Companies using solvent-based platemaking processes, could see the cost of flexo plates rise by as much as €3 (£2.62) per square meter due to the sharp rise in alcohol prices.

The information comes from a blog written by water-washable plate material and processing machinery manufacturer, Asahi’s technical marketing manager, Dr. Dieter Niederstadt.

In his blog, Dr Niederstadt states:

  • In several European markets, the cost of alcohol has doubled, from 1 to 2 EUR per liter.
  • It typically requires 15 liters of washout solvent per square meter of plate.
  • 20% of that 15 liters is typically alcohol used to remove the black mask layer, meaning an average consumption of 3 liters of alcohol per square meter of plate material.
  • The result is an increase in cost of 3 EUR per square meter of plate material in the solvent wash process.

At the same time, it is true that if a flexographic platemaking operation has a recycling unit on site, it can recover up to 85% of the solvents. This would still mean an extra cost of 45 cents per square meter.

While this impact may still be moderate for flexo plate maker, packaging printers who are currently using solvent-based inking systems have a much bigger burden to carry. Most large industrial ink suppliers currently implement a price surcharge for solvent-based packaging inks around the globe. In addition, it should be mentioned that they cannot guarantee supply if governments decide to redirect products for medical purposes. Whereas flexographic printing can operate with several different inking systems like UV, EB, water and solvent, packaging suppliers such as rotogravure printers are faced with limited choices.