Stepping up to the sustainability challenge with water-based flexographic printing on flexible film

By Dieter Niederstadt, Technical Marketing Manager at Asahi Photoproducts

Around the globe, governments and companies alike are finally stepping up to address the challenges of the climate crisis. They are seeking ways to be more sustainable, through government regulations and through corporate directives. Asahi Photoproducts has been dedicated to delivering sustainable products to the flexographic industry for almost half a century, so working to address this challenge is not new to us.

Sustainability at the forefront

At LabelExpo Americas 2022, we have joined with a variety of Sustainable Print Sample Partners to demonstrate this reality, including Tesa, Apex International, Wikoff Color and Comexi, to present the full joint value of sustainable water-based flexographic printing. Each has an important role to play in ensuring a major reduction in flexo’s carbon footprint with no compromise in quality or productivity. Print samples will be available for visitors to the Asahi and each partner booth.

In addition to Asahi’s AWP™ CleanPrint water-washable plates, this print project is sending a strong signal to consumer product companies and the packaging industry, that the flexographic printing process is fit for the “next sustainable normal” by the combination of all sustainable partner products, bringing maximum sustainability to the overall process.

Tesa will be featuring Twinlock, a reusable, self-adhesive and compressible sleeve that provides consistency in high quality printing.

Apex GTT 2.0 from Apex International enables converters to reduce makeready time, minimising set-up waste, by offering most consistent anilox engraving.

Alpha-Poly from Wikoff Color is a water-based ink system developed for printing on films, utilising raw materials that are as safe for people and the environment as customer performance requirements allow.

Comexi adapts its flexographic printing F4 printing machine to meet narrow and mid web client needs and develops solutions that facilitate the transition to sustainable alternatives in flexible packaging.

50+ years of focus on flexo solutions in harmony with the environment

Over almost 50 years, Asahi Photoproducts has worked hard to bring innovative solutions to flexography, most recently with the Asahi AWP™-DEW CleanPrint water-washable plates, which have now achieved Carbon Neutral status in collaboration with The Carbon Trust. This solvent-free process delivers more sustainable printing, while at the same time improving press room efficiency to the tune of 30% or more. This results in a significant increase in quality and reduction in waste due to the precise register these plates deliver. By adopting these plates, your flexo printing operation will be one step closer to reduce your own carbon status.

These advances have positioned flexography as highly competitive with gravure as calculated in a recent study. The Flexo Technical Association Japan (FTAJ) and the Promotion Organisation (SuMPO), a well-known Japanese association, calculated GHG emissions during the entire printing process for each of these two technologies, using the Life Cycle Assessment method. The outcome was validation of Asahi’s ability to deliver a more sustainable printing process with its AWP™ plates than gravure – a reduction of 65% – over its life cycle.

This demonstrates the significant progress that we have made towards the reduction of the carbon footprint for flexographic printing as compared to gravure, and the fact that this approach to packaging printing has the potential to change the global packaging market, especially as the market demands shorter, more customised print runs.

But we are not stopping here. The innovative engineers at Asahi Photoproducts continue to seek new ways to reduce the environmental impact of flexographic printing processes even further, and we have full confidence that they will find even more ways to make flexographic printing more sustainable.