It is far too long since I brought you some tidings of the work that still continues in the Print laboratory at Monash (formerly the National Print Laboratory) and within the CRC Smartprint.
As the research centre moves into a commercialisation phase, a good deal of work is being concentrated in formalising intellectual property and in focusing on those projects that have the highest levels of strategic or commercial success for the participants in the centre and for Australia as a whole.
We now have a commercialisation manager, Jane Evans, who hails from a previous CRC, and her principal task is to seek contacts for the commercialisation of research emanating from the centre.
We have also been conducting a number of contract research projects for companies well outside the normal scope of the centre, with some form of printing as the glue that brings the research capabilities of the centre and those companies together.
The Print laboratory at Monash University has been invaluable in conducting those contract projects, and I remain quite amazed that not more companies have taken the opportunity to utilise the facilities of this excellent operation.
During the course of those projects, we have looked at the issues of printability on a range of most unlikely surfaces, integrated the use of printing technology and electronics, and have studied the forces that affect the adhesion of labels under adverse storage conditions, to name just a few.
Interestingly it is the label industry has stepped up to the plate and has made significant use of the print laboratory over the past months where a range of investigations that have concentrated on glass surfaces, label construction, and adhesive properties have been concluded. Perhaps as the icing on the cake, the Label and Tag Manufacturer’s Association print awards judging was conducted in the print laboratory at the beginning of March, as the space provides the almost perfect venue for judging with scientifically controlled lighting conditions and tight climate control.
In an earlier article I introduced you to Professor Garnier, the charming French Canadian who now runs the Print lab, and perhaps a few more words on his broad swathe of capabilities may be pertinent. Prior to coming to Australia, Garnier was a Senior Research Scientist, at Kimberly-Clark Corporation, Wisconsin, USA, and before that Adjunct Professor, Department of Chemical Engineering in McGill University, Canada. He has a broad knowledge of printing and of materials that are printed on, and can add his considerable weight of experience in chemical engineering and surface physics to all manner of problems that inhabit the printing industry.
Which all means that here is a world-class scientist who knows both sides of technology – from a research perspective, and from the practical application of knowledge in industry.
The original program of printing research, of which I have brought you snippets from time to time, has also been happily bubbling along, and I have just read a super piece of work by one of our chemical engineering students that shines a light on the manner of operation of waterless plates, and shows quite clearly why the process has not been the runaway success that was predicted over twenty years ago.
What she has found is that the magnitude of the forces separating image and non-image areas of the plate is very much smaller in the waterless case than for a traditional litho plate. Thus the separation of image and non-image is less and consequently the blurring of the demarcation lines is more easily achieved with the result that the scumming effect so well known with the waterless plate is relatively easy to incur.
The real treasure from the work is that the research has shown how to increase the separation in physical force terms between image and non-image areas of the waterless plate, which can bring about a much greater ease of operation than that which has dogged the system for decades.
As a long term inkie (and with 50 years in the industry looming just months away, there are not a lot more longer term ones still in harness), the understanding of the physical and chemical happenings at the plate surface that the work has illustrated dawns like a new day. In general, inks for waterless applications have been modified versions of conventional litho products, but with this new knowledge now available, the design of inks to specifically complement the process can be much more readily achieved.
This is but one application that has emerged from the six year journey of the CRC Smartprint. Over the next year, I hope to be able to bring to you some more stories of the outputs from the effort that has gone into the research into printing ….an unheralded industry that remains one of the most important foundations of the nation’s economy.