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The Environmental Aspects of UV Screen Inks: Past, Present, and Future

(December 2007) posted on Thu Jan 03, 2008

If developing a sustainable graphics-printing process is a goal for your business, consider how the latest generation of UV-curable screen inks can help. This discussion looks at the history of UV inks, recent ink-formulation developments, and ways you can increase productivity while helping to reduce carbon dioxide emissions.

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By Laura Maybaum

In contrast, Europe was an early adopter of UV screen inks but was hesitant to convert quickly due to potential irritation issues. In an article addressing the elimination of air pollution through the use of UV, RadTech states, “Although early in its history, UV/EB (ultraviolet/ electron beam) used volatile monomers that caused irritation of the eyes and skin; the monomers now used are non-volatile and airborne irritation has been eliminated. Contact with the liquid products can still cause irritation to some susceptible individuals; however, the normal health and safety rules involving aprons, gloves, and eye protection constitute a safe milieu for the workers.”

With the continued advances of UV ink technology, Europe is embracing UV screen inks at higher rates every year due to the positive environmental, worker safety, and economical impacts. Europe today uses approximately 45-40% UV ink with the remaining 55-60% of shops using solvent- or water-based inks. In Latin American, Central America, and Asia, solvent inks are used more than 60% of the time. Due to lower cost per gallon, lower labor costs, and lower environmental controls for smaller users, the wide spread use of UV inks is limited in these areas.


Past use of UV inks

It is easy to see that converting to UV inks from solvent-based inks has tremendous impact on the reduction of harmful VOCs being emitted into the air and the safety of the printer. In relation to today’s environmental concerns, screen printers who have adopted UV ink technology have lead the way in positively impacting the environment and should not go unrecognized. Both the offset and flexograhics industries have been much slower in adopting UV ink technology.


Today’s inks

One of the advantages of UV ink over solvent- or water-based inks is the elimination of the need for oven-type dryers to evaporate the water or solvent in the ink. Additional advantages include the following:

• fewer emissions of solvents and air pollutants (less toxic to the environment and the press operator)

• less energy needed to dry each color

• less energy needed to keep the overall workspace cooler

• less floor space required for equipment

• faster overall processing, resulting in cost reductions



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