Over sixty members from the Surface Coatings Australia Association [SCAA] and the Australian Institute of Packaging [AIP] turned out on a cold June night to attend a joint technical meeting arranged to discuss the application of water based inks and application of technology in packaging prepress workflows.
Those who attended would more than likely taken a look at the containers of breakfast ingredients the next morning or for those still unable to quit their cigarette packets.
Gary Mort, Business Development Manager, SIEGWERK INK Packaging led the discussion and displayed that he has amassed immense knowledge over his thirty years in the industry.
What are the emerging uses for water based inks was the theme of Gary’s address.
Not a lot seemed to be the message, as the first indication was that there has been little innovation and marketing coupled with limited supplies of acrylic resins.
Furthermore printers could not achieve the needed attributes for high quality printing and meet the expectations of customers. There was more to come.
Water based ink does not give off emissions but apart from that is harsh on the environment. The residue is a prescribed waste and can not be sent to landfill, because of the residual nasties.
In application processes the machines have to be cleaned immediately otherwise the ink will dry with deleterious effects.
Gary explained that in corrugated printing the cost to clean the machine is greater than the cost of ink and that water based inks does not currently work with plastics packaging.
So how come water based ink is available? Because when you have the technology you can get high quality results, particularly on short run applications.
Overseas seven  colour post print offers preprint quality this is available due to technological advance and greater populations enhancing the competition.
Water based inks have an affinity with aluminium and is great for corrugated paperboard packages. The stand out is high volume beer cartons, but the variable quality of the paperboard that is used for the manufacture of the containers is a downside.
The use of technology was demonstrated with an example of pizza and some breakfast cereal boxes made from lower quality brown paperboard boxes that are white inked on the outer surface and then overprinted with the coloured graphics.
Paper cups for take away beverages are another burgeoning market segment and a target market is paperboard containers for milk and other beverages.
When dealing with packaging that is used in food the inks need to be compatible with the product and the processing and filling systems.
Some things that are not food but put in the mouth are cigarettes, and the regulatory authorities have delivered water based inks a bonus.
The specifications for the mandated warning graphics demand exceptional quality easily achieved by water based inks.
Interestingly tobacco companies are at the forefront of quality and safety for packaging and some advances in pollution reduction are coming with the development of water soluble filters.
In Germany the aluminium “silver paper” universal in cigarette packs is being made using water based inks.
The future of water based inks that seemed doomed at the start of the doctor’s address seems assured as the demands by flexible packaging users are high.
While the current technology will not deliver and it may take three to five years to achieve the ink manufacturers are unrelenting in the desire to meet customers demand
Paul Haggett, Business Development Manager, Kirk Group then took on the task of enlightening the audience about the application of technology in packaging prepress workflows with particular emphasis on digital applications.
It was basically a tutorial on keeping track of expensive artwork and protecting the integrity of your brand.
Digital Asset Management [DAM] and Brand Guardianship [BG] was the overarching message from Paul.
DAM will eliminate inconsistencies and control the variables, because it improves viewing conditions, supply processes and controls not achievable with hard copy artwork.
Haggett said “success depends on intimate understanding of process capabilities” and then explained the steps needed to achieve the possible outturn.
In what he called printing by numbers companies can develop an outcome focused workflow, not achievable with analogue technology.
Like looking at a distant suburban landscape the display screen was filled with little boxes that in finality proved that DAM takes weeks to achieve the final sign off on an application whereas using previous hand to hand hard copy samples would take the same number of months.
The knowledge that the colours and graphics of a company brand will be exact in every repeat application comes from this new brand guardianship deliverable by Digital Asset Management.
Some developing technologies will improve DAM beyond even the most optimistic consideration.
Certified PDF is becoming the global language and new file distribution technologies is allowing for files hereinbefore too big to send via cyberspace to be just another attachment.
Remote proofing is now possible and is a major cost saving in the process of new graphics. No longer do companies need to allocate a major component of capital for couriers to move artwork between departments and players with all the associated risks.
It was damn well worth braving the elements to hear from two eminent exponents of their art.
The presenters were thanked and gifted by the Victorian Chair of SCAA Adrian Thomas. Llewellyn Stephens the President of AIP took the opportunity to present a certificate of office to Lisa Fiumara of Nestle who was recently appointed as a member.