Flexo & UV Flexo Inks

By Catherine Diamond, Associate Editor | April 10, 2013

Today’s flexo printers have a wide range of options in this ever-evolving market.

Labels aren’t much use to anyone without high-quality, lasting inks. In the flexo market, considerations such as performance, sustainability and economics influence converters’ choice of ink – arguably one of the most important choices they’ll make while creating a label. Here, we ask manufacturers of flexo and UV flexo inks to share information on their products for this market. Their wide-ranging options are as follows:

Actega WIT
ACTEGA WIT’s PharmaFlex Signature series of inks are now available for UV flexo applications. This premium, high strength, low viscosity ink line is ideal for high definition print quality. By offering G7-accurate and balanced color, this line can increase press-side productivity by  reducing color-matching downtime. All line colors are formulated to achieve density targets on one anilox line count and volume, thereby eliminating guesswork and reducing anilox inventory.  ACTEGA WIT also offers a full line of adhesives and coatings formulated to complement the PharmaFlex Signature series.

The PharmaFlex Signature series was developed to be what the company calls “PlateSafe, PeopleSafe.”  This means that this series of inks reduces the dot gain and plate softening that is said to be typical of most UV printing inks on the market. It also means that PharmaFlex Signature inks do not contain aggressive skin sensitizers, benzophenone, BPA, melamine, or fetotoxic or other known carcinogenic compounds. All formulations are in compliance with CONEG requirements for lead, cadmium, mercury, and hexavalent chromium as well as ASTM F963-86, Standard Consumer Safety Specifications on toy safety, the US Federal Standard 16CFR1303 and California Proposition 65 regulations.

Flint Group
Flint Group’s UV flexo ink called Flexocure Force brings together superb print quality, high color strength, excellent adhesion to a wide range of materials, improved viscosity with no foaming, and excellent combination print properties, the company says. 

EkoCure F is a UV LED ink technology designed for UV flexo applications. It is a high performance ink formulated using bio-renewable resin technology. These inks were designed to offer excellent color strength and mileage, excellent adhesion on many materials, and to be run at high printing speeds. They also support industry sustainability initiatives, providing both economical and ecological benefits.

BioCure F is a UV flexo ink system formulated with bio-renewable resin technology that provides high quaility print and press performance. Further benefits include good viscosity and run ability, high color strength, consistent density, adhesion to multiple substrates, and low foaming.

Flexocure Ancora is a true low migration UV flexo ink designed specifically for food packaging applications. It was designed to ensure that final packaging construction passes the most stringent migration tests with absolutely no compromise in performance. Flexocure Ancora is formulated for label and shrink applications. Special opaque whites are also available. Flexocure XS Opaque Whites are designed for shrink applications and were designed to exhibit very low, pourable viscosity, excellent adhesion, fast cure and great printability with various shrink films. 

Sun Chemical
Sun Chemical offers a complete line of inks and coatings designed to meet  the printing needs of all narrow web and packaging printers through its Solaris System. The full range includes products for virtually all narrow web applications from self-adhesive and in-mold labels to wraparounds, shrink sleeves, tubes, and food and pharmaceutical packaging.

The Solaris series of inks can be tailored to a printer’s specific needs no matter what substrate is utilized including films, foils, papers, PS papers, plastics, vinyl, top-coated polyethylene, polypropylene and more. Special effects inks and sensory coatings within the Solaris range offer added benefits that enhance consumer brand appeal, such as interactive color shifting inks and coatings which engage the senses.

Sun Chemical also offers tactile, velvet feel and soft feel coatings along with interactive effects, such as glow-in-the-dark or photochromic inks and coatings. In partnership with ScentSational Technologies, Sun Chemical can help brand owners interact with consumers using the sense of smell through SunScent water-based coatings. Available in stock or custom aromas, SunScent coatings can be used for all types of print and can be applied as a spot coating and done in-line. Sun Chemical scent marketing experts can help brand owners and package printers develop a unique fragrance for their brand.

In September 2012, Fujifilm North America Corporation’s Graphic Systems Division introduced Waterbase Flexo Inks for paper and film. This new product for flexographic printing was designed to provide printers with consistent high quality results while reducing labor and variability factors inherent with current water-based flexo inks.

Manufactured at Fujifilm’s Graphic Systems Division facility in Kansas City, MO, USA, the new inks feature many benefits critical for printers, including:

Pour-and-print: Since there is no need for additives prior to printing, labor and time is reduced and results are more consistent.

Minimal “on press” adjustments: In comparison to predecessor inks, there is a reduced need for monitoring during printing so results are consistent from start to finish, job-to-job.

Low viscosity: Inks are easier to use and ink transfer is improved, delivering brighter, cleaner results.
Strong color density: Ink mileage is increased and output is improved.

Alden & Ott
Founded in 1957 by Joseph Alden and Henry Ott, Alden & Ott Printing Ink Company is now a 2nd generation ink company. In 2012, Alden & Ott’s UV product engineers developed the UV Eco systems for flexographic and offset applications that comply with US and European low-migration/low odor food packaging guidelines. The UV Flexo Eco ink system has an average viscosity of 600-800 cps while maintaining excellent color strength on 800 line/3.0 bcm anilox rolls for solids and up to 1200 line/1.5 bcm process inks. Alden & Ott’s UV research and marketing teams are in the final stages of releasing a UV flexo shrink sleeve ink. The inks are slated to be available in the 2nd quarter of this year.

Alden & Ott’s water-based flexographic ink department started in 1999 with several industry veterans. The flexographic research team engineered a product line of self-crosslinking systems that include the X-lam laminating system, X-shrink inks for shrink sleeve applications, and X-force surface print film inks. The “X” ink systems eliminate the need for press side catalyst additives decreasing the overall cost of the job, as well as disposal of the catalyzed inks. All the “X” ink systems work well in heat resistant and water resistant printing applications while maintaining clean printability.

Eckart (Altana)
Eckart has introduced a new line of Rotostar UV flexo inks for the narrow and mid web markets:
Rotostar UV FP 66 flexo inks are easy to handle and demonstrate improved press performance with better trapping, faster cure and lower foaming, while displaying superior brilliance and opacity.  The FP 66 Silver offers 9-month shelf life stability, which the company says is a new standard for the market. 

Rotostar UV FP75 flexo inks – silver, rich and pale gold – have been developed to address increasing regulatory demands and the desire for lower migration products. These inks have been formulated with specific raw materials that are designed to reduce the level of migrating components, as well as reducing any odor from the cured printed products.

Rotostar UV FPG silver, a food packaging grade, low-migration ink, has been developed to comply with stricter European regulatory requirements for indirect food contact. The product is manufactured under Good Manufacturing Principles (GMP) using dedicated equipment to prevent contamination. 

Eckart’s Rotostar UV Shrink Silver ink is based on advanced pigment technology that allows for cleaner, more vibrant metallic effects that maintain their brilliance even after going through the film shrinking process. Specifically designed for shrink sleeve applications, printers can create metallic decorative effects in-line as part of the printing process, offering economic advantageous versus other types of decorating technologies.   

Environmental Inks (Siegwerk EI)
Environmental Inks is a member of the Siegwerk group (Siegwerk EI), and as part of the Siegwerk global network, Siegwerk EI aims to provide a vast ink product and service portfolio that includes water-based, solvent-based, energy curable and specialty inks and coatings for  a variety of printing processes including flexographic, rotogravure, and offset printing. 

Siegwerk is investing heavily in its UV manufacturing capabilities through an expansion. This investment will increase Siegwerk EI’s current UV manufacturing capacity and will allow Siegwerk EI to have a dedicated low migration production cell regionally. Siegwerk EI offers a full line of low migration flexographic inks suitable for use on food and pharmaceutical packaging.  Among its offerings are Sicura Flex 39-10 LM – a free radical UV flexographic ink series designed for use on food packaging and labels; and Sicura Flex 39-20 LM – a free radical UV flexographic ink series designed for the most demanding or challenging food and pharmaceutical packaging applications. In addition to these products, Siegwerk EI also offers LM gloss and matte varnishes, as well as LM metallic inks encompassing the entire spectrum of UV printing processes. 

Siegwerk EI has worked to not only provide a technology-forward product offering, but also a value-added service offering. One portion of this service offering is FastMatch. FastMatch is a refined approach to existing color matching technology. It utilizes the X-Rite Color Master web-based software in combination with proprietary sets of optimized ink calibrations internally developed by Siegwerk EI specialists.

FastMatch aims to help converters reduce downtime. Less downtime translates into less waste and quicker turnover time between jobs. FastMatch allows converters to have the same color matching expertise as if an in-plant technician were on site. If an ink comes in out of specification press-side, a rapid and consistent option is available to allow for the press to be up and running in less time. Siegwerk EI FastMatch specialists work with the converter to properly train the appropriate personnel on the use of the software.

INX International Ink Co.
Following a tradition of R&D excellence and manufacturing innovative products for the marketplace, INX International Ink Co. has introduced the INXFlex CLM II Low Migration inks.

These premium quality UV-curable flexographic inks have been formulated several ways. They also possess low migration characteristics for indirect food contact and are in compliance with major directives. This includes Swiss Ordinance 817.023.21; the EuPIA inventory list; directive 2002/72/EC and subsequent amendments; commission regulations (EC) 1935/2004 and 2023/2006; and the Resolution of Council of Europe on packaging inks AP (2005)2.

The INXFlex UV CLM II line is available in 14 inks and boasts a number of benefits. These inks produce minimal plate swell with all platemaking technologies, including digital and fast-curing photopolymers. They combine superior gloss and transparency while allowing for maximum pigment load and low, pourable viscosity while maintaining production press speeds.

Printers looking for versatility will find it with INXFlex CLM II inks. They work well with prime label, metalized polyesters including PE, PP, OPP and Mylar, as well as with SBS, clay and foil coated paper and boards, Tyvek and Kimdura. In addition to offering outstanding product resistance, the inks also have excellent hold on paperstocks and low draize value.

INX has several recommendations for INXFlex UV CLM II line of inks, including using ProCure UV LE (low extractable) coatings with them. Adequate UV curing is required, and cure speeds are dependent upon film thickness, substrates and the type and condition of the UV curing equipment.

Arpro M-Tec
Arpro M-Tec is a water-based flexographic specialty effects ink manufacturer located in Morganton, NC, USA. Among its flexo ink offerings us Meta-Flexeco B, a mid-range, particle-size leafing silver. Specifically formulated for blending with surfactant-based dispersions. Low-cost, exceptional press performance and compatibility make this ink an economical choice. Meta-Flexeen S is a small particle size, leafing aluminum pigment that provides a brilliant sheen effect and utilizes a balanced chemistry that provides excellent trapping capabilities and printing performance. Meta-Flex Golds is a small particle size, leafing bronze/copper pigment that creates a rich lustrous gold effect; according to the company, it is a perfect choice when trapping colors, printing fine type and vignettes. It is available in various color shades.

Insignia Technologies Develops Opportunities in Food Packaging Sensor Market
By David Savastano, Contributing Editor

The market for advanced sensor technologies for food packaging is a robust one, as consumers and food companies alike see value in learning whether food remains fresh. These sensors are a natural fit for printing, as smart packaging utilizing color changing inks and pigments can show that the status of a product.

This is where Insignia Technologies comes in. Formed in August 2012 as the result of a merger between Dundee-based Insigniapack Ltd., who developed a range of intelligent inks, and Novas Technologies Ltd., a Strathclyde University spin-out company from the Intelligent Plastics proof-of-concept project, Insignia Technologies is making headway in this market.

By using color changing inks and pigments, Insignia Technologies sees excellent potential for packaging that shows consumers when the pack has been opened.

“The product vision for the company is to deliver a series of packaging solutions which enable customers across all of the market segments to meet the unquestionable demand for packaging which both informs consumers about the quality and freshness of products, but which also has wider applications in ensuring packaging integrity in goods packaged using Modified Atmosphere,” says Erik Smyth, Insignia Technologies’ founding director.

“In consumer goods this will primarily help remind shoppers when a pack was opened by providing a clear ‘consume within’ timer,” Smyth adds.

Insignia Technologies’ intelligent plastics allow the company to make fully automated timers that can be set to time out within time frames ranging from a few minutes, up to several months. Its major products at the moment are the embedded timer, a standalone timer and deli timers, with a range of longer-term timers currently in the final stages of development.

An innovative label which is easily incorporated into a film lid, the embedded label is activated when the consumer opens the packet and triggers a timer to show a strong color change as the food within loses freshness. The embedded timer is the result of a series of technological innovations, leading to the creation of an intelligent label.

“By combining the work that was being done on intelligent inks and plastics, Insignia has developed the ability to extrude our pigments into a plastic film while retaining the color changing abilities,” Smyth says. “The intelligent film is converted into a label, which is embedded in the pack.”

Smyth noted that food packaging is the initial market that is being targeted, which is particularly topical at the moment given the concerns over consumer confidence, quality and food waste.

“The Insignia label allows consumers to better understand how long their food has been open and therefore how suitable it is to eat,” he added. “Other areas in which we believe the product will be successful include the cosmetic and pharmaceutical sectors when using products that have expiry dates of up to six months, as well as for food products that are stored at ambient temperature and have set consume within dates.”

Smyth said that the interest generated by the technology to date has been extremely encouraging.

“Insignia is in advanced discussions with several of the major UK supermarkets, and has developed relationships with supermarkets and branded food producers in the US and Europe,” he adds. “The recent launch of the embedded timer has helped to drive interest and led to substantial coverage in both the mainstream press and trade journals.”

Smyth says that the outlook for Insignia Technologies is excellent.

“Given the strong levels of interest that the company has generated globally to date, Insignia is confident that it can establish itself as the forerunner in the ‘consume within’ timers, offering a cost effective and easy to use solution,” Smyth concludes.
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