When the "IPA-free Package" is launched this summer, Heidelberger Druckmaschinen AG (Heidelberg) will be the only manufacturer to offer a fully comprehensive solution for alcohol-free printing. The package incorporates coordinated machine components, consultancy services, and Saphira consumables. New additions include special dampening rollers with modified surface materials and structures and an extended range of features in the new CombiStar Pro. The package is rounded off by special Saphira dampening solution additives and comprehensive consulting services and will initially be available for the Speedmaster XL 105, SM/CD/CX 102, and XL 75 series for use with conventional inks. Previously installed presses from these series can be upgraded. The solution will be available for other models and for UV print applications by drupa 2012.
For many years, print shops have been searching for ways to reduce the amount of isopropyl alcohol (IPA) used in their operations, a trend that has been boosted by a growing awareness of how this substance impacts on the environment, human health, and the climate in the pressroom. IPA plays an important role in offset printing - it reduces the surface tension of dampening solution, ensures better wetting of rollers and printing plates, and stabilizes the ink-water balance. However, the alcohol evaporates completely into the pressroom and can lead to health complaints for printers such as headaches, dizziness, and eye irritation. IPA is highly flammable and contributes to the formation of ground-level ozone, which is also known as summer smog. Furthermore, IPA is an extra cost factor that is exacerbated by statutory requirements, which vary from country to country. "We want the IPA-free Package to make it easier for our customers to switch to alcohol-free printing and to show that environmentally friendly solutions can also be cost-effective," explains Stephan Plenz, Member of the Management Board responsible for Heidelberg Equipment. There is already very strong interest for this type of solution in Europe, but demand is also growing among customers in Asia and Africa.
New dampening rollers, improved measuring technology, and alcohol substitutes ensure maximum quality
In order for alcohol-free printing to work, water quality must be consistent and exhibit an overall hardness of between 8°dH and 12°dH. If hardness fluctuates, the water needs to be treated, for example in a reverse osmosis plant. The new dampening rollers ensure that a sufficient quantity of dampening solution is very evenly distributed over the printing plate, thereby achieving a steady ink-water balance. The CombiStar Pro peripheral unit is equipped with "Digidos" digital metering technology for dampening solution additives, which achieves an extremely precise metering accuracy of plus/minus 0.1 percent. Integrated into CombiStar Pro is FilterStar with improved components for dampening solution micro filtration, which significantly extends the useful life of the dampening solution. The Prinect Press Center control station gives the printer an overview of dampening solution quality, with developments in temperature, conductivity, and pH value displayed in real time. The CombiStar Pro also shows consumption levels for water, IPA, and dampening solution additive. Low concentrations of IPA may be necessary when printing special colors and spot colors or when using non-absorbent substrates. In such cases, it is advisable to use the optional Alcosmart measuring and metering system.
The experts from Heidelberg worked closely with European customers over several months to test a broad range of alcohol substitutes. The most suitable turned out to be an additive based on glycols. Heidelberg offers IPA substitutes such as these in its Saphira range, which is specifically geared towards the various requirements of commercial and packaging printing. These substitutes are much more cost-effective and also improve print quality, with colors appearing far more vibrant.
Another important part of the "IPA-free Package" is the provision of specialist consulting during startup. This includes the pulling of a specially developed dampening test form for determining the best setting for the roller frame and dampening solution. The quality of process water and dampening solution is also analyzed and press color and dampening profiles are adjusted accordingly.
Bastian Druck, which is based near Trier, southwest Germany, is one example of a print shop that has switched over production on both its Speedmaster XL 105 presses to zero percent IPA. "We set ourselves up as a climate-neutral print shop and are constantly striving to go one step further, not just for our own sake, but because we feel it is our responsibility to do so for our environmentally conscious customers. But words need to be backed up by deeds. Alcohol-free offset printing was clearly the next step," explains Gerrit Schneider, production manager at Bastian Druck. "There are no limitations and we are now printing commercial work, packaging, and labels with far more gloss and color fidelity," says Schneider. By eliminating the use of alcohol, Bastian Druck is not only helping to save the environment, but also save thousands of euros a year.