Let me apologize beforehand- if you are not the least bit interested in design or knowing absolutely everything about what claims to be eco friendly- this will bore you. I am a true Eco nerd, and with so many musicians and artists claiming the use of Eco friendly soy based inks (and subsequently me posting about it), I needed to understand the differences.
Ink has three main components; a pigment, a vehicle, and additives. Pigments give the inks their colors and a vehicle is a moist substance, such as petroleum, water, soy or other vegetable oils, that eases the spread of pigments and provides more even color. Additives, such as waxes and distillates, help reduce set off and improve the ink’s performance.
Petroleum-based inks gained popularity more than 50 years ago because they were fast drying and cost effective. The problem with petroleum is that the drying process is damaging to the environment. These inks are not only made from a non-renewable resource, but they release Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) as they dry, which is one of the causes of air pollution that contributes to global warming.
Current regulations require that petroleum inks release no more than 30 percent VOC, and this is where the new vegetable-based inks can be an effective green alternative. Now formulated for 2 to 15 percent VOC, vegetable-based inks are made of a mixture of renewable resources, such as soy, flax, canola or safflower, with the oil from each plant giving the vehicle its own unique advantage.
Soy ink was developed after imported oil shortages threatened many industries that depended on petroleum-based products. Though soy has been marketed as the new green printing ink, soy-based inks are not purely made from soy. Soy oils are combined with linseed and chinawood oils for better drying times. To claim '"soy ink", the ink only has to contain a minimum of 20 percent refined soy oil.In order to use the soy logo, The American Soybean Association established that ink solvent must contain a minimum amount of soybean oil depending on the type of printing. Therefore, depending on the printing process, a "soy ink" can still contain larger amounts of petroleum.
All inks, including vegetable and soy-based inks, still produce small quantities of VOC because they contain small amounts of petroleum to extend ink pigments. Without petroleum oil, more heat would be needed to dry the inks and more energy would be used in the printing process.
When designers choose ink with low VOC, they are choosing another significant way to protect the environment with one of the most important tools of their profession. According to the California Integrated Waste Management Board, when the Los Angeles Times switched to soy-based ink, they reduced their VOC emissions by 200 tons per year and won an air quality award from South Coast Air Quality Management District.
There are always new and improved inks to look forward to, and there is a new brand on the market that is an exciting development. Sun Chemical’s Liberty Ink is a vegetable-based ink that sets in under an hour and releases 0 percent VOCs. If the quality of this new ink is competitive, it will help green designers become even greener.
source:: Creative Pro