Louis Chow of Bannershop believes it is important for large format printers to adopt sustainable manufacturing practices designed to preserve the environment
The green movement in recent years has left no sector of business untouched. This is certainly the case for the emerging and rapidly growing large format digital printing (LFDP) industry. As LFDP shifts away from being an expensive corporate novelty to having more affordable mass market applications, its impact on the environment increases and our initiatives become more important for the world.
Traditional solvent inks were known for their unpleasant fumes which were hazardous to employees and serious environmental pollutants. Furthermore, the un-recyclable nature of traditional solvent inks and the volatile organic compounds (VOCs) it left behind was a pollution nightmare which continues after disposal of the media.
As production facilities continue to grow rapidly, employee health and environmental impact are factors a responsible printing facility owner needs to consider. Not only do we need to protect the employees; customers want high quality prints which can be disposed of without harming the environment.
Switching to new printing technology is no easy task. Earlier attempts to use environmentally friendly printing were unsuccessful because of the poor image quality it produced, and the lack of suitable media to match the properties and green aspect of the ink itself.
However, environmentally conscious LFDP companies have taken the efforts to stay committed to the adaptation of sustainable manufacturing practices. Those of us who endured the harsh beginnings are benefiting from the experience and first mover advantages to the inevitable trend towards environmental awareness.
Today, there are many more suitable options available for a green printing facility. Over the years, technology and application of eco-solvent has developed to a point of maturity where solvents are VOC emission and odour free. Their environmental impact has also been reduced with the introduction of more advanced eco-solvents and mild-solvents.
Another technological leap in LFDP is the adaptation of UV curable inks. UV inks and coatings are becoming increasingly popular for digital printing applications because of benefits such as having no VOC emissions, reducing worker exposure to hazardous substances and environmental pollution.
UV inks will not dry during print process before curing, but will dry almost instantly when cured, allow greater production speeds and ensuring consistent print quality. The inks are guaranteed for stock or rigid substrate and are suitable for a wide variety of outdoor and indoor applications.
In terms of materials, in general, LFDP has evolved to be able to cater for the majority of media types, ranging from standard display products through to specialist substrates whose end use might extend beyond the field of conventionally considered print. Whilst coatings and profiles need to be considered to get the best results, solvent-based and UV-curable inks are also able to output a variety of recyclable media.
As customers become more environmentally aware, retail print shops and businesses need to consider using increasingly greener media solutions.
We anticipate consumer demand, government regulations, and printing industry self-policing constraints to dramatically increase in the near future. Businesses are encouraged to search for more.