Wondering what that “eco” means in your recently bought Roland Eco-Sol Ink? The prefix has confused many, but it most certainly means that the ink is more environmentally friendly and user-friendly than other stronger or more aggressive inks. Knowing the history and evolution of eco-solvent inks should definitely settle issues.
Going Light from Strong
By the year 2000, the need for less strong inks emerged. Aggressive inks have dominated the ink market the previous decades. The light solvent inks or eco-solvent inks were just being produced by then. They were originally used for signage work. Users wanted an ink that was friendlier to them, and light solvents were delivering in strides. Strong solvents have high volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Their smell lingers, and that is why ventilation is required when they are used.
VOC levels were the talk of the town in the ink industry. With eco-solvent inks, the VOC levels are lower. They can be used in a closed environment with just enough ventilation. Odour is not an issue. Inkjet nozzles do not need so much cleaning. However, eco-solvent inks need more heat to dry up than strong solvents, which dry up far quickly.
Less Time in the Open Environment
When strong solvents were invented, the underlying purpose was to create long-lasting inks. Strong solvents were then made to weather the outdoor environment. As a result, they are used indoors less. That is apart from the fact that they leave a strong odour. While eco-solvent inks can still be used outdoors, they do not stay long. Normally one to two years is enough before they start to weaken.
In effect, eco-solvent inks spend less time in the outdoor environment. It can be a weakness in terms of product competitiveness, but this can be considered a benefit to the surrounding natural ecology. With less exposure to VOCs—although it is low-level—the environment is much safer.
Ecological to Economical
Due to the lower VOCs, many users in the industry have defined the “eco” in eco-solvent inks as “ecological.” That has been the single-word running slogan of eco-solvents since its inception. However, some ink producers, after a number of field trials and laboratory researches, admitted that eco-solvent inks were not that very “green,” which eventually made some manufacturer redefine “eco” as “economical” instead. However, whatever the meaning was, the “eco” remained in the name.
There were some ink makers that found that some eco-solvent inks can be as hazardous as strong solvents and that some strong solvent inks were not that hazardous. In response to this, many ink makers made adjustments by using friendlier additives. Some have already gained Greenguard Gold certificates, indicating that an eco-solvent ink gives out low chemical emissions, making it safer for indoor use.
Indeed, the eco-solvent ink is living up to its name as an environmentally friendly ink. The refinements to the ink may still go on as research to make them even more ecological goes on. For nearly two decades since it was developed, the eco-solvent ink has definitely made significant progress.