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How Flexographic Printing Can Support Sustainability Initiatives

Sustainability Snacks is Haney’s monthly web series featuring exclusive interviews with our VIA ReSolve partners. Each episode is five minutes or less, providing quick and snackable content that aims to reveal some of the industry’s best sustainability secrets. In the following blog post, you’ll find all the interview content we couldn’t get to in just five minutes. Enjoy!

When we discuss packaging and sustainability the focus is often on the packages end of life; it is recyclable, compostable or made from PRC content? What can easily be missed is the importance of the printing process itself, particularly from the consumer perspective.

In packaging today, flexographic printing and rotogravure printing are popular for long-run, high-volume printing, however, flexographic printing can provide sustainability benefits and be more cost-effective for shorter runs.

Improved Efficiency and Print Quality

As we continue to see brands require faster speed to market with personalized packaging, flexographic printing provides flexibility. When compared to the rotogravure printing process, flexographic printing plates can be processed and ready in less than one hour, shortening overall lead times. This provides the printing value chain to respond faster to changes while delivering high print quality.

Consistency Across Substrates and Formats

Consistency of reproduction is critical. Products printed in different regions and on different substrates need to have the same graphic quality and color. With all the latest technologies and developments available in flexographic printing, global brands can provide a uniform experience for consumers.

Supply Chain Sustainability

Sustainability is a key topic gaining momentum across all business units and industries. There is an increased demand from regulatory organizations to adopt measures to reduce environmental footprints and consumers are more conscious and making purchase decisions based on environmental factors.

As explained by Genara Andrade, New Business Development Leader at DuPont, “Flexographic printing, compared to traditional gravure printing, is a key ally to brand owners since there’s lower non-renewable energy use, less greenhouse gas emissions, and flexibility to print on multiple substrates.”

Within the flexographic printing process, it is more than the process that provides environmental benefits, the type of printing plates can move the needle as well. “The DuPont™ FAST® 2000TD is DuPont’s latest generation of our thermal equipment that offers a more sustainable platemaking process compared to the solvent workflow by completely eliminating the need for solvents during platemaking.”

Andrade provides two aspects of the thermal plate making system that make it more environmentally friendly:

“The thermal system eliminates the need for solvent in the platemaking process, which is safer and provides a cleaner environment. And, by eliminating the solvent, the operation can save >50% greenhouse gas emissions during platemaking, meaning it has a significantly reduced carbon footprint compared to solvent-based processes.”

“DuPont continues to innovate DuPont™ Cyrel® FAST thermal systems and our latest generation of the DuPont™ FAST® equipment contains a Catox system that compared to previous versions, eliminates 99.7% VOCs in the platemaking exhaust and recovers the heat from the catalytic reaction to preheat the incoming exhaust. This, combined to the fact that it does not require plates to be dried, make the thermal workflow consume less energy, again lowering the carbon footprint compared to solvent systems.”

Digital thermal compared to solvent process

DuPont LCA

*Based on DuPont Life Cycle Assessment, 2010

In combination with the energy efficiencies mentioned, there’s also time efficiency of the platemaking process as a direct benefit to printers and brand owners. With the thermal workflow, you can have plates ready in less than one hour. With the solvent workflow, the drying step itself can take 2 hours. This advantage in platemaking time is key to converters and trade shops.

From a brand perspective, consumer perception of sustainable packaging is key. Luckily, about 40% of people say they get sustainability information from product labeling.

We asked Andrade how bands can capitalize and share this sustainability information with their clients. “Because of the high-quality print from DuPont™ Cyrel® FAST thermal based printing systems, the final print is difficult to distinguish with the naked eye. Brand teams can work directly with their print and converter partners to explore product label options to highlight or symbolize the package was printed with DuPont™ Cyrel® FAST.”

For more information on DuPont and the DuPont™ Cyrel® FAST thermal system, visit their website here.

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