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Oxford: Seacourt’s world-first technology promises sustainable future for printing

By Dan Teuton
25 February 2015

A leading green printing company based in Oxford has launched a unique printing press that combines the highest possible sustainability standards with unrivalled print quality. Developed by Oxford-based Seacourt, the LightTouch printing press is the first and currently only one in the world to combine waterless printing technology with instant drying powered by LEDs.

Commercial printing is the fifth-largest manufacturing industry in the UK and has a significant impact on the environment. Printing presses have a high demand for water and produce many hazardous pollutants. The print industry’s energy consumption is comparable with that of the iron and steel industries.

The LightTouch process could play an important role in ensuring a sustainable future for the print industry, which has struggled with the rise of digital and customer concern about whether print communication is environmentally responsible.

Traditional printing techniques can consume thousands of litres of water per day and require the use of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that contaminate the water supply. LightTouch uses special silicone plates to control how the ink is applied, removing the need for water and any associated pollution.

In a world-first, LightTouch combines this waterless method with an instant drying technique powered by LEDs. Some printers have started to use conventional UV lamps to speed up the drying process and improve turnaround times for jobs. Seacourt has replaced these lamps with LEDs, reducing the amount of energy consumed by over 85%.

Crucially, these improvements in environmental performance go hand-in-hand with delivering the highest levels of print quality. Removing water from the process prevents ink dilution ensuring vibrant, punchy colours. Instant drying ensures dramatically faster turnaround times and avoids inaccuracies like scuffing and strikethrough.

Seacourt managing director Gareth Dinnage explained: “The LightTouch printing press is an outstanding example of how a deep commitment to sustainability can lead to leaps forward in technological performance. LightTouch will not only make us extremely competitive in the marketplace but could also lead the way in ensuring a sustainable future for the print industry as a whole.”

Seacourt first introduced waterless printing in 1997 when the technology was in its infancy. Since then, the company has saved over 7.5 million litres of water and been recognised with two Queen’s Awards for sustainable development. Dinnage and his team worked with leading manufacturers to develop the new printing press, which was installed at Seacourt’s premises last month.

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