A product that combines UV LED curing technology with low migration food compliant chemistry has earned its company the Flexographic Technical Association’s Technical Innovation Award.
EkoCure ANCORA was about five years in the making, according to Guillaume Clement, vice president of Flint Group Narrow Web, which developed the product. The innovation fits “with our commitment to support food compliant labels and packaging, enables converters to grow their business with short run flexible food packaging,” he says.
The UV LED curing process involved in the technology has taken hold of the industry. “We see UV LED as the future—it addresses printer economics, brand owner concerns for food packaging safety and the industry’s drive for more sustainable solutions that use less energy and create less waste,” says Niklas Olsson, Flint Group’s global brand manager for the Narrow Web division.
“Today, low migration UV curable inks are used widely across central Europe, and we feel the pull for the products expanding into Western Europe, the US, Latin America and Asia,” Olsson tells flexography.org. “This technology has grown exponentially and growth will continue – for sure.
The demand comes from global brand owners as they extend their requirements in other regions, but is also being gradually supported by local regulations. Additionally, demand for these inks is coming from cosmetic and pharmaceutical applications.
Kelly Kolliopoulos, FGNW’s global marketing director, says that low migration, ultraviolet LED technologies are a fundamental process to produce short run flexible food packaging cost effectively. The technology enables “printers to address brand owners’ growing demands for shorter and shorter runs with as quick as 24-hour turnaround,” she says, adding that the innovation “opens up a new market for narrow web converters.”
EkoCure ANCORA delivers low migration properties, suitable for the most stringent food label and packaging applications, at high print speeds exceeding 150 m/min or 500 fpm while ensuring aspect over the lifetime of LED lamps, claims the Luxembourg-based company.
The combination offers all the economic benefits of UV LED curing, including better press uptime and productivity, and adherence with local regulations, according to Olsson. As reported by Label and Narrow Web magazine, “today’s low migration UV inks and varnishes are developed so that when correctly applied and cured, onto the correct choice of substrate, the legal migration limits are met.”
Olsson tells the magazine: “Nevertheless, no ink or varnish supplier can guarantee that the formulated migration levels will always be achieved in practice, as so many practical factors have an impact. The printing ink or varnish manufacturer actually has only an obligation to formulate an ink, which when applied and cured under the correct conditions, should enable the end user to be in compliance with the framework regulation.”
While converters in North America were quick to adopt UV LED technology, their European equivalents have been more hesitant—solely because of the market demand for low migration ink technology. Despite this, flexographic inks continue to gain momentum; they are now seen as one of the significant advances in the printing inks market with a noteworthy financial return. As products like EkoCure ANCORA demonstrate, innovations in flexographic printing continue to improve upon versatility, rapid production and lower costs.
In its November report, Flexographic Inks: Technologies and Global Markets, BCC Research estimates the market to reach $10.3 billion by 2017 and $13.1 billion by 2022, reflecting a 5.0% CAGR. For an in-depth analysis of the global flexographic ink market by resin type, technology, end-use industry and region, and much more, download the free report overview.