A Beginner's Guide to Solvent Inks for Large-Format Printing

A Beginner’s Guide to Solvent Inks for Large-Format Printing

When you do your research on large-format printing, you will inevitably encounter the term “solvent inks.” Solvent inks are a popular type of ink in the print service provider industry, often used for outdoor signage and banner advertising. You may even read about some bad press about solvent inks in your research.

What are solvent inks? Basically, a solvent ink is any kind of ink that does not have water as its base. There are many so-called classifications for this type of ink. There are solvent inks that are classified as mild or eco-friendly, while some are categorized as aggressive.

How Solvent Inks Work

What makes solvent inks different from water-based ink? Aside from the fact that solvent inks are not based on water, they are pigment inks. Water-based inks are dye inks, by contrast. Pigment inks are necessary to ensure that the outdoor signage materials to be printed are impervious to the elements, will not fade easily, and are resistant to scratches.

Solvent inks work best with non-absorbent and uncoated printing media, such as self-adhesive vinyl. The solvent in the ink is supposed to keep the pigments in liquid form while they are applied on the printing medium using the large-format printer. Because the printing medium is uncoated and non-absorbent, the ink is usually formulated with adhesive resins or glues that are supposed to help the pigments bind with the printing medium. The binding happens when the solvent in the ink evaporates.

Solvent inks require heat in order for the printout to dry. The mild inks take some time to dry and require a lot of heat. On the other hand, the aggressive types are easier to dry and need less heat to get this done. In addition, aggressive solvents result in printouts that are more durable against the weather, are resistant to fading and resistant to scratching. More importantly, printouts created with aggressive solvents tend to be glossier and display brighter colors.

What about the Bad Rep?

Currently, solvent inks suffer from a bad reputation, often thought of as a hazard to a person’s health and the environment. While it is true that solvent inks do have harmful chemicals in them and their usage is controlled by local government laws, there are ways to take advantage of the benefits of this ink without causing long-term health problems or without creating environmental problems.

Thus, when you buy solvent inks, make sure that you read the material safety data sheet or MSDS for the ink. If the MSDS is not included in the package of the ink, you can definitely download it from the manufacturer’s website. Read the MSDS thoroughly, study what chemicals make up the ink, and follow the safety instructions indicated there to the letter.

You should also implement some basic safety precautions in your printing shop when you use solvent inks with large-format printers. Work in a place that is well-ventilated, wear protective clothing if you have to, and be very careful not to get the substance in your eyes or on your skin.

This Article is written by John C Arkin.


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