PRINTING INK TECHNOLOGY - HISTORY AND FUTURE TRENDS

Very little exist on history of ink manufacture because of 2 factors:
Early progress in ink development  was very slow, with several centuries passing between      improvements.
Most printers keep their formulations secret.


First inks developed: writing inks 2500 B.C. by Egyptian and Chinese cultures.
1st pigment  was carbon residue called also lamp black- made by burning oil.
Carbon then stirred into solution of water and gum (sticky water soluble extract from  plants)
Carbon particles did not dissolve, created colloidal suspension.
Such ink – endurance through 30 centuries- attributed to carbon ‘s resistance to light and moisture.


3rd century- China- tree sap mixed with ground –up insects to create reddish dye
used for printing from wooden block.
4th or 5th century –Chinese Wei-Tang- refined lamp black, water, various gums to create ink
Tang collected lampblack by burning oil under funnel shaped cover.
Cover brushed off onto paper, mixed with gums to form a paste.
Paste applied to wooden blocks for printing.
Sometimes formed crayon like sticks for writing: paste was poured into molds.
This type of ink- widely used in the Orient next 1,000 years.
Made its way from India to Europe, called India Ink.


14th century- Europe: India Ink does not work well with metal plates being developed.
Remedy this problem: European printers used linseed oil- extracted from flax plants.

15th century Gutenberg boiled the linseed oil and natural resin prior to adding pigment.
Result: Ink insoluble in water and enhanced ink bonding to page.
Gutenberg’ s ink formula cooking resin and linseed oil- created varnish to hold the lampblack- prototype of modern inks.
Gutenberg’ s ink formula was altered only modestly next 300 years.

18th  century English printer John Baskerville- developed blacker and more velvety ink.
18th  century English patent first granted for making colored inks.
Until 19th century printers manufactured their own inks.

19th century rapid technological advance, improvement of ink chemistry accelerated.
Agents for speeding ink drying rates.
Stiffness of varnishes became controllable.
Vegetable oils replaced varnishes on newspaper presses.



TWENTIETH CENTURY
20th century sophisticated era- synthetic pigments and resins.
Last 60 years- dramatic change of ink technology.
(Different – new drying  or ink setting methods) new printing/drying equipment.
or ink invented before new necessary equipment development of new substrates.


PAST TECHNOLOGY OF 20th CENTURY

Heatset inks

Heatset Printing: Invention of heatset inks – 1930’s.
Till then- most paste ink printing-sheetfed  (mechanism of drying = oxidation 6-12 hrs).
Slow drying , because of that no fast runs.
Heatset inks : drying by combination of evaporation and  penetration.
Contained 50% of a blend of petroleum hydrocarbons- narrow boiling range close to volatility of kerosene.
Hard resins (phenol-formaldehyde) were used instead of drying oils as binders, producing hard film.
Invention of web presses, speed 700 ft/min. Dried with metal drums heated with steam.

Steamset Inks

In the 1940’s - new types of inks and drying systems: Superheated stem blown on the web
Operating principle of inks: setting & drying through absorption of water vapor from steam to ink. Resin,  soluble in glycol precipitates with water, bind the pigment to the substrate.
These inks were widely used - low odor products (paper bread bags, waxed after printing).

Web Offset Inks

In the 1950’s litho presses redesigned from sheet-fed to web-fed.
Higher printing speed, different litho ink formulations.
Dried in seconds - by evaporation and penetration.
Similar solvents that were used in heatset letterpress, good water/ink balance, new synthetic resins - resisting fountain solution, maintaining good rheology of emulsified ink.
Inks- lower in tack to avoid picking.

Flexographic Film Inks

In the early 1960’s developed flexo ink able to adhere to new polyethylene films.
Flexo inks adhering to PE films for packaging markets.
New resin chemistry similar to NYLON- modified polyamide resins soluble in alcohol and hydrocarbons  (for bread bags). Polyamide flexo inks became standard in packaging.

Energy Curing Inks

In the late 1960’s UV (ultraviolet) and EB (electron beam) curing inks invented.
No solvent, no resin- dried “cured” instantly upon UV or EB energy.
Stable until exposed to appropriate energy- could be left on press for extended time.
UV inks- monomers & prepolymers of unsaturated chemicals, and photoinitiator.
The EB inks- no photoinitiator – higher energy of electron beam.
New equipment needed- to safely cure these inks on press.
New elastomer materials for rollers and blankets (old would be attacked with new formulations). Safehandling-skin, eye irritation.
Slower curing of black, or metallic inks.

High Speed Litho Inks

In the early 1980’s litho press doubled operational speed  to 2,000ft /min (10m/s).
Lower tack, changed rheology - to avoid damage of paper surface.
Attention to rate and type of emulsification.
New types of binder resins for achieving proper emulsification.
New design of dryers- longer (1 sec dwelling time).
Rate of diffusion of heatset solvent through partially dried ink films.



PRESENT TRENDS

Driving force in 1990’s :
Increasing regulatory pressures
Increasing local geographic and global competition
Competition from other communication media
Demand for improved production efficiency, consistent quality of printing

Many challenges to litho ink technology:
Current litho press speeds are 3,000 ft/min (15m/s).
Controlled dot gain and good uniformity of printed solids are needed.
Control of misting is needed (increases with speed of presses).
Wider water tolerance is desired.
Improvement of drying rates of ink in order to minimize the increased length of drying equipment.

Packaging:
Flexo water based technology has grown greatly, some problems remain:
Increased use of four color process demands better rheological control of formulations, dot gain control, color reproduction.
Increased drying speed, improving wetting and adhesion.
Research needed in innovative vehicle chemistry.

UV-EB Technology
Reduction or elimination of monomers (source of residual odor, may be cause of skin, eye irritation).
Controlled oligomer and vehicle rheology.
Choice of proper vehicle material to change viscosity .
Development of new reactive chemicals to improve the economics.



NEW MILLENNIUM

Lithographic Inks
Conventional litho  market two-fluid printing –stable- a lot of presses installed.
Trends - waterless litho - single fluid without fountain solution.
New types of ink chemistry.
Press cooling systems will appear.
Coldset ink on uncoated paper- first candidate for self dampening litho.

Publication Gravure
Solvent based with the use of toluene - dominant - solvent recovery system - a must.
Replacement of existing hydrocarbon inks:
Water based inks -slower drying rates, press modifications required.
Phase-change inks (hot melts) -actively researched, needs proper rheology.
Must be run at elevated temperature – may limit the use of inks to new equipment
Change of hot-melts rheology to achieve good print properties.

Packaging Gravure
Water based inks more than 50% market.
Gift wraps- 100% water based.
Solvent recovery and incineration as control methods.

Flexo-Publication
Water based to replace letterpress newspaper printing.
Competition with Litho coldset market .

Flexo- Packaging
Increase its market share due to increased quality of 4-color process and good economics
Penetration of UV flexo inks, UV water reducible will continue to grow - narrow web, label printing.

Screen Printing
Continue to grow –specialized nature of inks, in unique processes.
UV inks, both water reducible and 100% solids will increase.

Digital Printing
Electrographic printing – Indigo, Xeikon, Docucolor, Spontane, various color copiers,
using “toner “ type of inks, both liquid and powder type.
Ink  jet printing –continue to grow strongly.
Water based jet inks both dye and pigment type.
Other types- thermal transfer, sublimation, hot melt.