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Digital Printing, Green Thinking

(September 2007) posted on Thu Sep 06, 2007

Eco-friendliness is a hot topic among printers. This month, Mandel discusses the benefits and considerations associated with making digital imaging green.

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By Rick Mandel

In general, fabrics made either partially or completely from recycle PET polyester (pop and water bottles), sustainable resources (Sorona polymer), and natural fabrics such as cotton, linen, silk, hemp, bamboo, soy, and milk-protein based fabrics, advance the eco-friendly alternatives. Direct-print fabrics usually require a pre-coating for maximum printability, which can make a very green fabric into an eco-adverse material.

The ink options for fabric can be very positive, as dye sublimation uses a water-based ink for the transfer process, and so does the direct print method of Dupont’s Artistri printer. As you can imagine, direct printing with solvent inks onto pre-coated fabric would not be the green alternative.

Green manufacturing processes and materials are rendered null if the ink is not eco-friendly. Traditional petroleum-based inks contribute to toxic compounds released into the environment by the printing industry. Ink affects the environment through transfers and releases. Transfers refer to chemicals that need to be further processed or disposed of and are released in the form of VOCs, a leading source of groundlevel ozone that leads to smog and other health hazards. Biochemicals, or plant-matter-based materials, exist as an alternative. They save money and improve worker safety, reduce the health risks associated with petrochemicals, and create a safer work environment.

Also note that the top ten polluting chemicals are all petroleum-derived. Toluene ranks first. These products are used in press-cleaning operations and as ink components.



If my client, who is pushing for the green stamp of approval, does not have a program to recycle P-O-S graphics, which I have tried so hard to render eco-friendly, what next? I can take the final step and assist in the de-installation and removal of the P-O-S product, which adds revenue and is a great solution to tie design and production into a green system.

Have I found the magic bullet for achieving green, digitally produced display graphics? Well, not quite yet. It doesn’t help that everyone defines green printing differently and that we lack a standard or certification for what makes a printer, or a given project, green. Still, if you want to differentiate your company and raise the banner for a green alternative to conventional digital printing, you will have very little competition. You will develop a wonderful and rewarding marketing concept, and clients may like the story enough to send their business your way.


Rick Mandel is the owner and president of the Mandel Company in Milwaukee, WI. He also serves as CEO of the company’s Screentech Division, a 115-year-old graphics firm that specializes in large-format color separations for commercial printing companies, as well as digital production of large-format graphics. Mandel is a member of the SGIA and the Association of Screen Printing Sciences. He holds a bachelor-of-science degree from the University of Wisconsin.



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