High prices and reduced availability of isopropyl alcohol (IPA)/Effective alcohol-reduced or alcohol-free printing is possible/Retrofitting solutions made by technotrans for long-term cost-savings
The coronavirus crisis has a massive effect on the printing industry. Apart from a sharp drop in orders, users of offset printing systems also complain about the soaring costs for IPA, a problem which is strongly aggravated by the reduced availability of this type of alcohol for industrial applications. As a result, alternative solutions, such as substitutes or concepts for alcohol-reduced or even alcohol-free printing, become increasingly sought after. In the long run, appropriate technological solutions for reducing the use of IPA can lead to cost-savings and more sustainable production processes. This is why technotrans SE from Sassenberg in Germany recommends using effective dampening solution filtration systems and implementing a high level of process standardisation.
"Alcohol-reduced printing is an ongoing hot topic which has become even more important due to the current health crisis," explains Ulrich Meitinger, Area Sales Manager of technotrans. Numerous chemical companies have started producing medical products, e.g. disinfectants, instead of their usual products. The availability of IPA on an international level is low and the price per litre has multiplied. The only solution to this problem is to use an appropriate technology: "With an appropriate solution, printing companies can save costs and become independent from variations of the IPA market," says Meitinger.
Isopropyl alcohol has a range of positive characteristics making it ideal for offset printing. It reduces the surface tension, thereby facilitating the dampening solution transport, has a cooling effect when it evaporates and it also has a cleaning effect. In order to reduce the use of IPA and to ensure the constant quality of the printing results, several factors must be taken into consideration – from constant water quality and a precise IPA measurement up to the ink unit temperature control. "Printing companies can noticeably reduce their IPA use simply by filtering their dampening solution and by ensuring constant water quality," explains Meitinger.
Dampening solution fine filtration for stable printing processes
An improved dampening solution filtration prevents, or at least considerably slows down, the contamination of the dampening solution circuit. In addition, effective filtration also increases the service life of the dampening solution and decreases the water, IPA and additives consumption. This, in turn, reduces the maintenance requirements of the printing press and dampening solution system as well as the associated costs. With its alpha.line and beta.line series, technotrans offers highly efficient dampening solution filtration systems that can be easily retrofitted to the existing equipment.
"The general rule is as follows: The higher the standardisation level is, the more stable the processes will be – and this starts with the water," explains Meitinger. Water with insufficient total hardness can cause problems with the emulsifying properties and drying process, whereas excessively hard water causes permanent deposits in the dampening and ink units. Reverse osmosis with a subsequent hardness increase helps users to achieve constant water hardness. Then, the dampening solution additive can be optimally adjusted in view of a constant water quality so that it remains uninfluenced by inconsistent water constituents.
Alcohol-free printing with a substitute dosing solution
It is also possible to print without any isopropyl alcohol at all. However, this is a rather complex task as the dosing systems needs to be converted for the use of alcohol substitutes. In addition, the roller surfaces and settings as well as the inks must be optimised. technotrans offers suitable products that are precisely adapted to specific applications and production conditions.
In addition, technotrans also offers extensive system tests to evaluate the current state and to identify the potential areas of optimisation, e.g. concerning the use of IPA. "Sometimes, systems are not checked and maintained as regularly as they should so that the results of previous measurements are no longer correct due to soiling and other factors," says Meitinger. Exact measurements, however, ensure the sustainable optimisation of processes which, in turn, leads to quantifiable energy and resource savings.
For further information, please visit www.technotrans.com