Sun, May

Question time

What ‘green’ demands are print kit manufacturers/suppliers being faced with from the UK’s LFP community, and what are they doing to meet them?

If you’re handling print for any of the big retailers you know how vital your ‘green’ credentials can be to winning, or losing, a job, and that the sustainability argument you put forward increasingly includes the environmental impact of the kit you run. So do you ask pertinent questions of the suppliers about the kit they sell before you buy it? And do you get satisfactory answers?

The newly published Widthwise 2011 Report showed that 59% of those UK and Ireland printers polled for the annual survey this spring, said offering ‘green’ options is more important that it was two years ago. While this was on the whole the viewpoint of the larger respondents - those dealing with the environmentally demanding retail sector clients - it’s likely that where they lead others will follow. So Image Reports asked the question of key suppliers: what ‘green’ demands/issues are you being faced with by the UK LFP community and how are you responding? (i.e. are print providers asking about a manufacturer’s own carbon footprint, where parts are sourced and the printer constructed, the power rating of the kit they’re looking to buy, about end-of-life kit take-back schemes etc.)

They didn’t all answer, and those that did weren’t always that specific when it came to highlighting the questions being asked of them by potential buyers of their large-format products, and therefore vague as to what they are doing to meet those demands. Which begs another question: are print companies asking enough about the kit they buy in terms of environmental impact? Anyway, here are the responses received to the initial question.

Steve Collins, wide-format inkjet UK account manager, Agfa Graphics
Agfa Graphics’ products are designed and manufactured in such a way that all aspects of the production process (storage, transport, the use of products, as well as the waste treatment at the end of the life cycle) have minimal impact upon the environment. Not only does Agfa Graphics use ecologically sound production processes, it also develops products to help its customers make their own operation more environment friendly.
Inkjet technology offers a versatile, high quality output, which has less of an impact on the environment than traditional printing. Agfa’s favoured technology in this field is UV-curable ink, which is seen to be much more environmentally friendly than toner or solvent ink-based processes. UV has the added benefit of not needing pre-treated material and therefore substrate independent. Agfa’s use of eco solvent solutions is limited to niche applications where only these types of inks are suitable.

Yuichi Miyano, director of large format solutions, Canon Europe
“The questions we’re asked most frequently about the green credentials of Canon’s large-format printers relate to energy efficiency. But, these tend to come from CAD users in the architecture and engineering sectors and customers in the public sector (rather than mainstream professional large-format print companies) who need to bear green credentials in mind during tender processes.

We also receive enquiries about power ratings from multinational organisations working to minimise their carbon footprints. In addition to looking for Energy Star compliance (a standard that all Canon imagePrograf printers meet) all of these customers are looking for large-format machines that have been designed to reduce the actual costs of printing operations by being more energy efficient.

“In line with our corporate philosophy of working together for the common good, Canon is constantly striving to reduce environmental impact throughout its product life-cycle. For instance, all of Canon’s imagePrograf models use aqueous ink, which means that they do not release high volumes of VOCs into the atmosphere.”

Michael Lackner, marketing manager, Durst
We have found that many of our corporate customers are now actively seeking suppliers and business partners that have a strict environmental policy. Eco-protection appeared to have been put on hold during the last few years of the economic recession but it has always been there and is now an important part of a manufacturer’s overall marketing. Durst actively seeks constant improvement to its environmental performance through communication with customers, staff, suppliers and authorities.”

On 19 July, Durst was awarded ISO 14001:2004 certification for its own environmental management system. The company hopes this shows it is committed to sustainable development and considers environmental protection the central maxim for its corporate policy at all levels.

Every aspect of Durst’s business is concerned with protecting the environment, from operating two of the most energy efficient and environmentally friendly factories in the industry, to its range of inkjet printers, which only use recyclable materials and use only a third of the energy of some other manufacturers’ printers. Durst Rho inks are free of VOCs and have been awarded the Nordic Swan Ecolabel certification, amongst other environmental qualifications.

Duncan Ferguson, director of pro-graphics and new business development, Epson Europe
Customers are much more interested in power usage and recycling programmes than they ever were. We have a long-standing commitment to the environment and our mission is to provide customer value by using compact, energy-saving, high-precision technologies to reduce environmental impacts across all areas of operations, from products and services to sales and manufacturing activities.

We have reduced the power consumption of inkjet printers by 73% over the last four years and they are certified by the internationally recognised eco-label Energy Star. We have been collecting and recycling toner cartridges since 1995 and ink cartridges since 1999 and are fully compliant with the collection and recycling requirements of the WEEE (Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment) Directive.

Kenny Boyd, environmental services specialist, Fujifilm Graphic Systems UK
Fujifilm is facing various ‘green’ demands from wide-format printers in the UK, and we’re finding that they are commonly falling into two categories. Firstly, printers are thinking about waste reductions in terms of what they can save financially – waste minimisation schemes that have a financial incentive are proving popular because of the money saving aspect more than the environmental considerations. Fujifilm provides a Hazardous Waste Disposal Service where we dispose of hazardous waste often linked to purchases from Fujifilm. With this, our customers can guarantee that their waste will be disposed of safely, legally and in an environmentally conscious manner.
Secondly, printers are under increasing pressure from their customers, particularly high street brands, to use ‘environmentally friendly’ processes and products, as well as committing to carbon reduction programmes and carbon footprinting. Printers often come to us with questions about the environmental credentials of our products – are our products biodegradable? What hazardous chemicals do they contain etc? When the media give negative coverage to a potentially controversial chemical you can guarantee our customers will ask if it’s in our products. This pressure has caused a lot of customers who were once undecided about going for ISO14001 accreditation to bite the bullet and go for it.

There has also been an increase in the number of customers asking about the power rating of our kit. When there are two similar products that a customer is looking at, a ‘plug and play’ concept will swing the decision compared to a machine that has a three phase energy supply.

Also, something that is growing in popularity is the idea of providing a complete, end-to-end recycling service to the printer’s customer, which would mean providing a route for the recycling of the actual printed products that our customers produce. For a service this comprehensive there are many different factors to be considered, including the type of substrate used and the ultimate disposal/conversion route, not to mention such basic considerations such as the physical transportation of the used print, where any inefficiencies would have the potential to cancel out any other environmental benefits.

Duncan Jefferies, marketing manager, Hybrid Services
As Mimaki’s exclusive distributor, Hybrid tackles the environmental challenges facing the LFP industry on a number of fronts. Firstly, thanks to Mimaki’s LED UV head technology, increasing numbers of printers are drawing significantly less power than their forerunners.

Of note on Mimaki’s LED UV inkjet printers, consumable items such as the LED lamps used for curing last vastly longer, can be quickly switched on and off (unlike metal halide bulbs) and have minimal warm-up and warm downtimes – further reducing energy usage. Inks for the UV printers have also been available in large recyclable eco-cases for several years, reducing the shipping of plastic outers and minimising waste.

On the outdoor durable front, Mimaki’s SS21 ink cartridges form part of Hybrid’s rebate-linked cartridge recycling scheme. The programme is now in its third year, with around 40 tonnes of waste cartridges kept out of landfill every 12 months – plus, customers are paid to recycle with ink rebates paid in return for their participation. The Let’s Do More! Scheme, created following demand from the install base, has seen a massive uptake amongst Mimaki solvent printer owners.

At the recent Fespa exhibition, Mimaki showed how it has forged partnerships with material suppliers to provide as eco friendly options as possible.

Heather Kendle, sales and marketing director, INCA
Environmental performance criteria are high on the agenda of companies looking to invest in wide-format UV printers and at Inca we are continually evaluating and introducing environmentally beneficial features on our printers. Companies are definitely much more enviro. conscious, especially as their retail customers are putting this at the very top of their purchasing check list.

Primarily they are interested in efficient energy and ink use. In our development process, we consider energy saving design, resource saving and elimination of harmful substances. A large proportion of a product’s total environmental impact is caused by the energy consumed in the use phase. Therefore we work hard to make steady progress in this area, such as using high performance chips and lead free electronics. Harmful substances used during manufacturing, including those in the product itself and those contained in consumables such as inks and media, are another focus area of Inca’s product development.

To avoid the use of expensive, single-trip ink cartridges, our printers use refillable bulk tanks and ink is supplied in lightweight five litre blow moulded plastics containers to reduce packaging. These containers can also be used for waste ink which is collected for safe disposal. Piezo drop-on-demand printheads are an expensive and complex component and to reduce their wastage impact, we offer refurbishment schemes on many of our printheads. Reusing and replacing key components wherever possible reduces the cost of ownership for the end user and extends product life. This, along with software incorporated within the printer, increases the life of the printheads, further reducing environmental impact.

Through innovative design and engineering, we work hard to reduce the amount of energy used by our printers, and the quantity of resources used to build them. Key components move to stand-by power or complete shutdown whenever possible, reducing their power and therefore saving energy. Recent development work on changes in print modes has focused on reducing energy used during the print cycle through modifications in hardware and software. In addition this modification offers a reduction in ink consumption to the end user.

Dominic Fahy, business group director, display graphics and imaging supplies, Océ UK
Our large-format display graphics customers face ever-increasing demands to act in an environmentally-friendly way while still remaining profitable. Those that do this well can create a competitive advantage. This is especially important in a sector of the market that uses an increasingly creative approach to visual displays and signage - the retail sector. Here they are constantly interested in ways of reducing VOC solvent emissions and lowering energy costs and carbon footprint. It’s this end customer demand that has helped us move forward with large-format print technologies that help print companies win new business.

Take the Océ ColorWave 600 Poster Printer, which is being targeted at creating short term posters for the retail market where a fast turnaround and low carbon footprint is required. The system uses Océ TonerPearls solid toner and Océ CrystalPoint imaging technology and benefits from extremely low energy consumptions, no emissions, and is able to print posters onto plain paper that can be easily recycled.

The Océ Arizona family, the world’s biggest-selling flatbed, also helps printers reduce their carbon footprint - one example is printing directly on to substrates, which reduces the media required and cuts out multiple processes.

Brian Filler, managing director, Screen UK
Our customers are certainly becoming increasingly environmentally conscious and curious as they recognise that being 'green' is not only responsible but can save them money and attract business. The fact that the retail sector demands environmentally-responsible printer partners has played a major role in this. Consequently, we are seeing an increase in questions related to the environmental impact of our digital printers. The environmental factor has been an important aspect of product development and product manufacturing at Screen for many years. This has resulted, for example, in the fact that we supply UV wide-format printers, not solvent; and we actively implement ways to reduce ink and chemical useage and paper wastage in the design of all our print technology.

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