The Era of Green Printing: The Most Popular Inks
“Environmentally friendly inks and green printing” have become the theme of the development of ink printing industry in the 21st century. Therefore, researching, developing, and using environmentally friendly inks is a great cause for the benefit of mankind, a passport to enter the international market, and the direction of future development.
Among various printing methods, offset printing inks account for nearly 50% of the total in China and still dominate the market, and will continue to steadily develop in the next 20 years. There are two main printing methods: sheet-fed offset printing and web offset printing. The varieties and quality have reached a relatively high level, but most of the inks used are non-environmentally friendly. They can be improved with only a slight modification in the binders. At present, environmentally friendly inks are mandatory for food and medical packaging printing overseas, such as non-aromatic and solvent-free (soybean oil-based) offset inks.
These low-toxic or non-hazardous inks are the direction for future development, the goal we strive to research and develop, and also the necessary condition to enter the international market.
The international standards for such inks require that the content of aromatics in non-aromatic inks be less than 1% and the amount of solvents in solvent-free inks be less than 1%. We should pay attention to the technical trends of global environmentally friendly inks, continuously develop more environmentally friendly ink products, replace inorganic pigments with organic pigments, strictly use raw materials that do not contain heavy metals such as lead and cadmium, and produce more non-aromatic and solvent-free offset inks, soybean oil inks and other environmentally friendly inks.
UV ink is an ink that dries quickly under the irradiation of ultraviolet light by utilizing different wavelengths of ultraviolet energy. UV ink is 100% solid film-forming, with no solvent volatilization, and the ink film has excellent wear resistance and chemical resistance. Although it has been developed in China for a long time, initially there were only a few varieties of UV ink for paper and iron printing, with a high price and low output, which could not meet the needs of domestic printing factories. In recent years, UV ink has made great progress.
EB ink is an electron beam-cured ink, which does not require the addition of photosensitizer to cure and dry due to the much greater energy of the electron beam than ultraviolet light. In addition, EB ink also has significant characteristics such as wear resistance, scratch resistance, and non-skinning, making it a high-value-added product. Currently, the global market share of EB ink is approximately $30 million to $50 million, making it a very promising market. So far, the domestic market for EB ink is still blank, which is a direction for our research and development.
Digital Printing Ink
Currently, digital printing has become a new trend in the packaging and advertising printing fields both domestically and abroad, and a considerable number of digital printing machines have been imported in China. In order to meet the requirements of high-speed printing and achieve good printing quality, digital printing ink is particularly important.
Application of Nanotechnology
Nanotechnology is a rapidly developing high-tech industry, which has begun to be applied in the ink manufacturing field, such as raw materials like nanoscale calcium carbonate, but it has not yet formed a mainstream trend. If the resin binding material, pigments, additives, and drying agents in the ink are made into nanoscale materials with high dispersion and better fluidity and wetting properties, the resulting ink can save raw materials, reduce costs, and achieve excellent printing effects.
In summary, China’s ink industry has developed rapidly, but in order to keep pace with international standards, it is necessary to increase investment, improve the level of large-scale production, strengthen enterprises, and comprehensively improve the quality of products, developing towards non-toxic and harmless direction, as soon as possible to narrow the gap with foreign inks, and meet the needs of both domestic and international markets.