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The latest news from the ink business includes increasing interest in metallics

Wholly owned subsidiary of Zeller & Gmelin, specialist ink supplier intercolor has extended its uv curing inks with a range of high lustre silvers. They incorporate vacuum metallized pigments (VMP), which the company says “provide a level of metallic brilliance never before possible.” The particles have an exceptionally flat, smooth and reflective surface.

Explained managing director of intercolor Alex Stevenson during the recent Flexo exhibition: “Basically the carrier is coated in a special way to allow the metallized layer to be flaked off in a special process. It is these flat particles that are used in the ink. It takes 1,000-10,000m of carrier foil to produce one kilo of pigment, so it is more expensive than conventional metallic products.”

But in addition to offering a clear advantage in brilliance over other metallic inks, they are claimed to be more economical in use than the other end of the competition – hotfoil or metallized substrates.

The company developed a pc based method of measuring the Lustre Index that is claimed to provide the basis of more effective quality control than was previously possible. Quantifying the level of reflective metallic effect gained by any printer on any substrate, the index is determined taking spectro-photometric readings and feeding that data into the software, which then calculates the ‘index’.

The system “impressed” retailer Tesco to the degree that it appointed the ink maker to monitor the production of silver print for its Tesco Finest range of premium own label products (Converting Today, December issue).

Particles larger

One of the limited suppliers of the VMP dispersions (Metalure) as well as metallic inks (Ultrastar, Topstar) using VMPs is Eckart. Jeff Shea, manager business development, told Converting Today: “The metallic flakes are much larger than conventional pigments. They can be up to 13 microns long, but they are much, much thinner. At around 50nm thick, they can disperse so much easier. A conventional pigment particle is up to 500nm. The flakes orient well and lie flat.”

He added: “We call it printing with micro mirrors.” The range was launched at drupa, but the mix has been refined since then. “Tinting is a more recent addition. We can supply golds.”

UV move

He also admits that the dispersions and inks are not cheap. “But if we are talking comparisons with foil or metallic substrates – for the small percentage areas of packaging using the metallic effect we are looking at an economically viable alternative. For example, in the health and beauty sectors only 10 per cent of the surface is likely to need the metallic effect.

“End users are saying they are looking for these effects, but they are not willing to pay for the more expensive process of either in-line or off line foiling.”

Van Son has made its first move into UV with the UV Base Plus ET range formulated for narrow web flexo printing. Announced at Flexo, the product is supplied in a base scheme format to allow the customer to blend inks for specific press and anilox configurations ranging from 250–1,000lpi. The company says it compares very favourably on cost.

Sun Chemical launched an on-line Customer Care Help Desk during Flexo. Marketing director for UK liquid inks Bob Mittins explained: “This is another significant way we can help our customers save cost by giving them speedy access to technical service and advice wherever and whenever they need it.”

“A considerable amount of work has gone into the service,” he said. “The customer can use an instant ink estimation service to provide costing for a new job.” And, by following a question and answer system, the user has a detailed problem diagnostic and solutions package. “It is a huge step forward in services,” added Bob Mittins. “It’s logical – the idea is that people can get to what they need with the fewest number of clicks.”

Access to level two is subject to approval. Here the customer can ask a question which will be answered within 24 hours.

Latest from Akzo Nobel Inks is its new generation of low odour UV flexo inks. Flexocure Gemini is designed for printing labels and unsupported materials. General manager UK (narrow web) Joe Smith reported: “It has been trialled over the last six months and the results have been fantastic.”

Although it is a little bit more expensive, as the initiators have been specially selected, it is said to allow UV flexo to be used in various applications where low odour is required. Excellent curing properties are claimed, giving improved productivity as high speed printing is possible.

The development and introduction of the “competitively priced” FlexiProof 100 bench-top by RK Print Coat Instruments is said to enable users to simulate flexo printing accurately for all prepress applications. It eliminates the need for pilot runs on presses and allows printers, ink manufacturers and component suppliers to set standard procedures.