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TEXT I. SUMMARISING

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TEXT II. STRUCTURE OF PARAGRAPH

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TEXT III. NOTES ON PRINTING IN RUSSIA

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TEXT IV.

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TEXT V.

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TEXT VI. LARGE-FORMAT RAPIDA A BIG HIT

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TEXT VII. ECO-LABELLING

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TEXT VIII. THE WORLD'S FASTEST NEWSPAPER

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TEXT IX.

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TEXT X.

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TEXT XI.

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TEXT XII. ECOLOGY TECHNOLOGY

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TEXT XIII. THROUGH ELECTROSTATIC TO THE SUBLIME

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TEXT XIV.

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TEXT XV. AN EXCITING FUTURE BECKONS THE PRINTER

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I. Read the article "Ecology Technology".

Flexography has one of the highest growth rates among the printing processes, especially in the packaging and label sector. The process is no longer the ugly duckling of the graphic arts, but is capable of producing quality to rival offset and gravure. With this newly found dynamism, there comes the question as to how flexo will stand up to the environmental challenge.

The main challenge flexo, along with any other printing process has to meet, is environmental legislation, coming often from the European Union, which through directives is shaping national legislation. Environmental legislation in the EU has a purpose to protect the environment, i.e. to prevent any further degradation and perhaps even to improve it.

Let us deal with the direct environmental challenges of the flexo printing process. The stages we have to look at are plates and plate making and ink and varnishing system.

Modern f lexoplates are photopolymer plates accounting for well over half of all flexoplates used. They are primarily responsible for the enormous quality advances in this printing process. In platemaking solvents are used. Most of the inks and varnishes are also solvent based - although water based inks are gaining in acceptance and increasingly UV curable inks are also used. Still, the most common use is solvent based plate wash-outs and solvent based inks. And with both flexography is having difficulties.

The EU invented the IPPC - Integrated Pollution Prevention and Control Directive. IPPC deals with threats to water, air and soil pollution. The environment ministers of the EU member states agreed that IPPC is to be applied to all installations using more than 150 kg of solvents per hour or more than 200 tons a year. Not only the solvents in printing inks but all solvents in the whole operation, including platemaking, cleaning etc. are to be counted.

The industry and its suppliers have obviously recognized the gravity of the situation and started to develop the right counter measures by developing water based inks and UV curing inks, which do not have any solvents at all - and even water wash-out flexoplates. This is of course exactly the reaction hoped for by the European legislators.

After exposure of the plates the parts which are not polymerised, the nonprinting parts, have to be washed out. The classic wash-out fluid used to be Perchlorethylen-Butanol, a chlorinated hydro-carbon which clearly spells trouble in many regions. The industry instead developed alternative wash-out or plate processing solvents to meet environmental requirements. Processing fluids can be recycled within the factory. These fluids, in spite of being less harmful than the conventional chlorinated hydro-carbons, are still chemicals and need to be stored in correct containers and collected separately and disposed of professionally, usually by incineration.

Flexo inks

Today about 80% of all inks used in flexo printing are still solvent based and about 70 to 80% of the volume of these inks consists of solvent. The emissions in the dryer air are usually a mix of chemicals which makes concentrating and recycling them difficult. The solution is to burn them. The technology for this is well established and there are no major problems.

Another way out is not using any solvent at all. Although that may be difficult to achieve, the use of water based inks is a very large step forward. Inkmakers have become very environment conscious indeed. When choosing pigments and binders, not only application is a factor, but ecotoxicology as well. Things like pigments without heavy metals and benign solvents are more and more used. But it costs money. The other way a printer can avoid ecological pitfalls is by going UV. UV inks do not dry by evaporating solvents, they cure by UV radiation. What little solvent there is, is being polymerised into the ink film during curing and no solvent can escape. Treatment of exhaust air and water are not necessary.

All in all we can say that flexo inks and plates are not without their problems, but there are technical solutions for all of them.

II. Find answers to the following questions:

  1. In what printing is flexo mainly used?

  2. What challenge does flexo along with other printing processes have to meet?

  3. What purpose has the EU environmental legislation?

  4. What are the direct environmental challenges of the flexo printing process?

  5. What does IPPC deal with?

  6. What installations is IPPC to be applied to?

  7. What was the reaction of the industry?

  8. What measures should be taken to dispose of used chemicals?

  9. How can the ecological problem be solved with flexo inks?

  10. Why are Ultraviolet inks ecologically safer?

III. Read the article through and take notes.

IV. Summarise the article from your notes.