The Waterless Printing Association

In line with our growing focus on water we take time for peek at waterless printering. Printing is not only about paper (with old growth forest or recycled content) but it consumes vast volumes of that life giving slippery stuff. According to the international Waterless Printing Association (WPA), a "printer in Switzerland, operating one of the world's first waterless web presses, eliminated the use of approximately 250,000 litres (about 66,000 gallons) of water in one year. That water would normally have come from a nearby lake, which is a source of drinking water for tens of thousands of people." With waterless printing, the plates (large sheets, which carry the text and images, like high tech 'potato print' moulds) utilise silicone rubber coatings. This technology allows for the transfer of special inks to paper, simply via adjustments in temperature. With traditional printing water is used as a carrier for the ink and it's often a delicate balance getting the two to interact properly. Much paper is feed through the presses until that moment of 'just right' is achieved. (As a graphic designer having stood watching offset presses churn through hundreds of metres of instantly wasted paper, while the correct colour and registration (alignment) was slowly attained, it certainly is enough to make a treehugger weep.) The WPA suggest that with waterless printing "paper savings of 30 percent to 40 percent have been reported", because they achieve colour and register quicker.

Not only does waterless printing save water and paper, but it reduces output of Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) too. Apparently the UK's Graphical, Paper and Media Union (GPMU) found that "printers inhale organic solvents all day long". And this can lead to liver, kidneys and lungs damage, amongst other ailments. Exposure to such solvents mostly occurs in the cleaning of the presses. Waterless printings ink eliminate the need for these solvents, thus significantly reducing pressroom VOC emissions. It seems like there are over 600 waterless presses worldwide, with a third of those in the US. Ask your printer if they have access to one of these. Because you won't just be doing the environment and printshop workers a huge favour, your job should look better too, as seen in the Bronzini print used in the above example. via Seacourt, ::Waterless Printing Association

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