As digital printing has become more widely used because of its flexibility and cost-effectiveness for short print runs, developing a robust package of consumable fluids for industrial digital printing use has become increasingly important—and increasingly challenging for equipment manufacturers and ink makers.
High-speed digital printing presents a number of challenges, ranging from long-term ink stability to absorbency and dot spread to pre-treatment requirements and more. Different end applications have their own unique challenges. Textiles require high-durability inks but must still maintain the soft feel of the fabric. Graphics might require extreme resistance properties along with strong image quality and color vibrancy. Packaging requires high-definition printing onto a multitude of substrates. In food packaging, compliance to food regulations is a key consideration.
Regardless of the application, as digital printing speeds increase, the demands on the ink used in those applications also increase. Failure that leads to idle digital printing presses is not an option because presses are relied on to run many hours a day.
What goes in the ink and on the substrate (pre- and post-treatment) has become ever more important, especially when printing at very high speeds. Dispersion technology, ink receptive coatings and surface modifiers are all key components that help ensure maximum uptime and desired results. Developing a full consumables package for industrial digital printing requires OEMs and ink makers to work across the chain with partners to make this technical task successful.
Offering Both the Lock and Key
Lubrizol offers key ingredients and support to OEMs and ink manufacturers for the development of consumable packages to enable the success of the final materials across a wide range of applications.
While some companies offer either pretreatments, inks, or in components, Lubrizol is unique in that we provide all the primary chemical components needed to synergize the full system—color dispersions, dispersants, jettable resins, binders, surface modifiers and ink receptive coatings. By having a complete understanding of how all the various parts interact with one another, we are able to design one technology to fit the other technology like a lock and key (with IRT being the lock and ink being the key). This capability enables us to help optimize the whole print system.
Our PrintRite™ ink receptive coatings are substrate pretreatments that enable improved adhesion, wetting and image quality. The interaction between ink and substrate is fundamental to the final performance of the end product. The function of a pretreatment is to ensure the surface functionality matches the chemistry of the ink so they marry together.
A Bridge Between Ink and Substrate
Pretreatments are designed to enable digital printing on a specific substrate, whether film, paper or textiles. Without the pretreatment, digital printing on these types of substrates would not be successful.
Using a corrugated box as an example, the pretreatment acts as a bridge between the ink and substrate so the entire system will work as it should. It controls how the ink droplet wets the substrate, how far it penetrates into it and how the droplets interact between each other, which ultimately controls drying and dot spread, among other things.
For pigment dispersions, Lubrizol has developed enhanced technology that provides improved colloidal stability of the dispersion for much higher print reliability, which is key when printing at very high speeds.
In the packaging industry, Lubrizol has a long history in helping meet performance objectives and regulatory requirements. We use that expertise and technical know-how to enable customers to stay cost competitive in delivering higher value personalization when printing on cardboard boxes and flexible film. We help make the process more cost efficient by choosing and creating the right chemistry with packaging in mind.
We also work closely with customers to assist in their development of full-print ecosystems to ensure performance properties for the end application are met. Lubrizol is committed to continuing to advance polymer technology and tweaking existing technology as needed so their backbone is specifically suited for different kinds of substrates.
Contact a Lubrizol expert to discuss how we can help you develop a full consumable package for industrial digital printing.