The old adage is, if you really want to know what is happening in the world of print, talk to the ink manufacturer. And as always, this does ring true. I met with Phil Jackman recently at SunJet who are one of our founder exhibitors at the InPrint Show and we discussed development and industrial printing.
So who is SunJet?
“SunJet is the focused global ink jet division of Sun Chemical and is a leading supplier of premium, high-quality inkjet inks for graphics, industrial, commercial and packaging print applications. We have strong technical capabilities and industry knowledge by leveraging the market strength and experience of our parent company, Sun Chemical and DIC of Japan. As digital technology alters the traditional print business, SunJet is a leader in developing new inkjet technologies for emerging markets. SunJet works closely with printer OEMs, print head manufacturers, end users and brand managers to develop inks that work specifically to meet market demands and with the latest inkjet printing technology.”
So what are you showing at InPrint?
“As the world’s largest ink manufacturer, which has a considerable track record in analogue printing especially in packaging, industrial and screen printing, we are able to collaborate with our own analogue experts to create revolutionary inkjet products for current and future needs.
A particular inkjet technology we are very excited about is called ‘Aquacure’. This is a functional aqueous ink technology that utilises water and UV chemistry to deliver the benefits of both elements. The UV component delivers excellent adhesion to a wide range of substrates, superb flexibility, durability and jetting reliability, whilst the water component delivers a low dry film weight, low odour, an improved health and safety profile as well as an extensive colour gamut.
In combining the two ink chemistries a more complex two stage drying and curing process is required, as a result there is a need to dry the print to remove the aqueous component before exposing it to UV.
The innovation of Aquacure not only delivers application benefits, it also has low VOC’s and is sustainable, only utilising 20-30% from non-renewable sources.
Due to a large portion of the ink evaporating before curing, the final film is only 2 or 3 microns versus 8-15 microns that would be normal in 100% UV inkjet - so it looks and feels like a finish that could only previously be achieved with flexo or offset. Aquacure will enable inkjet in flexible packaging and other conventional print markets with enormous market potential, which are currently untouched by inkjet.”
So this could really bring inkjet into the flexible packaging sector. How do you go about selling this?
“Yes it could really be a game changer. This new breakthrough functional water-based ink technology is the first inkjet solution that offers a true like for like on media performance and appearance when compared to conventional packaging print. As part of Sun Chemical we are working with key stakeholders including brand owners and converters in the packaging world to generate exposure and market pull for this technology, whilst also establishing and working with OEM’s on delivering this technology to the market.
What else for InPrint?
“Industrial printing ink is interesting as it adds design and function to a product. We already operate in industrial markets in the analogue world and have a number of screen printing products. We are also interested in introducing inkjet into these markets; sometimes this could be a combination solution utilising different print methods. Quite often screen printing is the best process at delivering some key properties or functionality. You could however get the decoration from inkjet and the functionality from screen or another analogue processes via primers or over print varnishes. That is the traditional industrial print in its core definition – adding design or function as part of a manufacturing process of a product. This also encompasses packaging and décor which we have a strong presence in the analogue world and increasingly so in inkjet.”
Where is technology developing?
“We are working extensively on food packaging and have award winning low migration UV inkjet technology for labels and packaging. This has also enabled us to develop inkjet chemistry suitable for direct printing of food and beverage containers. Beyond food packaging, inkjet is already being used within production lines across the world. For SunJet this means directly onto products such as consumer goods, white goods, coffee machines, washing machines, car instruments, furniture and flooring are already being done using combination analogue and digital technologies so deploying both technologies often makes sense and a company such ours has both sets of competences to be able to generate the best possible results.”
Is hybrid equipment the future for industrial printing?
“We have already discussed hybrid ink chemistry but most people refer to the print processes when mentioning hybrid. In the same way that the labels market has several hybrid press solutions combining inkjet and flexo, other markets such as décor (furniture and flooring) can also benefit from a dual approach. The design is applied by inkjet but in order to make the surface as robust as possible the only way is to use an over-varnish or overlay to create a wear layer. There is a huge desire in wood and vinyl flooring industries to have digital technology as it is increasingly difficult to make money with short run gravure. A digital solution would have to be part of an existing process in flooring and so the inkjet chemistry must be fully compliant and compatible with existing processes such as post print lamination. Inkjet could play a small role of only a few linear meters in a 100 m production line for example but hybrid has a place for now in industrial printing by working to the strengths of both technologies.”