Firstly, let’s talk about fully solvent printing, and why we don’t use it. The term solvent is used to describe any ink that is not water-based. Usually, it is those whose inks use petroleum or a petroleum by-product for their ink.
Solvent prints are waterproof and can be used to print directly onto media such as vinyl and rigid substrates like painted or coated metal, foamboard and PVC based boards. The solvents soften the base material and allow the ink pigments to latch to the chemically etched surface. This is what makes solvent ink prints more durable than aqueous (water-based) inks. However, solvent inks give off a strong odour or fumes when drying, therefore releasing hazardous air pollutants (HAPs) as the carrier fluid dissipates into the surroundings through the heat applied from the printer. These would affect both the production environment and the end destination for the graphics.
But the good news is, our direct-to-media printers ticks as many boxes as we can for eco-printing. The ink used has been given the environmentally friendly Gold Award from GREENGUARD. It has a less harmful chemical makeup than many other printers in circulation and includes up to 50% naturally-derived monomers and oligomers from renewable resources, such as plants or biomass. The inks also contain virtually no VOC’s (Volatile Organic Compounds), heavy metals, SVHC’s or greenhouse gases. Eco-solvent inks usually contain glycol esters or glycol ether esters instead. And while they are usually slower drying, our eco-solvent UV printers use a LED lamp system, called “cool cure”, for faster drying the ink, instead of mercury-based cooling. This means we are using up to 82% less energy consumption than other non-comparable UV machines might.
In fact, as the manufacturer for our direct-to-media, eco-solvent printers says, “No other technology in its class can deliver the environmental benefits to satisfy demands for a greener printing solution with less waste, fewer consumables and decreased power consumption.”
It all helps bring us closer to achieving our eco print and production goals and a smaller environmental footprint.