Print Perspectives

The secret to inkjet success is in the inks – and primers

January 23, 2024

Inks inkroom

Inkjet is the main driver of the printing industry's transition from traditional printing processes to digital and is becoming established as a production printing process in more and more application areas. Given this development, the discussion often revolves around press architectures, print heads and technical aspects of the hardware, while inks and supporting fluids tend to be treated as secondary issues. Yet, whether the expectations of printers, their customers and end users/consumers are met and whether a print job is ultimately profitable depends largely on the appearance and durability of the inks on the respective substrate. The inks and primers used have a significant impact on color quality, cost-effectiveness and sustainability of the jobs produced, as well as the variety of applications.

Drawing on more than 55 years of experience and market-proven expertise in the development of printing technology and consumables for inkjet production printing, Kodak takes a simple, flexible approach to inks. The company's strategy is to provide only one specific set of inks for each of its high-speed continuous inkjet (CIJ) technologies – KODAK Stream and KODAK ULTRASTREAM Technology – and to pretreat the surfaces of different substrates with a range of ink-receptive primers, called KODAK OPTIMAX Primers. This is a more efficient and economical approach for printers than having to use different and sometimes quite costly inks for different substrate categories and applications.

"Our unique, simple inks and primers strategy enables users of KODAK PROSPER Technology Solutions in various segments of the commercial and packaging printing industry to achieve vibrant, accurate and consistent color on virtually all substrates," said Jim Continenza, Executive Chairman and CEO, Kodak.

Prosper 7000 turbo turner bars

The essence of inkjet: KODACHROME and KODAK EKTACOLOR Inks

Leveraging its unparalleled expertise in advanced materials and chemicals as well as color science and management, Kodak formulates, develops, and manufactures in house high-performance inks that are ideal across a wide range of processes and applications. A key advantage of the inks lies in Kodak’s proprietary pigment micro-milling process. This process creates extremely fine nanoparticle pigments that are typically less than 50 nanometers (a nanometer is one billionth of a meter) and have a very narrow size distribution. The finer pigments make the ink easier to jet, reduce light scatter to achieve richer and purer colors, and deliver a superior color gamut as well as ultra-thin dried ink layers. All of these beneficial properties enable KODAK PROSPER Presses and Imprinting Systems to print vivid images with vibrant colors, reliably render the offset color gamut, match brand colors and exceed customer expectations in virtually all applications.

Kodak has developed high-quality, water-based (aqueous) inks that maximize the strengths and application benefits of its continuous inkjet printing solutions. KODACHROME Inks are designed for high-quality KODAK ULTRASTREAM Inkjet Technology, which powers the groundbreaking KODAK PROSPER ULTRA 520 Press. KODACHROME Inks deliver outstanding offset-quality print at high speeds and produce a 1.4 times larger gamut volume than GRACol and Fogra and a 95% larger gamut volume than SWOP. "With these capabilities, our KODACHROME Inks help make the PROSPER ULTRA 520 Press – in addition to its productivity and cost efficiency – a true replacement for traditional offset printing in terms of quality," commented Jim Continenza.

KODAK EKTACOLOR Inks used in Stream Inkjet Technology, including the KODAK PROSPER 7000 Turbo Press, KODAK PROSPER 6000 Press, and KODAK PROSPER Imprinting Systems, are specially formulated to create brighter, punchier print, at speeds faster than any other commercial inkjet system on the market.

A common feature of KODACHROME and EKTACOLOR Inks is a lower level of humectants compared to competitive inks. This results in faster drying, even when printing with high ink coverage on difficult substrates. The inks, together with custom-engineered near-infrared (NIR) drying on KODAK PROSPER Presses enable printing heavy ink coverage on coated and glossy papers, even at the presses’ highest speeds.

Kodachrome inks gracol gamut comparison

KODAK OPTIMAX Primers enable superior, durable prints on virtually any substrate

Using KODAK OPTIMAX Primers gives printers independence from expensive pre-treated inkjet substrates and results in fewer complications and reduced costs. As a result, a wide variety of applications can be produced on a single PROSPER Press – at full speed and with uncompromisingly high quality.

In addition to creating a thin adhesive layer so that the substrate accepts the ink, OPTIMAX Primers immobilize the pigment, allowing high-speed printing with high ink coverage. When printing on absorbent substrates, OPTIMAX Primers keep the ink, specifically the nanoparticulate pigments, on the surface while the carrier fluid soaks into the substrate. On non-absorbent substrates, the primer creates an adhesive surface that holds the ink drops in place and thus prevents them from spreading or coalescing.

Kodak offers a series of high-performance OPTIMAX Primers optimized for a wide range of substrates and applications. These include an OPTIMAX Standard Primer for uncoated papers and an OPTIMAX Enhanced Primer for coated papers. OPTIMAX Packaging Primers are available for uncoated and coated corrugated and folding carton packaging applications, as well as for non-absorbent substrates such as plastic, film, and materials for personal care products.

Sustainability built in

Just like Kodak’s inks, OPTIMAX Primers are water-based, which is a significant sustainability advantage. In addition, the primers as well as KODACHROME and EKTACOLOR Inks do not contain any VOCs or environmentally hazardous substances, which also benefits sustainability and improves the working environment for press operators. What’s more, Kodak’s inks are toy-safe – making them a safe solution for children’s and juvenile books – and food-safe for indirect contact in packaging applications.

OPTIMAX Primers improve sustainability even further by facilitating deinkability, i.e. removing printing ink from paper fibers to produce deinked pulp for the manufacture of recycled paper. OPTIMAX primers therefore increase the recyclability of printed products.

Complete solutions from one source for picture-perfect, profitable print

Along with Kodak’s high-speed continuous inkjet technologies, KODACHROME Inks, EKTACOLOR Inks and OPTIMAX Primers create a complete inkjet ecosystem with perfectly matched components, all designed, developed and manufactured in-house by Kodak. This comprehensive control also means that Kodak can respond quickly to changing requirements in the development of inks and primers as new substrates are launched and new applications emerge.

"Our customers can trust a single supplier for all their digital needs, with the confidence that KODAK inks and primers have been specifically optimized for KODAK PROSPER products. All of this drives print quality and operational effectiveness for printers and helps them produce an ever-growing number of applications efficiently, productively and profitably with our leading-edge inkjet production printing solutions," concluded Jim Continenza.