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Greening Print Marketing: Are Digital, Solvent-Based Inks “Green”?

verzerk)Last time, I listed four characteristics of digital print production that endears it to those looking to green their print marketing. The fact that one of the three primary ink types used by digital presses (HP’s ElectroInk) uses solvent, however, may raise suspicion.

Solvent-based inks are used in other digital production processes—most visibly wide-format inkjet used for applications like banners, vehicle wraps, and signage—and those presses release VOCs and require venting. What makes ElectroInk different?

From an environmental marketing perspective, not all solvents are created equal. In the wide-format/display environment, the inks need to perform two Herculean tasks.

  1. They must adhere securely to non-paper substrates like vinyl.
  2. They often must be lightfast.

If they are used for applications like vehicle wraps, they must do both.

In order for an ink to provide both of these characteristics—lightfastness and adherence to non-paper substrates—the solvents must be much “harsher” than those used to in marketing and commercial print. Although HP “Indigo” presses can print on non-paper substrates, the applications for which it is used are “wide-format light.” The inks are not being asked to perform at the same level as those for wide-format applications.

Thus, while inks for liquid toner presses (HP) do use “inks” made of pigment suspended in solvent, those solvents are so mild that they do not have the same environmental impact as their wide-format cousins.

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Written by Heidi Tolliver-Walker

Heidi Tolliver-Walker has been a commercial and digital printing industry analyst, feature writer, columnist, editor, and author for nearly 20 years. She is known for her meticulous research and no-nonsense perspective. In addition to having written thousands of industry articles for top industry publications, she and Richard Romano have been the face of the well-respected industry research firm The Industry Measure (TrendWatch Graphic Arts) for many years. In her more than 13-year tenure with the firm, she has written countless reports on digital printing, 1:1 (personalized) printing, Web-to-print, personalized URLs, and other hot industry applications. She is also a long-time contributing editor and columnist for Printing News, for which she writes two monthly columns, including "Personal Effects," which features monthly analysis of 1:1 (personalized) printing case studies. She is also the author of three titles for the National Association of Printing Leadership: Designer's Printing Companion, Ink & Color: A Printer's Guide, and Diversifying Via Value-Added Services. As a small, niche publisher (Strong Tower Publishing), she is active in utilizing these technologies in her own business, as well.

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