In recent years, there has been a significant change in how businesses view the environment and climate change. Nowadays, these aspects are regarded as top priorities in companies around the globe, spanning from small and medium-sized enterprises to large multinational corporations.

Enterprises aim to align with consumer demands for sustainability, striving to minimize the ecological footprint of their products, packaging, and manufacturing processes. This extends to the labeling of products, leading to an increased interest in printers that utilize eco-friendly consumables, such as MEK-free inks.

What is MEK?

MEK, or methyl ethyl ketone, serves as a solvent in conventional continuous inkjet inks. These inks are known for their rapid drying due to MEK’s high evaporation rate. However, they are also linked to increased emissions of volatile organic compounds (VOCs). VOCs are gases released during the printing process, which can compromise indoor air quality and contribute to the formation of ground-level ozone and methane, negatively impacting the environment.

While there is no global, unified regulation imposing constraints on the use of MEK-based inks, various countries and regions have introduced local guidelines and restrictions on MEK usage. This can result in additional fees and taxes or require the implementation of supplementary monitoring processes.

Anticipated developments suggest that regulations curtailing MEK use will continue to expand and encompass a wider scope. Consequently, many manufacturers are actively seeking MEK-free alternatives to reduce their environmental footprint and proactively prepare for forthcoming regulatory constraints.

What are the benefits of MEK-free inks?

MEK-free inks typically emit fewer volatile organic compounds (VOCs) compared to traditional MEK-based consumables. They also bring about efficiency gains by reducing the consumption of makeup. When combined with cutting-edge coding equipment, like Domino’s Ax-Series printers with their reduced drop size and enhanced ink usage, VOC emissions can be further minimized.

Apart from the environmental advantages, MEK-free inks offer practical benefits within production environments. Unlike MEK-based inks, which often have a strong, unpleasant odor, alcohol-based MEK-free inks are virtually odorless. This not only enhances the air quality on production lines but also reduces the risk of sensory contamination affecting products and packaging.

Given the growing emphasis on sustainability and worker health and well-being, the demand for MEK-free inks is steadily rising. Nevertheless, developing MEK-free inks that meet the industry’s expectations for adhesion, readability, and contrast can be a significant challenge. Fortunately, Domino’s expert Ink Development team has invested substantial efforts to surmount this challenge and provide MEK-free solutions tailored to a variety of applications.

Ink Development

Domino’s MEK-free solutions

Domino is dedicated to ongoing research and development aimed at creating new and improved ink formulations. These formulations not only perform exceptionally well on production lines but are also safe to use and help our customers meet their sustainability objectives. As a result of this commitment, Domino’s Ink Development team has introduced a variety of MEK-free solutions to decrease volatile organic compound (VOC) emissions, lower consumables consumption, and enhance air quality while delivering clear and durable codes.

One of Domino’s latest MEK-free solutions is the 1BK108 ink, specifically designed to meet the requirements of the food and pharmaceutical industries. This black, MEK-free formulation is compliant with EuPIA standards, and all its components are listed on Annex 10 of the Swiss Ordinance List. This makes 1BK108 a suitable MEK-free coding solution for printing on food packaging. Notably, 1BK108 exhibits high adhesion properties, making it particularly well-suited for challenging substrates with low surface energy, such as recyclable polyethylene (PE) and polypropylene (PP). These substrates are gaining popularity due to their recyclability, but they have traditionally posed challenges for coding with MEK-free solutions. However, IBK108 delivers exceptional print quality and excellent adhesion, meeting the expectations set by typical MEK-based inks, with the sole difference being the absence of MEK.

Manufacturers who switch to IBK108 can reduce overall makeup usage by 35%, and this can be further reduced to 50% when the printer is equipped with Domino’s Green Pack solvent recovery add-on, allowing the reuse of condensed solvent that might otherwise be wasted. This add-on is available for Ax350i and Ax550i printers.

Another valuable addition to Domino’s MEK-free range is the 8BK167 ink, ideal for coding challenging substrates like PE and PP. It is a black, very fast-drying ink with excellent adhesion properties and high reliability even when printing at very fast speeds. 8BK167 adheres to EuPIA Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP) standards and complies with the Swiss Ordinance, making it suitable for various sectors, including food, beverage, dairy, personal care, and pharmaceuticals.

Domino’s MEK-free ink range also includes 1BK104, a 100% ethanol-based, fast-drying ink suitable for a wide range of applications in the food and pharmaceutical industries. It is particularly well-suited for flexible food packaging, including snacks, confectionery, and dried foods. 1BK104 has also received validation in Japan for printing on PET pouches in retort applications.

With Domino’s comprehensive range of MEK-free inks, achieving low-impact printing is now more attainable than ever before.

With Domino’s range of MEK-free inks, low-impact printing is now a more realistic option than ever before.

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