The flexible packaging industry has to meet ever increasing demands both with respect to design and technical requirements. Clients want excellent-quality fine raster prints produced at high speed, combined with easy handling and high lamination bond strength. When it comes to versatile film laminates for use in demanding applications, such as sterilisation, this combination of ink characteristics has to date been almost impossible to achieve in the flexographic segment and chiefly been the preserve of the gravure segment.
The printing-ink manufacturer hubergroup is now launching a new ink series under the brand name "Gecko Platinum" that blends perfectly into its existing family of "Gecko" flexo and gravure inks. On 25 October 2016, more than 100 clients from the international printing industry who specialise in flexible packagings came to Lengerich/Germany in order to learn more about the properties of these inks. The product presentation was supported by a graphic live demonstration at Windmöller & Hölscher, the press manufacturer and systems supplier for flexible packaging.
Whereas the classic Gecko series are based on nitrocellulose (NC), this new series uses a polyurethane (PU) binder system. Lutz Frischmann, Director Technology Management Liquid Inks at hubergroup, explains why the company chose to use PU, which has been optimised for this demanding application: "For standard applications, such as packaging for dry package contents, we already have well-established NC ink systems. However, NC systems cannot be used for applications involving sterilisation due to the limited thermostability of nitrocellulose. Until now, specialised ink series based on polyvinylbutyral (PVB) or polyvinylchloride (PVC) have been used for such high-performance laminations. However, flexo printers are either not able to use these specialised inks at all (PVC-based inks) or only to a very limited extent (PVB inks). Moreover, brand owners are increasingly demanding chlorine-free binders and pushing the established PVC systems in gravure to the limits of their capabilities. Extensive field trials in combination with various solvent-based and solvent-free adhesive systems have confirmed that Gecko Platinum offers consistently high bond strength values in both standard and high-performance applications, including sterilisation. Print quality is excellent even in fine halftone designs with 60 lines/cm or more."
At the product launch, Dr Giuseppe Gianetti, Director Product Management Liquid Inks at hubergroup, spoke about the market opportunities of the new product development. "The downsizing of print runs is a key factor in Europe, and retortability is supporting this concept very well thanks to the wide range of applications open. The availability of high-performance inks for sterilisation applications now enables flexo to fight for a share of this market, too. Gecko Platinum Flexo opens up new market opportunities for forward-thinking flexo printers in areas that until now have been the preserve of gravure printers."
The new Platinum series is currently available as ready-to-use inks.