The marriage of ecology and economics is becoming increasingly obvious and necessary for business. As a result, developers are constantly moving to offer technologies that reduce product life cycle footprints, as well as perform more efficiently for their customers. In the graphics industry the most obvious example of this is digital printing which produces only what is needed, ideally as close as possible to its point of use. However that doesn’t mean that developments in offset printing have been standing still.
Artoos, a media services provider in Haacht, Belgium, and with a strong eco ethic, has a herd of Heidelberg SM74 presses. They swallow over 3,000 plates per month, so having 900 monthly plate changes requires considerable plate processing efficiency. Artoos uses Agfa Elite Eco plates, good for 600,000 impressions (150,000 with UV inks) and this plate has recently been upgraded, with new top and base layers to improve robustness and lifespan. Artoos is also using a cutting edge processing technology that’s good for processing over 20,000 square metres of printing plate material, before it needs cleaning out. The Agfa Graphics Arkana developing unit processes the Elite Eco thermally imaged printing plates using less than 10% of the chemistry previously required to process a plate.
The Arkana plate processor uses so much less water because it has no rinse section. Instead Agfa has added a gum cascade roller to the processor, so that when the plate exits the developer it is neutralised and finished ready for use on press. Because this happens in the cascade unit, minimal water is needed, a change that cuts overall water usage by an astonishing 90%.
Processor waste is also dramatically reduced to about half of the norm with other technologies, because the bath itself is so much smaller. It requires only 10 litres of chemistry instead of 80 litres, an economy which has a knock-on effect throughout the supply chain. It means reduced transport emissions, lower overall energy usage and improved resource management. For Artoos this has meant further reductions in its carbon footprint, improved process control and resource usage, plus more capacity to get work through the factory.
In all its forms print is thriving, and developments such as the Agfa Arkana processor and the Elite Eco plates drive improvements in print production efficiency. At the moment Agfa is alone and taking a lead with this patented technology, but we hope to see equivalent brilliance from elsewhere in the offset business. Such innovations are helping the graphics industry to drive down its carbon footprint even further.
– Laurel Brunner