Brummen, The Netherlands – Ink logistics specialist GSE is providing expertise to help reduce the environmental impact of flexible packaging by joining the PRETHINK INK network – a group of printing industry suppliers promoting the adoption of water-based inks.
Currently, solvent-based inks are the standard choice for flexible packaging products such as pouches, sachets and wrapping. However, eco-friendlier, safer water-based flexo and gravure inks now offer comparable performance and competitive costs. Excellent print quality, matching that of solvent inks, is possible thanks to improvements in resin technology, ink formulations and drying systems. As well as reducing the carbon footprint of flexible packaging, water-based inks emit lower levels of volatile organic compounds (VOCs), making them safer to work with and enabling easier regulatory compliance.
Established by BASF, the PRETHINK INK network is dedicated to raising awareness about the capabilities of water-based technology, and providing guidance on best practice. The network includes companies from across the packaging value chain, including machine and tooling manufacturers, raw materials providers, ink makers, packaging converters and brand owners.
Ink logistics optimizes efficiency of water-based workflow
As a provider of solutions such as dispensing systems and software, GSE offers expertise to help flexible packaging printers transition to water-based inks smoothly while reducing operating costs.
Anne Lourens, managing director, GSE, comments: “GSE’s company mission is to reduce the environmental impact of ink and ink-related resources in the graphics industry. This fits perfectly with PRETHINK INK’s initiative to encourage the use of water-based inks, so we are delighted to join the network.
“Managing water-based inks is less complex and less costly than is the case for solvent inks. Packaging printers working with solvent-based inks must incur extra expense complying with stricter safety regulations, to minimize the risk of explosion and fire. Their dispensing systems must come with explosion-proof features, such as an overpressure system for controls and grounding devices for machine components, plus, for EU customers, 114-ATEX approval.
“However, facilities built for water-based ink don’t need to install explosion-proofing or grounding against electrostatic discharge – driving down expenditure for those who make the switch.”
GSE’s solutions enable packaging and label converters to eliminate ink-related waste at all stages of the workflow. Modular ink dispensing systems automate the preparation of special brand spot colours with repeatable accuracy, in exact volumes required. This allows reduced ink costs, using base colours without the need for expensive ready-mixed inks, and simpler logistics. Dispensers can be extended with extra base-colour barrels, to manage two ink series simultaneously, if desired.
Software packages are available for streamlining ink-related processes such as re-using inks returned from the press, automating replenishment of base inks, traceability of ink batches in the supply chain, generating stock and costing reports, creating new colour recipes and correcting existing recipes.
‘Lean’ approach to adopting new ink series
Mr. Lourens advises flexible packaging printers seeking to adopt water-based inks to approach the switch as an organizational change process and “think lean”.
“First of all, ask yourself, ‘What is the current state of your ink management and what should be the future state?’ To reduce costs and increase profitability, it is key to reduce wastes in your future workflows. Selecting the right hardware and ink management software is therefore paramount.”
PRETHINK INK network partners also include Actega, Comexi Group, Druckfarben, Follmann, Grupo Consist, NNZ, Quimovil, Saueressig, Silbo and UTECO Group. For more details about the PRETHINK INK network, and the benefits of water-based inks for flexible packaging, visit: https://dispersions-resins.basf.com/emea/en/Waterbased-inks.html.