Koji Ueno, director and general manager, Toyo Ink Manufacturing America LLC
Q: In what ways do inks serve the total functionality of a package rather than simply acting as decoration?
A: Retort pouch packaging inks offer many aesthetic and functional packaging advantages. Lamination inks, water-based and solvent-based, not only demonstrate high color strength for enhanced visual appeal, but also exhibit low solvent retention and are suitable for boil and retort processing applications. From conductive inks for RFID antenna applications to coatings that shield its contents from harmful UV radiation, growth opportunities continue to take off in myriad directions for flexible packaging materials and applications.
Q: Which substrates or processes prove especially challenging to ink performance, and how do you recommend converters address these difficulties?
A: Toyo’s packaging ink products are capable of working well with a wide array of substrates from conventional OPP and PET to PVDC-coated film, nylon and clear barrier film. Not only do we develop our own resins, but we also work with wholly owned flexo plate companies and partner with printing press and peripheral device manufacturers to improve converting systems.
Q: What’s the biggest challenge facing inks in the flexible packaging segment and how are ink manufacturers approaching this problem?
A: We realize there are regional and country-specific differences in package printing applications and substrates used. In recent years, we’ve also seen a strong shift toward more sustainable practices in product and process development and a reduction of emissions such as volatile organic compounds and CO2. To meet these environmental demands from the industry and public at large is a big challenge for global ink manufacturers, but it is also our responsibility as good corporate citizens. In October 2008, Toyo Ink Mfg. America established a new factory in Bryan, Texas, to meet North American demand for packaging inks and adhesives.
Q: Flexo printing would be nothing were it not for the functionality and formulation of modern inks. What improvements in functionality and formulation do you see driving continued innovations in flexo inks of the future?
A: Efforts to add functionality and protect the environment are the driving forces behind the future of flexographic printing. The Toyo Ink Group has been developing a wide variety of water-based flexographic inks. Formulated to meet the performance demands of general-purpose flexible packaging, our flexo inks provide excellent lamination on a wide variety of plastic films such as OPP, PET, and nylon. They are also well suited for high-definition printing, receiving favorable user reviews. Toyo Ink also offers a breakthrough product lineup of water-based flexo inks that are capable of meeting strict performance conditions of retort processing. Moreover, Toyo Ink recently introduced the UV PowerFLEX flexographic ink series for the North American market. UV PowerFLEX combines the printability, efficiency and stability for which Toyo inks are acclaimed with the energy savings associated with UV curing.
Toyo Ink Mfg. America LLC