Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge: 2000 Small Business Award
EnvirogluvTM: A Technology for Decorating Glass and Ceramicware with Radiation-Curable, Environmentally Compliant Inks
Innovation and Benefits: RevTech developed the EnvirogluvTM process to print top-quality labels directly on glass, replacing paper labels, decals, or applied ceramic labeling. EnvirogluvTM inks do not contain heavy metals, contain little to no volatile organic compounds (VOCs), and are biodegradable. This technology saves energy by replacing high-temperature ovens with ultraviolet light, saves raw materials, wastes no ink, and produces decorated glass that is completely recyclable.
Summary of Technology: Billions of products are sold in glass containers in the United States every year. Most, if not all, of these glass containers are labeled in some fashion. Typically, decorative indicia are applied to glass using paper labels, decals, or a process known as applied ceramic labeling (ACL). ACL involves first printing the glass with an ink composition that contains various heavy metals such as lead, cadmium, and chromium, then bonding the ink to the glass by baking in an oven known as a lehr at temperatures of 1,000 °F or more for several hours.
All of these processes have disadvantages. Paper labels are inexpensive but can be easily removed if the container is exposed to water or abrasion. In addition, paper labels do not provide the aesthetics desired by decorators who want rich, expensive-looking containers. Decals are expensive and difficult to apply at the high line speeds that are required in the decoration of most commercial containers. More important, decals are made from materials that are not biodegradable, which causes serious problems in the recycling of glass containers that are decorated by this method. The use and disposal of the heavy metals required in ACL presents serious environmental concerns. Moreover, the high-temperature lehr ovens required in ACL decorating utilize substantial amounts of energy and raise safety issues with respect to workers and plant facilities that use this equipment. The inks used in ACL decorating also tend to contain high levels of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that can lead to undesirable emissions.
Clearly, there has been a need in the glass decorating industry for a decorated glass container that is aesthetically pleasing, durable, and obtained in a cost-effective, environmentally friendly, and energy-efficient manner. EnvirogluvTM technology fills that need. EnvirogluvTM is a glass decorating technology that directly silk-screens radiation-curable inks onto glass, then cures the ink almost instantly by exposure to UV light. The result is a crisp, clean label that is environmentally sound, with a unit cost that is about half that of traditional labeling.
EnvirogluvTM technology offers many human health and environmental benefits. The ink compositions used in the EnvirogluvTM process do not contain any heavy metals and contain little to no VOCs. All EnvirogluvTM pigments are biodegradable. The EnvirogluvTM inks are cured directly on the glass by exposure to UV radiation, eliminating the high-temperature baking in a lehr oven that is associated with the ACL process. This provides additional safety and environmental benefits, such as reduced energy consumption and reduced chance of worker injury. In addition, the process uses less raw materials and does not generate any waste ink. Furthermore, EnvirogluvTM decorated glass containers eliminate the need for extra packaging and are completely recyclable. Applications suitable for the EnvirogluvTM process include tableware, cosmetics containers, and plate glass.
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