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IWPA 20th Anniversary Approaches, Bienvenido Andino reflects on Past and Future

28 Sep 2011 8:15 PM | Keiji Obata (Administrator)

(By Bienvenido Andino, European editor based in Barcelona, Spain on the IWPA’s upcoming 20th anniversary)

Since the beginning of the waterless offset era, a printing method invented by Caspar Herrmann (1871-1934), the process has been propelled by different, yet isolated innovators who were “visionaries.” Innovation is to do the same things in a better way by way of creativity that result in higher quality, better economics and more respect for the environment. The German inventor Herrmann, although he applied for it, failed to obtain a patent for waterless offset in 1931. When he showed his four colour printing results at the Leipzig Spring Fair, they were highly appreciated by some graphic users but nobody was prepared pay more money for higher quality printed products achieved with his process. Caspar Hermann then moved to the States in 1932, hoping to find a better reception for his invention. The American graphic arts market did not accept his waterless offset printing method.

History of Waterless Printing

In 1967, the former 3M Company presented the first printing plate for waterless offset at DRUPA. But sensitivity to scratches brought this innovation to an end. Nevertheless there were printers like Harold Amos who was enthralled with the concept and never forgot the value of “Dry Printing.”

Some years later, Toray Industries Inc, bought the offset waterless patent from 3M (Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing Company) in the United States, where it was known as Driography. The process achieved outstanding results and positive response from the printing market in Japan. The trials to prove this way of printing were pursued with great and constant devotion by key printing companies like Bonshodo, Dai Nippon Printing, Toppan and several more. They obtained positive results with their Toray waterless offset printing plate and officially presented it at the 1977 Drupa.

Dr. Ernst-Michael Marks of marks- 3zet in Germany, the European waterless pioneer, took over once he was able to “communicate” with the manufacturer of the Toray plate. Not an easy task for a demanding graphics perfectionist from the West. From 1982 onwards, he proved that another way of thinking and acting when distributing the product would help penetrate the market. Success crowned his efforts with a substantial share of the German market.

Other pioneers like David Grey of Classic Colours of the United Kingdom and Jan Skantze of Schneidler Grafiska in Sweden were among the most notable early promoters of the process.

Waterless printing made a spectacular debut in the USA at Print ’91 where superbly printed posters were printed live at the show. The prints had screen rulings at an unheard of 400 lines per inch. The effort was led by John O’Rourke then working for Toray North America.  As important as it is to develop technical achievements in waterless offset it is also important to “propagate” them for the benefit of other printers in the world. From an idea initiated in the United States by a visionary of another sort, Arthur W. Lefebvre, who co-founded the non-profit WPA (Waterless Printing Association) in 1992. An “I” was added later referring to the International nature of its membership.  He too believed in the process and decided to spread the good word through an Association with specific goals, such as the exchange of technical knowledge and convincing potential printer users that they could produce a better printed product. Surrounded by some 40,000 sceptical US printers, he also was faced with the difficult job of convincing a lot of them, and others around the world. A few printers would cancel their membership after one year but others followed proudly showing their Monarch butterfly logo, designed and trade marked by the IWPA, as is the case at present with the DeMorgen newspaper in Belgium and Roldán Gráficas, a member in Spain.

Further to demonstrate their ecological dedication in their industrial activities, “This logo may grant us the entry and acceptance amongst some companies that otherwise would not be willing to enter in business with us,” states a satisfied printer in waterless offset using UV inks and manufacturing yearly more than 40 millions credit cards distributed in the world. As stated by the IWPA: the Butterfly symbolizes the environmental qualities, endurance and beauty of waterless printing.

Does the IWPA help members in crucial technical cases?

It took Mr. Lefebvre several years to raise the status of the International Waterless Printing Association among its world-wide members. Satisfactory printing results were not always attained. But, looking back at the work he has done to propagate the technical insights of the waterless printing method, it can be said that it was worth of starting the Association. Important: any member of the IWPA had “a practical and useful link” to the any place in the world to submit his technical question if necessary. A practical case in our country: a label printer in Spain had a problem because the ink was not adhering when printed on the plastic surface. A basic question was: do have you a Corona treatment in the press? If not, as you may borrow the support from outside: did you check at the expiration date?  Both cases were under control, nevertheless, the problem was still there. Submitted to Mr. Lefebvre, he used his knowledge of members and sponsors to take the following steps:

Submit a technical information about the problem to a label printer (after having crosschecked it with a similar in activity at a printer in Australia)

Have Classic Colours of England to send a sample of an ink special made to address the complaint stated by the Spanish Printer.

With such a help they solved the problem. The full solution needed took no more than 20 hours to settle. Without the practical help of the IWPA, how many steps would the printer have to struggle with to reach a similar result?  Such reasoning is based on the tendency of various manufacturers to concentrate only on the “highlights,” JUST the positive advantages of their products overlooking the difficulties not related to them but faced in real life by a printer.

Another case. What about to learn particulars regarding “ecological inks” that a printer may be required to use by his client? The IWPA will answer to the interested that they are “vegetable oil based inks such as soy.” In case he is a waterless offset printer, he may get such an extra information as this “a truly ecological waterless offset ink is now offered to Japanese printers through DIC and it is called W2, water-washable inks.” Like Toray plate development, it took DIC to perfect a product that was originally created in the USA. Obviously sharing information on a global basis, the IWPA will contact with its “sister” in Japan, the JWPA, obtaining through them the “cream” of the latest developments in the field in that country.


Fast approaching its 15th year of promotional and technical activity in the waterless offset field, led by an enthusiastic and knowledgeable professional, Arthur Lefebvre, the IWPA heralds new goals, as confirmed in the IGAS 2011 2nd International Conference, “set to debut 2012” as to became: a) A larger technical Forum to exchange ideas and solve specific waterless printing problems (member to member and supplier to member), b) Special projects as a conduct testing to establish metrics for all of water printing’s benefits, including environmental ones. By the former: to emphasize the use of the waterless printing in an ecological environment, something that present society needs to know about.  Instead of “continental” waterless printing associations more or less emanating from the IWPA, as the JPWA from Japan active since 2002, or the EWPA (European Waterless Printing Association) since 1996, which some critical non-German printers quote should replace the E (European) with a G (of German), because they concentrate their tasks in the German speaking countries (Germany and Switzerland) with around 100 million persons and 12.000 printing companies. The International Waterless Printing Association looks forward to introducing big changes from 2012 on, surely, for even better performance. Nevertheless, if we follow the German statement: Wechesel ist Vorschritt (Change means progress), it shows that the IWPA after almost 20 years, is a live and dynamic factor at the service of the offset waterless field led by an enthusiastic professional, Arthur Lefebvre. Recompense for having achieved it? “To have done it”, not always under the best conditions, but with the goal of supplying a first class service, at least, this is the opinion of the present writer. Thank you for all the past help.

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