From its humble beginnings in 1971, with a rented press and a borrowed binder in an abandoned millwork factory in Pewaukee, Wisconsin, Quad Graphics has grown to become a $4.8 billion global provider of print and digital communications. Today, the company has approximately 24,500 employees working from approximately 60 locations in North America, Latin America and Europe.
A key to the company's success is its emphasis on seamlessly integrated services from data management and creative development through electronic imaging, print production and distribution. This includes manufacturing its own printing inks – not only offset and gravure, but also metallic and fluorescent inks and invisible inks used as security markings. The company even produces glow-in-the-dark inks based on a proprietary blend of varnish and crystals that absorb and store ultraviolet (UV) light and release a specific wavelength (color) depending on the type of crystal used.
Quad Graphics' Chemical Research/Technology (CR/T) division is responsible for all facets of ink production, from R&D through formulation and manufacturing. Environmentally friendly offset inks with renewable content as high as 27 percent are manufactured at a fully integrated facility in Hartford, WI, while solvent-based gravure inks are produced at a manufacturing facility located in Martinsburg, WV. At both facilities, pigment for producing various colors is received in bulk bags weighing from 600 to 2000 lb (272 to 907 kg) apiece, which are emptied and conveyed into mixing tanks using a bulk bag unloading system from Flexicon Corp.
Offset Inks Formulated For Sustainability
Using the highest quality materials and state-of-the-art processing facilities, CR/T began formulating and manufacturing its EnviroTech offset inks in 1982. “These inks have renewable resource content, including vegetable oils and pine resin, of approximately 27 percent – well above the industry standard of minimum 20 percent,” said Charlie Buckett, Manufacturing Manager at the Hartford facility.
“Offset printing is done with four different colored inks applied in a photographically generated dot pattern,” Buckett explained. “The inks, known as CMYK, are Cyan (blue), Magenta (red), Yellow and Key (black, the color to which the others are keyed). Cyan, Magenta and Yellow are produced from correspondingly colored pigments, Key from carbon black.”
Upon delivery to the Hartford, WI facility, the bulk bags are loaded into Flexicon bulk bag dischargers, one dedicated for each of four pigment colors. Each model BFC discharger is equipped with an electric hoist affixed to a trolley that rides on a cantilevered I-beam, allowing bags to be raised from floor level and rolled into the frame without the use of a forklift.
Pigment powders are notoriously difficult to handle, with physical properties that cause packing, caking, smearing and high amounts of dust. To deal with these conditions, design features of the material handling system must be properly engineered and carefully selected. To eliminate dust and promote flow while discharging, a manual Spout-Lock clamp ring is raised pneumatically by a Tele-Tube telescoping tube, allowing the operator to make a high-integrity, sealed connection with the bag spout. The telescoping tube, with a 6 in. (15 cm) OD vent port for interface with a customer designed dust collector, maintains constant downward tension on the bag as it empties/elongates, promoting complete discharge of the non-free flowing pigment into a 9 cu ft (0.25 cu m) capacity Type “T” pyramidal floor hopper measuring 32 in. (81cm) square by 42 in. (107cm) high. The dischargers are constructed of stainless steel and include a Power Cincher flow control valve for regulating flow and permitting dust-free retying of partially emptied bags.