'Green' printing system wins prize for reducing hazardous chemicals
Kent Engineering claimed the award in the Machinery and Machine Tools Design category for its environmentally friendly alternative to conventional pad printing.
The green system substantially reduces the use of ink and solvent, and eliminates the use of corrosive acids.
Pad printing is applied to non-flat surfaces in a broad range of materials, including plastic and alloys. Designs can be found in consumer products, such as mobile phones, toys and spectacle frames.
The Green Pad Printing System, developed by Kent Engineering, incorporates several innovative patented designs. These features include a sealed ink cup, a laser-engraving system and the application of ultraviolet ink technology, according to Ricky Yeung, the company's senior manager for sales and marketing.
The completely sealed ink-cup design enables the printers to substantially cut the ink and solvent used for printing. Kent Engineering has pioneered the integration of laser-engraving technology in pad printing. It represents a major technological breakthrough.
'Laser-engraving technology is more environmentally friendly because it directly etches patterns and designs on the printing plates with laser beam. As opposed to conventional pad printing, our system does not rely on the highly polluting corrosive chemicals like acids in the plate etching process. We also do without any film used in the conventional system, thus eliminating an entire process of printing and development of films, which also involves the use of a lot of chemicals,' Yeung says.
The Green Pad Printing system is supported by a computer-aided design system which ensures the highly precise positioning of the patterns and designs prior to the engraving process. By integrating the ultraviolet ink technology into the system, it helps to reduce the use of ink solvent by 75 per cent compared with conventional pad printing. Another advantage is the efficient ink drying process. The fully computerised printing process is highly user-friendly and has a high degree of flexibility and adaptability for a broad range of designs, he says.
Kent Printing is a pioneer of pad printing in Asia. The company introduced the technology, developed in Germany, to Hong Kong in the 1970s. It supplies a series of standard pad-printing machines and custom-built systems to clients all over the world.
The company has been deploying enormous resources in the research and development of a green solution to pad printing over the past three decades. 'It began with our development of the sealed ink cup system in the mid-1980s,' Yeung says.
'Compared with the traditional open-ink cup, the main advantage of the sealed ink cup is that it drastically reduces the air polluting substances emitted in the mixing process and the subsequent industrial waste.' The key components of the system include the sealed ink cup with a structural ceramic ring and the steel printing plate which is 0.25mm thick.
'Since the mid-1980s, we have entered several of our technologies into the Hong Kong Awards for Industries many times and won four times,' he says. 'We spent the past 10 years fully integrating the several components we had developed.'
All innovations in the Green Pad Printing System are developed in-house by the company's team of local engineers at the company's research and development unit in Hong Kong. 'We are driven to develop more green solutions by the market because we custom-build our systems,' Yeung says.
'Demand for consumer products incorporating the green concept is increasing rapidly because the awareness of environmental protection among consumers has spread from the developed markets all over the world.
'We are honoured to win the award again. We will continue to contribute to minimising the pollution caused by printing.'