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FLEXO Magazine : March 2010
22 FLEXO MARCH 2010 www.flexography.org TECHNOLOGIES & TECHNIQUES • Today the main drivers for marketplaces are QTEC: quality, time (to market), environment and cost. • EB inks fulfill the requirement of increasing the quality up to 200lpi with sharpness in dot gain and optical densities far better than solvent-based or water-based inks. • Finishing processes such as graphic decoration, including holograms, varnishes (matte or shiny), tridimensional effects, RFID and the printed Brailles are mainly obtained by curable UV/EB processes. • EB curing inks have the lowest carbon footprint im- pact of all ink types. In the last 10 years, the evolution of printing has been seen in many different fields due to the highly com- petitive environment and the natural selection of companies. Today, the main drivers for marketplaces are QTEC: quality, time (to market), environment and cost. Professional players are con- tinuously adjusting so as to differentiate and add value to their offerings. LEAPS AND BOUNDS The quality of print is measured in definition of lpi (lines per inch), dot gain and optical density as the main parameters to control. Another signifi- cant fact to improve quality has been the improvement of the plate develop- ment from analog to digital, laser or other technologies in order to give dot sharpness and high line screens. In that sense, the ink transfer has improved with the constant evolution of the pho- topolymers and elastomers, so that the transference can achieve the best opti- cal density and sharpest possible dots. When it comes to quality, inks are a key component. They have been evolving in several directions along with polymerization technologies. To start with, solvent-based inks have struggled against the growing awareness of VOCs (volatile organic compounds) as a pollution agent seriously affecting the environment in terms of GHG (green- house gases). These types of inks are broadly used in printing non-absorbent substrates for flexible packaging, such as plastic polyethylenes, polypropyl- enes, polyesters, polyamides and oth- ers. Moreover, water-based inks as an alternative are still in constant evolution, and its usage in plastics is very limited, facing drawbacks such as adhesion, quality and other issues. Water-based inks are broadly used in the paper and board packaging sector. The introduction of UV curable inks, mainly in the label sector, has led to a substantial jump in quality. As a result of that, the narrow web flexo technology has been competing with great and still increasing success against gravure and offset. The main drawback for global usage in other areas, such as flex- ible packaging has been the negative reputation from odors and food safety certification, particularly concerning migration and monomer generation in the packaging. Needless to say, it is well known that the UV inks inherently have the capacity to achieve up to 200lpi with Photo courtesy Sun Chemical. Printing and Finishing as an Added Value Process EB Inks and Coatings Lead the Way By Jose M. Soler
Sustainable Winter 2010