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Test the Waters

(April/May 2019) posted on Thu May 09, 2019

There’s never been a better time to hop aboard the water-based inks train.

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By Lon Winters

With regard to specialty inks, the variety and selection out there is incredible. Some water-based special-effect inks, including metallic, color-shifting shimmers, sparkles, and glitters, are impressive because the water, binders, and resins flash off or melt down and really allow the “particles” to shine. Also available are water-based high-density inks, clears, puff, foil and flock adhesives, and resists. The options are limitless.

Mastering Water-Based Inks on Press
As far as water-based technology has come, printers can’t just put the inks in their screens and expect them to behave like plastisol. Gervais comments, “With water-based inks, sometimes you need to do different things and sometimes you need to do things differently. That’s not a play on words – it’s just how it is.” Understanding the difference as well as the specific requirements at each step will give you the experience to succeed with water-based systems.

Danny Gruninger from Denver Print House made a commitment last year to become a 100-percent PVC-free, water-based shop. The company currently runs four automatics. Due to Denver’s dry climate and high elevation, several items needed to be addressed prior to making the transition. Controlling shop conditions is a high priority with water-based inks. Airflow, heat, and humidity play a significant role in their performance and printability.

As most water-based printers know, once you start a job, it’s problematic to stop and then start again. When team members need to take breaks from a press, it must be orchestrated so the job can continue to run. Gruninger found it necessary to do as much R&D as possible; his team is currently working with several ink manufacturers trying to determine what works best in their environment. Each ink has its own printing characteristics, he explains: “It takes a very disciplined crew and the determination to always be better.”

The basic art creation and separation process is similar to that of conventional plastisol printing. However, the final color sequence and additional flashes impact the decision-making process. The separator must work closely with production to determine how many heads will be needed on press. The pigment loads are lower than those of plastisol, which can affect strategies for separations, print orders, and of course, flashing. 


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