Andrew Oransky, director of product management, Roland DGA Corp.: Suppliers have broadened their portfolios by offering more colors which create opportunities for end users to produce effects that have never been possible before. One great example of this is Roland’s Metallic Silver ECO-SOL MAX ink which can be used to create silver, bronze, gold, and a huge range of other metallic colors. It is the first time that inkjet printers have been able to produce the kinds of metallic colors that offset and flexo printers have had available to them for years.
Randy Paar, display graphics product manager, Oce North America: Continued sensitivity by end users about sustainability have helped drive demand for printing that has a lesser impact on the environment. As a result, eco-solvent printing continues to be the solvent-of-choice but newer technologies are also gaining market share like UV curable and latex.
Patrick Ryan, general manager, Seiko Instruments USA Inc.: The biggest trend in solvent ink and low-solvent technology continues to be the evolution towards a “greener” type of ink. However, the industry has been inundated with inflated manufacturer claims and misinformation during this period to a point where many shop owners don’t really know what they have or what they are buying.
The term “green” in our market really has two meanings: better for the environment and better for employee health. You really cannot have a “greener” ink unless you are making improvements on both sides of this equation. Each evolution of outdoor printing technology, whether it is UV-curable inks or Latex inks or Eco-solvent inks, makes some stride towards one or both of these goals. Unfortunately, while companies promote the improvements or upsides of their latest technology, they often neglect to inform the market about the downsides of the technology.
UV-curable inks are often viewed as “greener” due to their lower VOC levels, and often promoted as “greener” than low-solvent type inks. While there are some improved environmental aspects to UV-curable inks (and of course, they have a distinct advantage going directly on rigid substrates), the increased air-borne irritants for employees is often ignored. Same thing goes for Latex-type inks; they are often promoted as “greener” because the inks have less VOC’s and are therefore better for the environment. But the reduced color gamut, lack of media compatibility and the exact airborne output for vinyl in a high temperature dryer is often not revealed. Nor is the massive amount of energy (and CO2 byproducts) required to power these types of devices.
Even within the low-solvent community, many manufacturers continue to promote their products as not requiring air filtration just because the odor of the solvents is now so low. Others duck the issue completely by saying they do not make recommendations on air filtration for their devices—indirectly implying that none is needed.
As many people know, very few low-solvent printers today need air-filtration to meet OSHA or other local clean air standards—so the issue is really an employee issue for now. Although today’s solvent inks are safer and more green than ever, much of the industry’s confusion about the real benefits of new technologies vs. solvent can be blamed on murky marketing campaigns for the newer technologies.
So the biggest change in the solvent market will be the evolution towards “greener” ink types, but it will likely be paired with unclear benefits and costs. So buyers need to be careful as they appraise new technology claims.