Mark Hill, assistant director, Research and Development, and vice president, Liquid Technology, INX International
Q:What trends in inks do you see having the greatest influence in flexible packaging and what role does your company play in these movements?
A:The basic trend in the marketplace is in reducing the size, thickness and other properties of a flexible package. Films are getting thinner and lighter, essentially trying to drive a cost advantage over other forms of packaging. Included in this trend are new films with unique barrier properties. Inks need to be developed to adhere to these unique surfaces-like transparent oxide coatings which have good moisture and oxygen barrier properties. INX is developing proprietary resin systems which are tailored to adhere to these and other substrates.
Q:How do your inks specifically answer environmental and sustainability challenges?
A:At INX, we develop environmentally preferred products using sound environmental design principles. Our product design methodology considers impacts to the environment, including: resource conservation, prevention of global warming, protection of the ecosystem, conservation of air quality, conservation of water quality, reduction and recycling of waste, and avoidance or reduced use of hazardous materials. These initiatives are considered at each step of the product design process from material purchasing, manufacturing, shipping and delivery, printing and consumption, and disposal through recycling of printed material.
Q:Which films or flexible packaging processes present specific challenges to ink absorption and how do your products provide solutions to these problems?
A:The newer barrier films are particularly tricky when it comes to adhesion. Shrink films like oriented polystyrene (OPS) and polylactic acid (PLA) can be attacked by solvent-based inks. Clear barrier films have a surface that can be hard to adhere to as well. The way the flexible packaging market is now, you may run one grade of OPP film today and a completely different grade the next day, depending upon availability.
Printers are being challenged to find better, lower cost ways to put a package together and the ink company must have an ink that works on everything. One particular process which has been challenging is developing inks that can print at the high press speeds now being run.
Q:What breakthroughs in ink technology lie just around the corner and how do you see your company participating in this trend?
A:INX is developing new inks which will perform well at much higher speeds than were once achievable. Being able to keep an ink wet and “open” at high press speeds while still getting good solvent retention numbers, good block resistance and good adhesion to plastics is a real challenge. INX is developing products that dry fast, yet print well for these types of applications.
We’re also on the cutting edge when it comes to developing high color strength inks for certain markets. By pushing the envelope in pigment concentration, we can print thinner and thinner ink films which allow for higher press speeds, and better printability.