Not only must flexo inks offer excellent runnability and end-use performance, they need to adhere to a growing array of substrates, not to mention complying with food safety legislation. Gill Loubser provides an update on ink developments for the flexo world.
WE hear much about the growth of digital printing, yet in reality some 90% of labels are still printed flexographically; and with brand owners demanding ever-higher quality standards, ink remains a critical component in the production process.
It’s not surprising, therefore, that ink manufacturers continuously bombard us with news of developments in fields such as water-based inks, UV/LED- and energy-curable inks, the use of low-migration chemicals, low-viscosity inks, and inks that adhere to a growing range of packaging substrates.
Specialised water-based inks
Looking first at the topic of water-based inks, INX International has launched a number of specialised water-based inks for flexographic printing. INXShrink is a water-based system designed for shrink sleeve labels, AquaTech ION X for paper and film, and Mylex IV for solvent/solventless lamination.
These products are locally available from Constantia Printing Inks.
According to Constantia’s Ross Taggart, AquaTech ION X is a unique, water-based flexographic formulation that’s designed for paper but adheres to most topcoated vinyls and films. ‘It’s a highly-pigmented system, running on anilox rolls up to 1 500lpi, with exceptional on-press stability at a wide range of speeds,’ he explains.
For UV LED applications, INXFlex UV LED is a premium energy-curable ink formulated for LED lamps at a 380-400nm wavelength. ‘This ink offers superior gloss and transparency at run speeds up to 100m/min,’ Ross continues. ‘It exhibits excellent resistance, is formulated benzophenone-free, and has a low pourable viscosity while having excellent holdout on paper stock. It’s also suitable for shrink sleeve and IML processes.’
INX International recently took advantage of the Flexographic Technical Association’s InfoFlex forum to focus attention on its natural-based inks. In the face of today’s growing emphasis on the use of sustainable products that satisfy industry regulators and are environmentally responsible, the INXhrc natural-based flexographic inks are a solid choice for food packaging, allowing both brand owners and printers to raise the bar in meeting sustainability initiatives.
In addition to better production efficiency, printers using INXhrc experience increased ink mileage with lower resource consumption and less waste generation. INXhrc contains fewer chemicals compared to traditional inks, with no allergens, nanomaterials, fluorochemicals, fanal pigments, heavy metals, latex or PTFE. When used with high-strength colour concentrates, INXhrc is said to offer the strongest finished inks available with superior resolubility and transfer properties.