EB Flex Packaging
EB is a safe, sustainable green technology that is continually finding new applications. Developing new EB applications can be found in new CI flexo and offset press developments targeting the printing/coating of flexible packaging substrates.
Improvements in flexo printing; improved anilox, quick change sleeves, HD digital plates, offering bolder graphics and higher-quality printing, has made flexo a high quality competitor to gravure and offset. Offset is being offered in a CI press design with quick mount plate and blanket sleeves to present a new challenge to flexo.
UV and EB technologies are well known and accepted in the graphic arts industry. Both have gained market share due to their ability to print sharply and deliver high quality graphics that are dry off press, eco-friendly zero VOC, and excellent in abrasion, chemical and product resistance.
Other attributes include energy savings, open time, increased productivity, no fire hazard, and the ability to recycle printed and coated substrates. UV narrow web flexo is commonly used to print/coat food and pharmaceutical paper, plastic, shrink, and static labeling.
Flexible packaging printing substrates consist overwhelmingly of thin films of plastic, paper, and laminates rather than the paper and paperboard that dominate litho printing.
The CI (central impression) drum press design has been essential to the effective handling and printing of hard to handle flexible film substrates.
Flexible packaging is predominately printed by the flexo process with a large volume directed to food packaging. Solvent and water-based inks and varnishes dominate. EB inks and coatings, as opposed to UV, are considered to be advantageous for food packaging, because unlike UV, they are photoinitiator free, and can be easily formulated using materials that are fast curing, and low in-migration potential.
Flexible packaging film substrates are generally printed in a wide web format. UV has not been adopted here because of UV curing induced heat distortion, and registration concerns.
EB flexo last down opaque whites have been successfully commercialized, and are typically applied via a flexo unit or coater station at the end of a gravure, litho or flexo press, just before an EB processor.