The wide format digital printing sector has started to focus heavily on textile printing. This is especially true for on demand applications such as printed interiors and disposable or recyclable fashion, which could soon supplant fast fashion as a concept. Textile and packaging printing are the two areas of print where safety must absolutely be considered from the very beginning of a project. Designers need to be aware of potential toxicities in inks and substrates particularly.
Fortunately Underwriters Laboratories (UL) have developed a certification that industry has broadly accepted. UL Greenguard certification is managed by UL Environment, a dedicated business unit within UL. The Greenguard certification is a tool designers, manufacturers and buyers can use to identify materials and interior products with low chemical emissions. The program ensures that products intended for use indoors meet stringent chemical emissions limits. This not only improves indoor air quality, but also product safety.
Although this certification was originally designed for building materials, finishes and furniture it is increasingly important for the digital printing industry. Greenguard tests for chemical and particle emissions are based on product use. In the case of digitally printed wallpapers for instance, emissions are measured during pasting and hanging, but also once the materials are on the wall. This would include rubbing, washing and even licking to check for toxicity levels. For clothing the testing includes tests to measure skin irritation and related behaviour during wearing.
Several ink manufacturers have had their digital printing inks Greenguard certified, including EFI, HP for both Scitex and Latex inks, and Ricoh. The ranks of UL Greenguard certifications are expanding Fujifilm is joining the club with Greenguard certifications for all fourteen of its Uvijet UV inks. Other manufacturers are following suit.
It is clear that standards such as the Greenguard tests make a difference, and that having a Greenguard certification is a de facto requirement. Companies who want to do business in the wide format digital printing sector, need to be at least aware of it and ideally ensure that their products comply with Greenguard. Certified compliance is a key differentiator for manufacturers. It’s also a means of ensuring that customers stick with branded inks, rather than going for a cheaper generic option that might poison someone or cause them to break out in nasty blisters.
Greenguard certified textiles and wallpapers are also available, although too many manufacturers have yet to get the digital printing message. Designers planning short run or variable data digitally printed interiors projects have to think ahead. The first consideration has to be the materials being used and their compliance or not with Greenguard and other safety standards. Inks are less of a concern because most leading manufacturers working in this space have had their inks certified. Textile manufacturers are also getting the message. But the paper industry, too often in denial about digital print, has been relatively slow to develop paper products for digital printing that can be Greenguard certified. That needs to change.
– Laurel Brunner