Reach for ebeam29 September 2016
Reach for ebeam
Reach for ebeam
Debuted at drupa, a prototype product called EID, the world’s first compact ebeam curing system for inkjet inks, was demonstated. Converting Today speaks to Karl Swanson, vice-president of global sales at ebeam Technologies, to learn more about the new process and how it might impact the coating and laminating process.
Previously available only in the form of massive and expensive systems, ebeam Technologies has made its electron-beam-curing (EBC) technology accessible for use with inks, varnishes, coatings and laminating adhesives. As a world-first for inkjet applications, EBC completely removes the need for photoinitiators, saving time, resources and ultimately cost. When used to cure contactless inkjet inks, food safety concerns are eliminated making the inkjet process suitable for food packaging, and competitive against existing technologies.
How will this new EBC process affect the coating and laminating process?
Karl Swanson: At drupa, our partner Uteco demonstrated a pioneering CI Flexo press with in-line laminating. It was the first time ebeam technology had been used to cure the ink and the adhesive in a single process – all of which takes place at print speeds.
A laminating adhesive is applied on the wet inks then a plastic film is laminated on to the adhesive. This makes it possible for the material to be printed, cured, laminated and slit on a single streamlined production process. It was the unique combination of ebeam curable inks, ebeam curable adhesives and our ebeam Broadbeam curing technology that made this possible.
The real driver of this technology is that it enables an efficient and agile production process, but in transitioning to EB, cured inks and adhesives, essential food safety and environmental regulations are also satisfied. This printing method emits no volatile organic compounds, and does not require the use of photoinitiators, which is a concern when printing food-contact materials.
If you look at the status quo, even though operations are typically under one roof, the printing and converting lines stand alone. You rewind the print run then take it to the laminating line for further processing. Solventless laminating requires at least a day under controlled conditions, after which the packaging can be slit or further converted as required. Uteco’s demonstration shows how this can be achieved with ebeam technologies in a single line with instant curing and no wait before converting.
How are brands using laminating and coating with the packaging they are developing?
Brands are requesting shorter batches, enabling smaller work-in-process inventory and greater product differentiation. Having instant curing and more streamlined, agile processes helps make this level of brand innovation possible for Flexo and, of course, digital print.
What are current pressure points when using coating or laminating for packaging products?
From our perspective, the push comes from the need to cut out VOCs from the laminating process. If you package food, it’s also desirable to print directly on to the substrate while avoiding the risk of introducing migrants to food-contact materials.
How is changing customer demand influencing the development and use of laminating and coating?
Fast-moving consumer brands require a more agile process to serve a supply-responsive chain. Our ebeam-enabled production lines streamline the process simplifying changes between runs without compromising speed. Unlike other technologies, EBC equipment does not need to be warmed up, so the ink and laminates can be cured immediately, and the cure remains consistent because electron energy is precisely controlled throughout. There’s no concern about incomplete curing resulting in migration issues.
What do you think the future of laminating and coating technologies looks like?
There will no doubt continue to be new environmental and food safety requirements that drive the push for new approaches. For example, I just returned from China, and the need for converters to address stringent emerging environmental regulations was clear.
It’s a given that our customers are looking for things to simplify their operations. I’d add that, looking ahead, it is also desirable for OEMs to find a small set of technologies so they can master it for a range of applications.
There will be replacement of older equipment with more agile processes. Companies may need to have multiple print methods that will include a significant ramp up of digital print. EBC technology introduces a single laminating method for all feeds that address regulatory demands and future challenges without compromising performance.