How printing technology is making the world greener Mr. Katsuhisa Asari, Managing Director and Mr. S Parameswaran Iyer, Head of Corporate Marketing and Communications, Konica Minolta India, explain how micro technologies work together to produce efficient and eco-friendly output that enhances the overall product life cycle of digital printing.
With the rapid advancement of technology and digitalization, one might think that printing is an outdated and unsustainable practice. However, a closer look reveals a remarkable transformation happening in the printing industry, where innovative solutions and smart technologies are improving the environmental impact of printing. In the changing scenario of printing, the industry is adopting sustainability and contributing to a cleaner future. Based on data collected over 13 years, we derived insights that inform our response to climate change, which recognize how vital printing technologies are for achieving sustainable printing. Micro technologies work together to produce an efficient and eco-friendly output that enhances the overall product life cycle of digital printing. There are several factors that enable this change for a smoother revolution.
Rethinking materials and processes
Traditionally, printing depended on resource-intensive materials and energy-consuming processes. However, the industry has made significant progress in using eco-friendly alternatives. By using ultra-bright LEDs with optical technology, the images displayed on the panels of the devices are about 2.5 times brighter than with the conventional models, but power consumption has been cut by almost half.
Similarly, a variety of sustainable substrates are available, including recycled paper, FSC-certified materials, post-consumer waste options, and even tree-free alternatives. By rethinking the materials used in printing, we can greatly reduce our carbon footprint and minimise the use of natural resources.
Embracing digital printing’s environmental advantages
Digital printing, with its remarkable efficiency and versatility, has emerged as a key factor of sustainable printing practices. Unlike traditional methods, digital printers eliminate the need for etched metal plates, thus reducing energy consumption and waste generation. Improved polymerized toner quality has now enabled an environmentally sustainable print by using about 25% less water than a conventional pulverized toner.
The use of electrostatic rollers, or drums, to apply toner enables accurate color application and prevents bleeding. This not only ensures sharp and clear images but also enables printing on various materials, from packaging and plastics to fabrics and metal foils. By leveraging the power of digital printing, we open a world of creative possibilities while reducing our impact on the environment.
Energy conservation: A paradigm shift
One of the essential aspects of sustainable printing is energy conservation. Digital printing, with its streamlined processes, offers remarkable energy efficiency compared to conventional printing methods. Industrial Inkjet printers, for example, reduce electricity usage by up to 57% compared to conventional screen-printing techniques. This reduction in energy consumption not only lowers operational costs but also has a significant positive effect on our carbon emissions. By adopting digital printing technologies, businesses can join the global efforts to fight climate change.
How to reduce and optimize waste in printing
Printing processes used to generate a lot of paper waste and use resources inefficiently. However, digital printing has changed this situation. Unlike offset printing, where each print design needs aluminum plates, digital printing does not need such time-consuming and wasteful practices. Also, using high-quality, professional print solutions led to a 61% reduction in CO2 emissions in the print product’s lifecycle, in fiscal 2021, compared to the fiscal year of 2005.
Moreover, digital printing allows for printing on demand, eliminating the need for too much inventory and reducing the chance of outdated materials. This flexible approach not only reduces waste but also optimizes resource use, making printing a more sustainable practice.
Smart technologies for sustainable printing
The use of smart technologies has been crucial in improving sustainable printing practices. Installing a gas turbine cogeneration system can provide 80-90% energy efficiency (general thermal power plants are at about 40%), which greatly helps to save energy and reduce CO2 emissions by using exhaust heat effectively.
Furthermore, industrial inkjet printers, for example, offer accurate output control, eliminating the need for color matching between devices and reducing preparation time. The Japan Federation of Printing Industries recognized this innovation, giving Konica Minolta a three-star environmentally friendly product status. By using the power of advanced technologies, such as IoT and automation, the printing industry can further improve its environmental performance while increasing operational efficiency.
Printing’s role in circular economy
The idea of a circular economy, where resources are used and reused in a closed-loop system, is becoming popular across industries. Printing has an important role in this change. Through responsible material sourcing, recycling initiatives, and the use of biodegradable and compostable materials, the printing industry can help to create a more sustainable circular economy. By rethinking the entire lifecycle of printed materials, from design to disposal, we can reduce waste and create a truly regenerative printing ecosystem.