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FLEXO Magazine : March 2010
www.flexography.org MARCH 2010 FLEXO 23 brilliance and solids print far superior to any known technol- ogy until today. In the past three to five years, the appearance of the EB (electron beam) curing ink process in the printing arena is offering a new open future for the packaging industry. 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, and they generate no odor caused by photoinitiators (PI). EB inks are not only VOC free, but also PI free. Additionally, EB curable inks are tested and certified in many food packaging applications, both for surface as well as for reverse printed productions. GREEN TEAM The next driver is the environment. Due to the fact that there is no evaporation of solvent or substantial amounts of water, energy-curable inks are more and more accepted as a sustain- able process in a high-end quality marketplace. The carbon footprint for solvent-based printing is a factor the printing and converting industry has to face irreversibly. EB curing inks have the lowest carbon footprint impact of all ink types. HERE COMES THE MONEY In spite of the quality and environmental benefits of EB inks, the cost should be the principal driver. The marketplace is not willing to pay any premium for those benefits. Therefore, the economical balance must be positive. In that sense, while initial cost may be higher, the final cost per square foot of EB inks is lower when considering 60 to 70 percent evaporation rates of solvent or water ink systems. They also require less energy consumption. Any negative impact on margins and profitability can be addressed by printers/converters by manufacturing added value products. Finishing processes such as graphic decora- tion, including holograms, varnishes (matte or shiny), tridi- mensional effects, RFID and the printed Brailles are mainly obtained by curable UV/EB processes. Other finishing processes to be considered are the relief finishing process, which includes the embossing of several types of paper or the embossing-like effect seen on plastic substrates for laminated on other plastics, as well as tissues or non-wovens, and all together embossed to give tactile sur- face properties. Hot stamping, mainly used in paper, together with relief embossing technologies coming from sheetfed, is starting to be feasible in the reel-to-reel process. Additionally, plastic relief and macro and micro perforation are everyday more vastly used. To conclude, new investments should take into consider- ation today's key drivers. EB curable technologies are ready to be embraced for their benefits. Let's be prepared for the next era of differentiation! ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Jose M. Soler is corporate sales and new technologies director for Comexi Group. He is speaking at FFTA's 2010 Annual Forum. The presentation will elaborate on points addressed in this article. Photos courtesy Comexi North America. TECHNOLOGIES & TECHNIQUES
Sustainable Winter 2010