By Melissa Donovan
Based on European standards put in place a decade ago, UV ink is undergoing a reformulation. Being a U.S.-based publication, one might wonder how this change affects the readers of Digital Output. The American graphic arts is influenced by its European counterpart. An investigation into what spurred ink reformulation in Europe is necessary to understand the future impact it could have on the Americas.
Any changes in formulation must also bring into discussion the influence on ink performance. These differences allow print service providers (PSPs) to gauge just how much they will be affected by the UV reformulation movement.
A European Decree
According to Craig Reid, VP – digital division, INX International Co., a primary factor in reformulation is the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals (GHS).
GHS was developed by the United Nations (UN). The first version was published in 2003. Based on a report from the European division of Marabu, the UN GHS forms the basis for the worldwide harmonization of regulations for the classification and labeling of hazardous substances and mixtures as well as for the harmonization of the national and regional systems for classification and labeling.
The UN GHS is instituted by each individual country. In Europe, the GHS is implemented and enforced by the European Regulation (EC) on Classification, Labeling, and Packaging of substances and mixtures or CLP regulation.
The CLP regulation incorporates and enacts a good portion of the UN GHS requirements, including new classification symbols, hazard symbols, signal words, and hazard and precautionary statements. It also includes elements that are only part of the current EC, meaning it is similar but not identical to other GHS in countries outside of Europe.
The CLP became legally binding in 2009 across all European member states and requires those companies in the geographical area to appropriately classify, label, and package substances and mixtures before placing them on the market for purchase and use.
While it went into effect in 2009, CLP regulations were not required to be enacted immediately. The timeline has two notable target dates, December 2010 and more importantly—and why this discussion is occurring—June 2015.
By June 1, 2015, all substances in Europe must be classified in accordance with CLP only. Mixtures—ink for example—must be classified, labeled, and packaged in accordance with CLP only. Mixtures already on the market for purchase and use but not classified, labeled, and packaged have to be relabeled and repackaged by June 1, 2017.
CLP complements the Registration, Evaluation, Authorization, and Restriction of Chemicals (REACH) Regulation. REACH has made a number of reclassifications to materials. In regards to UV ink, one of the most well-known materials, according to Bob Keller, GM, Marabu North America, is the monomer n-vinyl caprolactam (NVC) also known as vinyl caprolactam (V-Cap).
“Due to reactivity, the potential for effect is greater than for example polymers or pigments. The manufacturers of NVC informed the market that the material was reclassified as toxic when recommended inhalation exposure levels are exceeded and therefore has been the main target for reformulation,” shares Keller.
While not banned entirely, V-Cap is not fully in accordance with REACH or CLP. This has led ink manufacturers to look at each ink brand formula and determine how they can create the same or very similar ink configuration by either eliminating V-Cap entirely or using lesser levels of it.
With the reformulation completed, in process, or in discussion, it is important to look at whether the changes affect ink performance, from color gamut to adhesion and flexibility. For many segments of the graphic arts, the ink selected is contingent on quality, color matching, and proper durability.
“The risk of affecting the ink’s performance is highly application—substrate—dependent as well as how much of any one single component has to be changed. It can vary widely between each ink brand and ink families within a brand,” admits Reid.
For example, NVC or V-Cap affects viscosity, adhesion, and flexibility of UV inks. According to Reid, there is no commercially available direct alternative.
Some brands have as much as 50 percent V-Cap in their ink formulas. Finding a replacement for that large of a portion of a mixture is challenging.
INX has relatively small amounts of V-Cap in its formulations, with some mixtures only containing ten percent. Reid says these changes have not created any degradation in ink performance.
“If a reclassification occurs, it is naturally a challenge to substitute these well-known materials with ones that have lower risk and still deliver a comparable performance,” adds Keller.
Many ink vendors continually work with their product teams in the U.S. and internationally to address the challenges regarding V-Cap or NVC levels in their UV ink chemistries.
U.S. Moves and PSP Concerns
While this change occurs in Europe, we in the Americas stand by and wonder how it will affect us. Keller cautions that materials which are deemed to be of high risk in one region will not necessarily be classified similarly in another.
However, he points out that with considerable amounts of intercontinental exchange of goods, it won’t be long before the U.S. has to comply. “In other words, an article printed in the U.S. that is exported to Europe may also fall under the European legislation. As a result, it is likely that reformulation will also happen in the U.S.”
It is because of this that PSPs should remain aware of the changes in Europe. Printers utilizing inks that have not undergone significant reformulation and then shipping final product to Europe should be weary of what could happen under the CLP or REACH—which is more globally recognized.
Many ink vendors are aware and have been aware of these changes in regulation and formulation for some time.
For example, INX formulates its products for worldwide use, so the same inks used in Europe are also in the Americas and it already began updating its labeling in 2013.
Marabu has no NVC present in any of its ink formulations.
Mimaki and its internal REACH team have been working on the new rules for some time and the company says all of its products will be compliant with CLP prior to the June 2015 deadline.
Digital Output will continue to report on the reformulation and classification as changes and updates occur.
Mar2015, Digital Output