Digital Printing – Solvent Vs Aqueous

Over the last 15 years Inkjet printing technology has seen an explosion in innovation. It seem now that almost anything is possible with inkjet printing but the choice of technologies can be overwhelming for print service providers, never mind your every day customer. In the following article I am going to lay out some basic rules of thumb to help you pick the right process for you application.Is your print going to be displayed in a protected interior environment or in an exposed exterior environment? As you may expect the standard rule that things that might get wet need to be waterproof also applies to printing. This mean that both the media and the ink need to stand up to weathering, which requires an aggressive ink chemistry known as solvent or eco solvent printing. These inks allow printing on a wide range of cheap PVC and paper based medias, and are use to produce anything from banners to vehicle wraps. The life of these prints is usually up to 3 years unlaminated, and equipment rages up to 5 meters wide, allowing for the creation of prints on a huge scale.If the print is for interior display, then you can use a water based (Aqueous) printer. These prints use an ink chemistry that is water based and can be used create incredibly detailed images for applications from poster through to fine art photography prints. Modern pigment inks can often be described as archival meaning that under correct conditions the quality of the print can be expected to last up to 200 years. This longevity can now surpass that of tradition photographic prints developed in a dark room, allowing professional photographer and artist to really consider digital printing as a viable option for the future of their workflow. The scale of water-based prints is usually limited to 60 inches width by a theoretical limitless length. These prints can be laminated to improve there resistance to moisture and scratching.The Eco stamp may also be important in your choice of technologies, and is currently a battleground for competing manufacturers. The word Eco Solvent implies to may it has better credentials then its competitors, however although these inks create a healthy working environment for the print shop, they still print on to PVC material which are notoriously difficult to dispose of in a Eco conscience manner. I would recommend that you keep an eye on a new technology known as Latex inks for their innovation in creating a genuinely Eco workflow. Although in its early stages this ink promises to combine the good elements of both water based and solvent based printing.

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