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Is Soy Ink Risk-Free?

Published on May. 21, 2020

Like many innovations, soy based offset ink grew out of a crisis that crippled the U.S. economy in 1973. During the Arab-Israeli war, Arab members of the organization of petroleum exporting countries imposed an embargo on the United States in retaliation for American support for Israeli forces. Because oil is in short supply, ink manufacturers are looking for alternatives to petroleum-based chemicals.

Environmentally friendly soy printing ink was born, and it is made by a variety of agricultural products in oil. This is before inkjet printing. Inks produced from soybean oil began flowing through offset rotary presses in the 1980s and were widely used in the newspaper industry.

1. Soybean ink for inkjet printing

Like other oil-based inkjet inks, soy formulas perform well on porous substrates such as wood, leather, tile, and Tyvek®, which are used for home packaging and product packaging. Similarly, soybean-based ink-jet ink is also an ideal choice for corrugated packaging. Oil-based inks (including soy formula) for Dimatix, Konica Minolta, lyocell, Matsushita, Ricoh, SII Printek, and Xaar piezoelectric ink-jet on demand (DOD) print heads. Although soybean oil is made from plants, the ink is not food grade due to the use of various petroleum additives. Soy ink produces a brighter color because there are fewer contaminants in the oil than in the petroleum-based ink.

Soy Based Offset Ink

Soy Based Offset Ink

2. Advantages of the soybean ink-jet ink

2.1 to reduce VOC

Since the 1970s, great progress has been made in environmentally friendly ink.

The Clean Air Act amendments of 1990 limited volatile organic compounds (VOC), pushing soya and vegetable-based inks into the mainstream.

The VOC content of soy-based inks is significantly lower than that of solvent-based or petroleum-based inks, which makes these inks more environmentally friendly. These pollutants can affect indoor air quality and pose short - and long-term health risks to employees. Exposure causes eye and respiratory irritation, headaches, dizziness, visual impairment, and memory loss.

In addition to indoor effects, VOCs also produce photochemical reactions in the atmosphere, leading to the formation of ozone. Ground-level ozone pollution can cause shortness of breath, especially in people with asthma, emphysema, or chronic bronchitis.

Soy-based inks contain less than a fifth of the volatile organic compounds found in petroleum-based formulations.

2.2 bright colors

Newspapers began to be printed with soy ink in the 1980s.

Because soybean oil is naturally cleaner than petroleum-based ink, it tends to be brighter in color and produces a sharper image. Oil refining does not remove all natural pollutants. The remaining contaminants dull the colored pigments. The color clarity of the soy-based ink makes it a cost-effective choice. Higher color intensity usually requires less ink.

2.3 renewable resources

Compared with the turbulent 1970s, world oil markets have generally stabilized. That said, world events themselves can quickly become sequelae from nearly 40 years ago. Soybeans provide a renewable source of oil needed to produce soy ink.

2.4 biodegradable

Before recycling, the ink must be "cleaned" from the paper by a process called deinking. In the recycling process, it is easier to remove soy-based ink from paper. Paper printed with oil-based ink is difficult to recycle.

Finally, the biodegradability of soybean ink is about four times. According to the EPA, "soybean ink" must contain at least 20 percent soybean oil. The more soybean oil in the formula, the higher the biodegradability of the ink. Soybean inks with ultraviolet (UV) curing properties must contain at least 7% soybean oil. Although these inks are more biodegradable than petroleum-based inks, they do not meet food-grade requirements.

2.5 environmentally friendly alternatives

To be clear, soy ink usually contains a certain amount of petrochemical additives, although soy ink is more environmentally friendly than ink made specifically from petroleum products. Soy ink is still not enough to become a true "green" product.

3. Conclusion

Soy based ink is certainly more sustainable than ink, but they don't meet food-grade requirements.