Technology tends to grow exponentially. That means that every technological advance builds on another technological advance, which causes the rate of technological change to speed up. Telephones took almost 150 years from conception until they could be mobile. Mobile phones, on the other hand, have increased in drastic ways nearly every year. The pace of change is only increasing, and the same is true on the Boise printing scene. The printing industry has been revolutionizing its inks and its surfaces. The two go hand-in-hand. If you want something printed on a surface other than paper, you might need a revolutionary ink.
Ink consists of a pigment, a liquid, and a binder. It’s essentially the same as paint. The liquid will evaporate, leaving behind the pigment. That process is called curing. The pigment hardens during that time as well. Inks need to cure quickly so that what you print can be handled. Some of the newest inks are UV-cured inks. They’re cured by exposure to ultraviolet light. The light hardens the pigment and dries it. UV-cured inks environmentally friendly, they’re quick drying, they don’t readily clog, and can be used on non-traditional surfaces. Many printers are shifting as much as possible towards UV-cured inks for that reason.
They’re also ideal for printing on surfaces that aren’t paper because of how quickly and reliably they dry. For example, coffee mugs in the past were basically painted with a company’s logo and information. Other mugs would have the letters affixed to them essentially like stickers or vinyl lettering. However, a UV-cured ink can be printed right onto the mug and other non-traditional surfaces.
Paper is essentially a very tightly woven fabric. The fibers from wood pulp are so fine that it forms a single sheet without the obvious weave of a piece of cloth. Printing companies and their affiliated suppliers have been working on different ways to produce non-traditional surfaces and paper. The most obvious solution is to find natural fibers that are as fine as wood pulp but don’t require cutting down trees. Recycled paper can reduce or eliminate the need to fell trees. The most reliable solution is tree-free paper.
Tree-free paper is paper made from a range of different substances. Some of them are tree-like such as bamboo. Bamboo can be used to make almost anything that can be made from wood, paper included. Tree-free paper can also be made from sugarcane, straw, hemp, and flax. There are also some companies producing tree-free paper from industrial waste from industries such as textiles.