y. o r g NOVEMB E R 20 0 8 F LEXO 6 3