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In the recent years, the printing industry has begun experimenting with nanotechnology, from printing inks to the printing process.
A new digital printing process based on nanotechnology was introduced by Landa Corporation in 2012. The process uses very small pigment water-based particles, which is about tens of nanometers in size. This innovative printing process can be used to print on almost any material.
Video Courtesy of Landa Nano Youtube Channel
Another contribution to the world of digital printing from Landa Corporation is the Landa Nanographic Printing Presses. Landa Nanographic Printing Presses combines the versatility of digital with the speed and qualities of offset printing.
Both of these innovations are the result of 10 years of nanotechnology research, and are stated to be eco-friendly and energy-efficient. According to Landa the Nanographic Printing Presses are capable of producing the lowest cost-per-page digital images in the printing industry with each press capable of printing up to eight colours, at speeds up to 11,000 sheets per hour, and operating at 600 dpi or 1200 dpi resolution.
Researchers in Singapore have developed a non-colourant method that can deliver bright-field colour prints with resolutions up to the optical diffraction limit. Usually colour information is determined by dimensional parameters of metal nanostructures, and tuning their plasmon resonance establishes the colours of each pixels. The colour-mapping method developed by the researchers, produces images with sharp colour changes and fine tonal variations. It can be tailored for large-volume colour printing using nano-imprint lithography. This method can be applied to create micro-images for steganography, security, nanoscale optical filters, and high-density spectrally encoded optical data storage.
Nano-Based Printing Application
The following are the key areas in printing where nanotechnology is applied:
- Traditional printed coatings such as varnishes have been provided with scratch resistance properties
- Inks with nano-particles and structures can be used in most printing processes including printed electronics
- Inkjet inks require small particles in their formulation especially for dyes and pigments, and thus benefit greatly from nanotechnology. Researchers state that the inkjet printing technology is growing side by side with the development of nanomaterials.
- Nano and micro materials that have been inkjet printed are also used for photochromic and electrochromic visual effects and markers, flame retardants, conductive graphites and metals, antimicrobials, magnetic materials, enzymes and other biomaterials and liquid crystals.
- Nanomaterials are printed on a range of substrates for making RFID labels and tags, luminescent displays using organic light emitting diodes (OLEDs), flexible batteries, sensors and solar energy cells.
- Nanomaterials in both traditional and inkjet inks are being used for anti-counterfeiting, security, and brand protection purposes. This area is gaining in popularity and has wider scope.
- Exfoliated nanocomposite of silicates in a polymer solution can be printed as a barrier coating for products such as foodstuffs. Sun Chemical, a company in the UK, states that it helps to reduce oxygen transmissions levels than other traditional packaging barrier materials, and provides excellent barrier properties. This coating can be easily applied using traditional methods.
Although the prospect of using nanotechnology in printing seem very promising, there are several challenges that the industry need to overcome for this concept to be recognized and accepted globally.
Nanotechnology is still viewed with a lot of apprehension by many nations. The biggest area of concern is its effect on health and safety. European legislators and regulators especially are very stringent about the use of nanomaterials. Due to the stringent regulations, many European companies want their suppliers to inform them about the use of nanomaterials in products including packaging materials. Those involved in current and new printable nanotechnologies need to pay attention to the laws and regulations prevalent in this regard in various countries.
Another challenge facing the industry is the costs associated with the research and development of nanomaterials in real world applications.
For future progress in nanoprinting, researchers, printing industry players and government legislators will need to work together to find feasible and safe solutions for nano-based printing to have a global impact.