Similarly to bio solvent inks, a mild solvent ink such as eco-solvent ink is a better option for going green. "It [eco-solvent ink] is virtually odorless, contains no VOCs, and, more importantly, doesn't require large amounts of power to dry or cure the ink," stated Fernando Catania, product manager for Roland. "While it was initially introduced as a low-VOC alternative, eco-solvent ink has largely replaced the use of solvents because of its lower environmental impact without sacrificing your selection of media," he continued. "Eco-solvent ink still can be used with wide range of media such as paper, printable fabrics, PET and other non-PVC materials, so you are not limited by material choice.
Overall, the majority of the experts observed the best innovations for becoming greener would be through the means of other ink technologies.
"Green" Solvents? Maybe
With the various advantages and disadvantages of each type of ink technology, the majority of experts feel solvent ink technology would not be a good candidate to compete with other greener inks, but would recommend eco-solvent technology as a better option to compete.
"We are experiencing an increase in sales of eco solvent products," stated Anderson, "and we've released our new textile printers using aqueous inks to provide 'greener' applications, giving our customers options to choose the right application for the needs of their customers."
"We continue to see a huge transition of end-users with solvent inks switching to Roland's eco-solvent ink," said Catania.
Ryan and Salomon, however, have very opposing points of view on the subject. "Solvent technology remains the number one technology for outdoor graphics, and the object of a tremendous amount of R&D," said Ryan. "Almost every company is introducing new, greener solvent inks. While UV and latex inks have certain advantages for certain applications, solvents still offer the best image quality, the best outdoor durability, and the lowest running cost of any technology. And we see none of the current UV or Latex technologies challenging solvent in the near future."
"I think all print technologies will improve their quality as a function of advances in print head and ink technology," Salomon stated. "I believe solvent ink will use its low cost per square foot as its only weapon against declining demand. Beyond cost, there are no reasons for future generations of wide-/grand-format devices to use solvent ink."
"UV curable inks have an environmental edge over solvent due to the absence of VOC's," said Mitchell. "Although solvent inks continue to improve with more renewable raw materials and lower VOCs, UV inks will retain both a productivity and environmental advantage."
"Demand for newer technologies that are less harmful to the environment and worker health, and that replace older, inferior products will continue to rise, not just for printers but in many other industries," said Hecht. "Epson takes pride in designing products with an eye towards the environment and the elimination of harmful substances."
Both HP's Pericot and EFI's Sullivan agree that solvent ink technology would have trouble competing and that UV-curable and latex inks are a better solution for going green. Pericot said: "We feel confident that the UV-curable and Latex ink solutions that we offer for both low- and high-volume customers are a better alternative than solvent and meet our customers' needs from all angles, including versatility of applications—from POP displays to vehicle graphics to building wraps, indoor and outdoor durability, high quality and productivity and reduced environmental impact."
"Not to compete with UV or Latex but there are efforts to improve quality and a greener footprint in certain markets," said Sullivan.
Although solvent ink technology can't currently compete with other greener ink technologies, considering its superior quality and low cost, it is still the most used technology for outdoor graphics.
The Future of Solvent Inks: A Diverse Outlook
While some experts believe solvent ink technology will become phased out, others believe it is a stable technology and still holds a place with clients.
Ryan and Anderson mutually feel solvent ink technology is a stable technology. "Customers still [have] independence and freedom to use almost any material," stated Ryan, "so aggressive adhesion is something they are not willing to give up."
"Solvent technology is a stable, reliable, proven application with a wide range of available media for almost every application," said Anderson.
"Solvent inks still serve as the basis for a multi-billion dollar industry that relies on it to produce many of today's signs," stated Reed. "It's also a proven technology that many businesses will continue to depend on for many years to come."