The marriage of ecology and economics is becoming increasingly obvious and necessary for business. As a result, developers are constantly moving to offer technologies that reduce product life cycle footprints, as well as perform more efficiently for their customers. In the graphics industry the most obvious example of this is digital printing which produces only what is needed, ideally as close as possible to its point of use. However that doesn’t mean that developments in offset printing have been standing still.
Not a week goes by that we don’t hear of another digital printer manufacturer making the switch to LED curing technology for ultra-violet (UV) inks. In the digital printing arena this is most commonly for wide format digital print engines. UV-curable inks stick to pretty much any nonabsorbent substrate including paper and board, wood, PVC, glass, metals and ceramics. They produce minimal VOCs so they don’t need expensive exhaust systems.
Over the last few years we have seen a steady rise in the number of companies making an effort to report their sustainability credentials. This is an excellent trend, confirming that companies are taking responsibility for environmental impact seriously. Mostly this effort is in response to what shareholders and the markets expect, however over time it means that sustainability is coming into sharper focus. Indeed, it’s becoming uncool not to acknowledge the need for sustainability initiatives reporting.
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.
It’s been clear for a couple of years that technology is no longer the primary driver for growth in the graphics industry. Technology is still important, obviously, but these days it is print applications that tend to push innovation the hardest. One such application is the idea of distributed print buying via the cloud, something that various developers, such as HP and EFI, have taken a stab at. There is a lot to be gained from the approach, which allows print buyers to upload their files and order print via the cloud, so that the print can be printed close by. The ecological savings are obvious in that much of this type of on demand work will be digitally printed. And the approach also saves on transport related emissions.