|Introduction to eco-friendly PE, PP, and PET|
The first thing to know about PE and PP is that “both PE and PP are versatile and cheap, and can be designed to replace almost all PVC applications.” (Greenpeace)
Today the major Fortune 500 companies in the US and some in Western Europe are mandating that suppliers use eco-friendly materials and reduce their carbon footprint. So FLAAR has initiated a long-range project to search out as many environmentally friendly products as possible. Our first phase is for substrates for signage, billboards, banners, building wrap, and other large signs. The size and the need for tensile strength pretty much suggest you need a technical textile from an extruded PE, PP, or PET fiber with appropriate coating or lamination on front and back.
Our first report in this long range project is about PE. We start with a glossary.
Glossary of PE, PP, Polyester
BOPP, Biaxially Oriented Polypropylene is what we all see every day as shrink wrap. If you have every tried to open a shrink wrapped product you know this plastic can stretch without breaking and is surprisingly strong considering its thinness.
Coroplast, although a registered trademark, the word Coroplast is like Kleenix or Xerox: a generic word for corrugated plastic, which in the case of Coroplast is a polypropylene copolymer. The Coroplast web site has abundant information. Corrugated plastic comes from hundreds of sources. Printer operators, print shop managers, ink companies, and printer manufacturers warn that not all corrugated plastic is good to print on. The quality and surface ability to accept inkjet ink varies considerably between one brand and other. Coroplast is the best known brand name and is considered a premium brand. Coroplast is used for For Sale realty signs stuck in the lawn, for poltical campaign signs on a post stuck in the ground along streets, and for anything that requires short term use outside or inside. If you have seen how the US Post Office holds their mail inside the post office and in the mail trucks, these open boxes are probably Coroplast.
HDPE High Density PolyEthylene
LDPE Low Density PolyEthylene
OPP, Oriented PolyPropolyene film for plastic (shopping) bags, flexible packaging, sheet, roll film, labels, etc.. Applied Extrusion Technologies (AET)'s web site shows you plenty of information. They show a water-based HP Designjet printer on their grapic media films page.
PE Polyethylene. There is now an entire FLAAR Report on the complete factory production workflow of PE technical textiles.
PET Polyethylene Terephthalate, a resin, can be used in soda pop bottles and comparable uses.
PET-G Polyethylene Terephtalate Glycol, an outstanding printable material for gorgeous saturated photographs. But not a cheap media but is recyclable.
PMMA, polymethyl methacrylate, acrylic, sold under various names including Perspex and Plexiglas
Polyester fabric is what most flags are made from. Polyester or polyester blend accepts direct to fabric disperse dye and dye sublimation from transfer paper. So for soft signage yu will get woven polyester in most cases. But Mylar is also polyester, though as film (not woven). Dupont Tejjin Films makes Mylar from Polyethylene Terephthalate (PET). Polyester film is used to laminate or cover window glass. Polyester film will tend to need to be coated to be printable with wide-format inkjet inks (the web site of Grafix Plastics has excellent FAQS and informative introductory information). Polyester comes from petroleum. Most of us in modern society wear clothing that tends to have polyester blends.
Polyolefin is a polymer. PP and PE are both polyolefins. Polybutene is a material I have not yet seen or heard mentioned in the wide-format inkjet substrates jargon.
PP is the abbreviation jargon for polypropylene which is a combustible thermoplastic extruded material. PP is commonly used for packaging in every imaginable thickness from transparent cling wrap to tubing to boxes. Agfa honestly admits in a caveat on its :Anapurna inkjet ink FAQ that “on polypropylene (PP) adhesion is not always perfect.” Agfa goes on to say that On polypropylene (PP) media adhesion is not always perfect, especially in the case of non-treated PP. In that case the use of a primer can help significantly. What Agfa forgets to mention is that Coroplast is PP ! In other words, you need a primer to print on one of the most common substrates in the flatbed UV-printing industry. PP may not melt at temperatures where PE would start to melt.
PS polystyrene is used for containers, bottles and many things we use in daily life.
PU, polyurethane, a foam-like material.
PVC Polyvinyl chloride, also called vinyl. PVC is the best material for printing with full-strength solvent ink. Unfortunately PVC is not eco-friendly and although still widely used worldwide because it is a great material to print on, in reality more and more printing companies are asking what non-PVC substrates can pocker for PVC.
resin the kind of resins we are interested in for the world of wide-format printable substrates would be synthetic polymers. However during the time of the year that I am not studying wide-format substrates, media, inks or printers, it is ironic that I am studing natural resins in Guatemala, such as copal, which is an incense from tree resin. Pine resin is an even more popular incense for the Maya inhabitations of Mesoamerica: see our www.Maya-archaeology.org. It is unfortunate you can't economically make printable material from natural resins from the forests.
Additional Glossary on plastics and polyolefins
If you look for an informative glossary on packaging terms, look at ABC-packaging.com/library/glossary.asp Useful albeit no illustrations. The web site for GrafixPlastics.com also has helpful information on many plastic films and sheets.
PE has a number of advantages: for example, PE weighs less than PVC
Current sources of PE for inkjet printing
Hundreds of factories produce PE for utilitarian uses, but only a few factories produce PE for wide-format inkjet printability. And of the inkjet production facilities, not many can produce wider than 3.2 meters. Yet most inkjet printing companies that do serious signage tend to use printers 5 meters in width.
Fabrene is one company that produces PE for printing. But I have never seen this company at any major signage trade show.
Huesker Synthetic GmbH is another producer, but I was discretely told that even UV ink did not adhere to one of their (Huesker) materials. I am not familiar with the name of Huesker in the world of wide-format inkjet printers for signage. This absence is probably because they make geosynthetics (their world is different than digital printing!). Their world is soil retention for construction sites, dams, roads, etc. as “fences” for soil, silt, etc.
Y eong Jeou has produced PE for tents and utilitarian applications for many years. Now they have worked for three years to also develop PE for signage. Yeong Jeou will have a booth at FESPA. Digital 2012 Barcelona.
SAR in China, exhibited PE at Guangzhou expo, 2010. But I doubt they can produce 5m widths.
Wonpoong (www.wonpoong.co.kr) is producing PE based materials, recyclable media. As is typical around the world, they make basic tarpaulin products for truck covers, tends, and general use. They do not identify on their main tarp page what material they use whatsoever.
It is often stated that “PE does not work well with solvent inks but does work very well with UV inks.” (Irvine (California) goes green). I heard the same every day at ISA sign expo in Orlando. But most of the people talking about solvent ink are unfamiliar with corona treatment and the fact that corona treated PE has a surface dyne level that facilitates wetting of solvent ink on the surface of the PE.
Or you can take a master roll of PE and coat it with another material to make it more easily printable. So Yeong Jeou has invested about three million US dollars to update their factory so they can coat with UV-printable coating
PE from Yeong Jeou can now be printed with HP latex ink
I was so busy inspecting the entire factory that I did not ask for the paperwork on the HP latex ink certification. HP offers a great service to list the specific brands and kinds of material that can be printed on. Aria PE from Yeong Jeou can be printed on with HP latex ink.
PP film (Polypropylene non-woven) vs PP as technical textile
Polypropylene is extensively used in the packing industry. Rigid transport backing cases (boxes) and thin flexible PP film are used in packaging.
Since Y eong Jeou manufacturers primarily PE, this is the material we started to do research on.
Contact information for PE
Consulting for PE, PVC, PP
FLAAR provides consulting for technical textiles, coatings, and marketing. Dr Hellmuth is also interested in printable materials that are made from natural fibers such as bamboo, jute, sugar cane, and other plant products.
Consulting for wide-format inkjet inks
Dr Nicholas Hellmuth provides consulting for companies that make wide-format inkjet inks.
So this is how FLAAR learns about ink. This is how FLAAR Reports differ from PR releases and pseudo reviews (which are simply skillfully packaged publicity releases).
Wide Format Printers