The printing industry works hard to keep its products environmentally friendly. At Print Solutions we are passionate about working within ethical guidelines but obviously with established efficient methods and materials in place, keeping things completely green can be difficult.
Information is key so where the use of plastics and chemicals in print are concerned we like to keep you informed with as much information as we can, when we can.
As a company Print Solutions have a responsibility of balancing the desires what the client needs to what is practical and achievable on budget. One key area commonly faced in print is the need to compare the use of laminates or UV coating as protective layers onto substrates. Clients who require products to be protected in some way, mainly from premature wear and tear or just general protection from weather or ambient working conditions etc, would need to consider these methods of coating to ensure protection.
UV coating and lamination are currently both recognised as the only options for protecting and preserving printed documents. Both processes can greatly extend the lifespan and durability of a printed product and both do it efficiently but they are very different processes.
LAMINATION AND UV COATING EXPLAINED:
Lamination is an established method of protecting printed materials. It is applied using either a hot or cold process. The process involves a plastic film which is compressed at high pressure (around 6bar) across the surface of printed or un-printed paper. The film acts as a physical barrier between the material, and protects against water and physical damage.
Lamination fllms range in finishes such as: Gloss, Matt, Soft Touch Velvet, embossed, foil, hologram or metallics
UV coating is a process whereby a polymer resin changes from a liquid to solid once introduced to ultraviolet light, the best way to imagine it is that the surface of the paper is coated in a liquid plastic which hardens under a UV light source. This hardened coat provides a protective layer which not only protects the printed work but can also increase the vibrancy and richness of its colours.
It is strongly advised not to use any form of UV coating on any product that may touch food. The chemicals in the coating can react with the organic cellular structure of food, rendering it a risk when ingested. So UV varnishing is not to be used on the surface of items where there is contact with food such as packaging, point of sale or display.
UV coating finishes are extremely limited and are best appreciated in a gloss finish. Although matt and specialist soft touch varnishes are available, the team here at Print Solutions are not happy with the materials we’ve tested and would not recommend using them until their development has been fully refined and improved. We have noticed on certain substrates an ‘orange peel’ effect is noticeable, this is a pattern that can form on the surface of the paper resembling the skin of an orange. Recesses and light embossed random patterns can be seen. There are many reasons for this, more often than not it is the paper but it can also be the thickness of the liquid applied, the ambient temperature or humidity, it can be old varnish that is past its best or a reaction to toner if printed digitally. When encountered all factors can be frustrating but with new varnishes being developed all the time, the problem is likely to be rectified in time. For this reason, we are not in a position to fully endorse UV coating other than as a general protective coating.
Can coated sheets be printed?
In the past Digital print was problematic with adhesion to the surface of laminate film. Print Solutions supply stock which we have tested to run on most digital machines. We are happy with the testing we have conducted and although no guarantees can be given, generally speaking it is not considered to be a problem.
UV coating is compatible with most modern digital print machines. Some machines using a waxed based toner such as Ricoh require an additional infra-red lamp for curing.
Lamination: While this isn’t always going to be the case, the harder outer layer is usually made from PET plastic (Polyethylene Terephthalate) and the softer inner layer is made out of EVA plastic (Ethylene-Vinyl Acetate).
Different kinds of plastic can degrade at different times, but the average time for PET plastic to completely degrade is at least 450 years. It can even take 1000 years to biodegrade
Bio-degradable film is available, we are actively working with the industry to push for an affordable alternative to be more widely available by 2020, The likelihood is that we will start to see an increase of environmental friendly lamination films becoming available sooner rather than later.
UV coating: Instead of lamination the UV coating provides a very thin layer of liquid to the sheet surface. Most UV coatings recommended are a non-harmful liquid varnish made in Europe containing no VOC (volatile organic compound) emissions. As mentioned previously, in the case of food safety, UV varnish should not come into contact with any raw or precooked organics.
It is important to note that the European Parliament has recently voted for a complete ban on single-use plastics across the union in a bid to stop pollution of the oceans. The UK will have to adopt the same rules if the ban becomes a fully-fledged directive before the end of any Brexit transition period.
With consumers looking for plastic free alternatives, Print Solutions is dedicated to deliver products and services which support the customers needs and are conscious of keeping our products environmentally ethical and sympathetic to our planet.
Lamination is a dry product and completely safe to be handled in any condition. It is non combustible. Operation of equipment should be undertaken by a trained individual as both heat and pressure are used in the process.
UV varnishes can irritate the skin and should not come into contact with eyes or be ingested. Hands should be gloved when handling varnishes and disposed of straight after use. UV varnishes can transfer invisibly to clothing and will not evaporate so can be picked up on skin easily. It is advisable to wear protective clothing, eye wear and gloves when using varnishes.
There are wider choices of finishes and effects when laminating. UV coating is advantageous for a high gloss and and enhanced vibrant finish which is perfect for products like photographic images, but beware, ‘orange peeling’ can threaten the overall finished look of the print when UV’d.
UV coating has traditionally had a poor reputation with open lamp UV coating machines heating up the printed paper running the potential risk of fires. Furthermore some UV coating machines from the Far East can produce an odour of ozone around the machine with possible toxic reactions for staff. Modern cold, closed lamp systems mean no heat transfer to the paper and practically no odour or possible toxic reactions for staff.