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FLEXO Magazine : November 2008
based plate production emerges as clearly beneficial. A marginally lower value is also to be recorded for material and energy con- sumption. For thermo-technology, the energy-intensive produc- tion of PA web in particular has a major impact. The main causes for emissions which have an impact on the climate are to be found in the production of solvents, web and plate raw materials. During the production of PA web, there is a production of nitrous oxide, which has a very high global warming potential, moreso than carbon dioxide. Thus, the study attests that the solvent-based process has an advantage in the end in this area as well. SOME CONSIDERATIONS While these numbers are based entirely on German energy costs and disposal, when considering the North American market, the relation will likely not change, as energy—while sharply on the rise—is a little bit cheaper when compared to Europe. What was not considered was price for working power (employees), as these numbers might differ tremendously between printers/ converters and prepress trade shops, even within one country. In addition, unlike Germany, North America does not universally incinerate waste. In fact, in the U.S., disposal regulations for plate- making waste will vary greatly from state to state. Incineration may not be required, encouraged or even available depending on the region of the country. The calculation of individual numbers for a trade shop has to be divided into two cases: The costs of the two processes can be calculated quite easy (investment in equipment, prices for consumables such as plate, solvent or web, energy, etc.), but the caculation of the carbon footprint might be difficult. For example, if energy is supplied from renewable resources (hydropower, sun resp., wind energy), all materials with one-way use (plates, web) are extremely bad for the carbon footprint. The distillation of solvent, on the other hand, does not need non-renewable energy and thus is very eco-efficient. Another problem is trade houses serving customers with different applications of flexo printing. Several plate materials cannot be processed thermally (e.g. thick plate gauges for cor- rugated printing), and it is for sure more eco-efficient using the equipment for a solvent process 24/7 than to have two different processes in-house and using both of them only partially (e.g. because of heating/cooling etc.). SUMMARY One important finding of the Eco-Efficiency-Analysis is that economy and ecology are not contradictory. In particular, the many users of the proven solvent technology, who do not want to forego the quality advantage of this technology, will be pleased to see this. When the solvent used to wash out the printing plates is recovered as recommended, these users can achieve a cost ben- FIGURE 4. Assessing the whole process of both alternatives, the solvent-based plate production causes fewer emissions. FIGURE 3. The thermo technology requires marginally higher energy. efit of 10 percent and more with respect to the thermal manufac- turing alternative. With the carbon footprint the result tends to look similar. The solvent-based technology also shows the most beneficial values here. Both alternatives are virtually the same in terms of the environmental impacts through energy and materi- als consumption. If particular preconditions change, e.g. the plate thickness, then the effects are comparable for both alternatives both in terms of costs as well as of environmental impacts. If a plate with a thickness of 1.70mm is used instead of a 1.14mm plate, the absolute costs rise by around 30 percent, while the cost relation- ship remains the same. The emissions increase by around 17 percent with both processes. Conversely, this means that through a reduction in plate thickness both emissions and costs can be considerably reduced. ? www. f l e x o g r a p h y. o r g NOVEMB E R 20 0 8 F LEXO 67