Toray Graphics has reported that UK based Classic Colours has transitioned virtually all of its ink production from conventional oil based offset inks to more environmentally sound UV curable waterless offset inks. The company occupies a 5000 square foot facility operated by eight employees plus the management team. The company produces about 70 tonnes of ink annually.
‘Back in 1989, as my employment with an ink manufacturer was coming to an end, I was approached by a Swedish company representative who arrived with a box of waterless inks from Japan,’ explained David Grey, managing director. ‘I was intrigued by the idea and suggested to my employer that we conduct a development project. Upon receiving a flat ‘no’ to the request, I decided to start my own business as one of the first ink manufacturers in Europe to provide waterless offset inks. Thus Classic Colours was born!’
The Classic Colours relationship with Toray, now in its 28th year, has been an important element in the company’s success with waterless offset inks. The company also works closely with a number of press manufacturers including Codimag and KBA. Classic Colours’ distribution network includes Marks-3zet, also a Toray distributor, and many other companies worldwide.
‘When we started, the bulk of our manufacturing was conventional oil based inks,’ David added, ‘but within a few years we were about 50/50 waterless and conventional. These days, our production is almost exclusively waterless offset inks, and most are UV curable.
In addition to higher quality and more efficient printing on plastics, David points out that waterless offset has many other benefits.
‘Obviously,’ he stated, ‘reduction of water usage is a key one. The rollers in the press last longer because you eliminate the chemicals that cause the corrosion of bearings and also affect the roller compounds. Perhaps most importantly, it is the simplicity of the operation. Once you have taken on the initial learning curve, the waterless printing process is much less complex than water based offset printing. Another great advantage is that a flexo press operator familiar with operating anilox inking can easily make the transition to anilox inked waterless offset printing; flexography doesn’t use dampening solution either, and the operator won’t need to learn about ink/water balance.
Classic Colours is also developing a new ink, its UniVersal-LM family of products. ‘These new ink formulations can be cured with all lamp types, including Mercury-UV, Iron/Gallium low energy UV, and LED-UV, which is increasingly popular,’ David said. ‘In the near future, many printing plants will have mixed curing technology, especially as they begin upgrading their operations to LED cooler cure UV. With the UniVersal-LM family of inks, they will have no worries about errors when using the wrong ink for the curing system.’
UniVersal-LM inks combine Classic Colours’ proven waterless ink formulations with special photo initiators that will cure under different lights and that have extremely low migration. ‘Many of our customers are using our inks for label printing, and they want to be able to expand into applications such as sensitive food packaging,’ David reported. ‘We are in the process of testing these low migration inks with a number of analytical laboratories, and early results have been excellent. Prior to going to market next year, we hope to have the appropriate certifications that will give customers the confidence that low migration standards will be meet. UniVersal-LM will be available as process and Pantone colours, as well as silver and gold. We think these inks will be a game-changer for waterless offset, and we’re excited about their prospects. Our thanks go to Codimag and Toray for their help in producing test samples for laboratory analysis.’
David pointed out that an added advantage of UniVersal-LM inks is that they are not restricted to projects that require food grade inks. ‘Operations can switch between food-grade and other applications seamlessly,’ he said, ‘without the need for time consuming wash ups between jobs since all the inks used are food grade.’