The importance of sustainability is growing for consumers, retailers and brands across many industries, and together with the legislation for reducing the emission of volatile organic compounds (VOCs), brands are moving towards water-based inks. By Michal Lodej.

The flexo market is showing a general trend for many flexible packaging companies to make a gradual move towards using more solvent-free inks in which water-based inks play a major role in filling the gap that is left. For brands too, packaging remains an important element to consider when improving sustainability.

Providing customers with enhanced sustainability of their processes and end products is the ultimate goal of Sun Chemical’s sustainability policy. To achieve that, the company uses rigorous development processes and analytical tools to evaluate and improve the eco-efficiency of both its manufacturing procedures and products. When raw material selection is concerned, key terms like ‘biodegradable’, ‘bio-renewable’, ‘bio-based’ or ‘eco-friendly’ have been driving Sun Chemical’s R&D teams. The company’s SunVisto AquaGreen water-based inks meet these standards as they are already certified as OK Compost and can feature more than 50% bio-based renewable materials sourced from plants.

The AquaGreen range employs significantly higher levels of renewable, naturally sourced materials than previous market offerings while providing the same level of on-press and end-use performance. The range is resistant to abrasion, water and grease without any compromise to quality, function or performance. Furthermore, the ink mileage is equal or better, enabling businesses to do more while meeting sustainability demands. AquaGreen allows packaging to comply with international compostability standards and complies to food and sensitive packaging requirements and regulations.

Organisations such as NAPIM already rate water-based inks highly due to water’s renewable properties, but by offering higher levels of bio-renewable content, while also being water-based, Sun Chemical’s AquaGreen inks demonstrate an outstanding standard of sustainability. The inks enable flexo printers to bring value to customers, aligning with sustainability goals.’

Narrow web specialist Pulse Roll Label Products is focused on offering its customers inks and varnishes that deliver outstanding print results and also meet the needs of today’s printers by enhancing efficiencies and thus increasing market competitiveness. Following the success of its flagship UV flexo ink system, PureTone, it was a natural progression for the R&D team at Pulse Roll Label Products to develop a water-based flexo ink system, PureAqua, using a similar concept and technology that could deliver optimal print performance and colour consistency.

Mikaela Harding, product manager, said, ‘Although the majority of our business is UV flexo, many of our customers also use water-based flexo technology for printing on multiple substrates. We understand the need for colour consistency on a global scale and the value of digital colour management as proved with our PureTone UV flexo ink system. We wanted to be able to offer a single ink system that could achieve the highest level of colour consistency and print quality for water-based flexo, and on all substrates. Our high-strength PureAqua ink system builds on the concept of offering a total colour management solution and is unique in the label market in that it’s formulated for use on coated and uncoated papers, thermal papers and films.’

At the Harwich site of SATO UK, a leader in barcode printing, labelling, and EPC/RFID solutions, Martin Clackett, print production manager, understands the importance of brand colour control. The company already uses PureTone inks for its UV flexo operation and SATO UK has now adopted the PureAqua ink system for its water-based flexo printing business. Mr Clackett said, ‘We made the move to PureAqua to support our drive to achieve the highest quality of water-based flexo printing on both standard and thermal papers. The PureAqua ink system means that we need to use only one ink system for both substrates making it more efficient and cost-effective, whilst at the same time providing optimal print performance and accurate colour to satisfy our water-based flexo requirements. Combined with the PureAqua varnishes that we also run, we have a complete water-based flexo solution to complement our whole UK labelling business.’

Cost savings can also be achieved by using pre-press proofing equipment to reduce production downtime and minimise waste on press. Water-based flexo metallic inks complement the company’s PureAqua portfolio as do a selection of water-based flexo varnishes and a primer.