By Digital Output Staff
Wall applications, like wallpaper, face stricter environmental regulations as human health and safety in addition to eco-friendliness and recyclability are common concerns. Buyers, designers, and end users of digitally printed wallpaper demand a printed solution that delivers on all of these, while simultaneously checking off the boxes of high visual quality, durability, and faster delivery time.
Addressing Health and Safety
Ink sets, in addition to other elements in digital production, address environmental/human health concerns. In the wallpaper space, a number of ink sets are utilized and each present advantages.
“Inks must use some sort of liquid, either a solvent or some other liquid chemistry, to transport the color ink particle from the machine to the media. These particles are intentionally very small in order to exit the printhead nozzles properly. Once they land on the print media, such as wallpaper, in some inks the liquid portion must outgas, basically evaporate further before the ink is set in the media. This can cause issues regarding the handling and other contacts with the wallpaper as well as the production of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that could be harmful to humans,” explains Mark Rugen, director of education, Mutoh America, Inc.
Ink and hardware manufacturers work diligently to address these issues. For example, PadaLuma Ink-Jet Solutions GmbH (Palis), works with water-based ink in its devices. “Our inks are developed for secondary food packaging according to Swiss Ordinance or Nestlé guidelines. Based on this formulation our wallpaper ink setting is designed,” comments Thomas Blechinger, sales manager, Palis.
“HP Inc.’s water-based inks transformed the industry years ago, and the newest Latex Technology carries a broad set of credentials addressing ink chemistry and indoor air quality to lifecycle considerations. Ink sets often charter the direction of the intended use not only of the finished graphics but also the process in which they are produced. There are essentially three areas to consider for the production of wall graphics—production technology such as water-based inks, which is better for the user; less odor and outgassing for the end user; and technology which is better for the environment,” shares Thomas Giglio, North American Latex business lead, HP.
Xeikon’s next-generation dry toner inks create very little waste water and contain no solvents. The toner contains no harmful chemicals, substances of very high concern, or VOCs, according to the company.
“To meet today’s environmental standards, the printing process must conserve water and use no VOCs. Chemically produced toners lead to a lot of water consumption and the generation of waste water has to be treated. It also requires a lot of energy to evaporate the water and the solvents,” says Lode Deprez, VP technology digital solutions, Xeikon.
UV ink is another option. “In our current market many shops that produce short-run wallpaper applications choose to use UV ink that is GREENGUARD certified to assure safety from print to wall application. During production, inks that are not GREENGUARD certified could potentially become harmful to those who come in contact with them,” adds Rugen.
A third-party, not-for-profit organization, The GreenGuard Environmental Institute—often referred to as GEI—was founded in 2001, according to Rugen. “Products given GREENGUARD Certification meet certain criteria and standards for indoor air quality set forth by the company. In simple terms, a product with GREENGUARD Certification has passed a test to show that it meets low chemical emissions limits.
That should mean better indoor air quality for consumers and less concern over new materials you bring into your home,” he continues.
swissQprint’s UV inks are both VOC-free and GREENGUARD Gold certified. “swissQprint is continually making strides to not only protect the environment, but help our users reduce their own ecological footprint, and reduce waste during printing,” says Mike Kyritsi, president, swissQprint America.
“The use of GREENGUARD certified inks for producing digital wallpaper or any type of graphic output for that matter aids in the creation of healthier indoor environments,” seconds Lily Hunter senior product manager, Roland DGA Corporation.
Angel Georgiou, senior marketing specialist, imaging supplies, Canon Solutions America, points out that while VOC ratings are important for the ink set, the material ratings are just as important. “Vinyl versus PVC free or paper material. This test performed by a third party for UL GREENGUARD approval has to be done annually and is checked for renewal by the organization.”
UL GREENGUARD is a U.S.-based certification, but there are many equal or similar to this throughout Europe. For example, Bill Brouhle, solutions architect, Agfa, lists other standards like REACH, TSCA Compliance, EN 71-3, BREEAM International, VOC regulations in France, AgBB scheme, and RoHS2.
The last three years have been met with turmoil in regards to human health and safety, in addition to environmental concerns. Changes are happening when it comes to the production of wallpaper decoration.
UV ink has created a renaissance of sorts. “Many printer manufacturers are choosing UV inks for wallpaper applications since UV is instant drying and cured, emits no VOCs, and can be GREENGUARD certified. The wallpaper industry is beginning to see the need for short runs and custom prints. This is driving more research into ink development resulting in safer and better inks with greater elasticity allowing for more applications on curved surfaces where the UV ink must stretch a bit. In addition, UV inks are being developed for better adhesion since wallpaper media can have a surface coating such as metallic blends,” explains Rugen.
“This all changed with the introduction of UV LED printing,” agrees Kyritsi. “Our UV LED printing process requires neither heating nor ventilation, which keeps our energy requirements low.”
Georgiou has noticed more print jobs being specified for certain certifications. “Hospitals have increased these requests for products used in multi-staged areas. COVID-19 brought new conditions for durability and wipe-ablity on top of VOCs.”
“Indoor air quality can be much worse than outdoor air. There are many elements within your home or business that can negatively impact your air quality. One thing that has been proven is that customers want healthier and safer options and are willing to pay for it,” admits Brouhle.
Awareness is Key
It’s important for wallpaper manufacturers to take these concerns into consideration. Adding digital printing can help them take action and play a positive role in achieving a sustainable ecological footprint, as well as helping to ensure we all breathe safer air.
“Increased environmental awareness from end customers makes it more important to use harmless materials and inks. Inkjet printing with water-based inks meets this customer desire. Digital printing helps reduce the carbon footprint of the product. On demand production capability reduces inventory levels binding less capital as well as stock costs,” adds Blechinger.
Wallpaper manufacturers must look to gain certifications that can provide customers with peace of mind. “We live in a litigious society. Wallpaper happens to be one of those products that people come in contact with from start to finish and are used widely in the home and office environment. Imagine wallpaper being used in a children’s daycare facility or nursing home where VOCs could potentially release into the air or through the skin by contact. Assuring that the ink choice used is certified to be safe is the only way to protect both the user and the installer,” suggests Rugen.
A green value chain is important. “In order to generate one, printers and OEMs must work in tandem and make use of cutting-edge equipment and solutions,” adds Giglio.
A Health and Safety Matter
Wallpaper is a tricky application in terms of health and safety. Digital printing addresses the concerns and provides ease of mind for consumers as well as manufacturers when certified and tested ink sets and materials are used. The digital print process offers efficiencies and savings in production that aid in keeping a small ecological footprint—something important in the health and safety of our society now and into the future.
Feb2022, Digital Output