IMI Inkjet Development Conference 2018 – More than just a digital printing technology
GERMANY • Inkjet – what about this digital printing technology? The recent Inkjet Development Conference in Frankfurt not only showed how versatile this technology is with its range of applications, but also how difficult it is for well-known experts and newcomers to overview this complex technology and wide spread industry. The editorial team of NarrowWebTech reports from this two-day event which took place from 17 to 18 April 2018 in Frankfurt – a picture gallery is included!
For label and package printer inkjet is often only one technology of many which they can use – or think about adding – to their printing equipment portfolio, in addition to their conventional printing presses. Printers and converters often consider the applications. Regarding inkjet, there is a wide range of applications including label and packaging, printed electronics & products with added functionalities, graphics and the wide range of industrial applications such as are increasingly seen in interior design. There are many more applications and – therefore – a number of industries using inkjet.
From the view of inkjet developers the type of application is not necessarily the key issue. The questions regarding inkjet development are different: Does the nozzle plate and print head work properly? Is the ink working as it should? Is there a nozzle not working, and if yes, how do you manage the situation so that this fault can’t be seen on the product without the need to stop the line and interrupt production?
Chemistry as starting point
As pointed out by several referees it is important to see the whole inkjet process outside of the chemistry. A process has not only to be compliant with the chemical structure of the ink it should be the starting point for thinking about the whole production process. If the chemistry is not suitable for the inkjet process – nozzles not working, drop speed, too much ink mist, the colour on the substrate is different etc. – the printing itself cannot work to 100% because the chemical structure is not totally suitable for the process.
However, this conference was focussed on the development of inkjet technology not just inkjet ink development. For two days the technically oriented conference invited inkjet development chemists and engineers to participate.
Two panel discussions covered “inks for packaging – what is missing?” and “functional printing and printed electronics”. Both discussions showed that, as in many industries there is the need and the will to develop new technologies and solutions. But in this respect there is generally no easy answers. For sure, there are and will always be topics which still have potential 1) to develop further and 2) to use already well-known processes for other applications. For many topics more than one opinion exists – whether we talk about the range of regulations and lists, the “food compliant inks” and its difference to low migration inks, the handling of the different parts of an inkjet printing process as well as sustainability & ecology issues such as the deinkability of films or the migration of inks – in both directions.
However, from the inkjet developers point of view this might be comprehensible and right but on the other side, a printing house does not think about the structure of an ink. An ink has to work properly so that the product is printed as ordered by the customer. Both of them are right. The ink has to work within a well established production chain, but if the work is not working properly, the printer has to consider the inkjet developers point of view: only use an ink which is really suitable for the printed product. In this regard, both sides can only learn from each other.