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“There are many areas where water-based inks have an advantage over solvent-based inks”

Portrait of Ludo Hof from Polytex

Ludo Hof, Sales Director at Polytex

Tell us about Polytex’s story so far as it relates to packaging.

Since the early 2000s, Polytex has been an active provider of inks and coatings to the packaging industry, with a specialization in water-based inks – though we do also cover other techniques such as UV, EB, or hybrids of these and water-based technology.

As a well-established company in the home decor industry, we have been expanding the scope of our products, service and knowledge into the packaging industry.


How did your switch to water-based inks work?

We decided to focus on water-based inks as far back as the late 1960s, when the Clean Air Act came into effect in the USA. We started to convert wallpaper factories from using solvent-based inks to water-based. In time, the European market followed the trend, and slowly but surely, we built a movement that transferred practically the entire wallpaper industry to using water-based inks. Other industries, such as flooring, followed suit.


Are there any differences in performance between water and solvent-based inks?

Not specifically in performance, but more in the overall concept. Water-based inks are not more difficult to use than solvent-based inks, or more limited in application. But you do need to make adjustments, especially when it comes to the mindset of the press operators. Printers need to learn and understand the differences in handling between solvent and water-based inks.

Small changes to sequences or other ways of working can make a big difference to the overall performance of the ink. For example, cleaning is often done at a later stage with solvent-based inks – but water-based inks benefit from a quick clean with some water and soap after a stop, rather than waiting until they have dried in the machine. 


Why did you decide to join the PRETHINK INK network?

With our 50+ years of experience in converting print shops from solvent to water-based inks, and our faith in the technology, we decided that now is a better time than ever to get involved in initiatives to change the world of printing on flexible packaging.


Why is ink base an issue more stakeholders in the packaging industry should be interested in?

It is easy to think only about the benefits of solvent-based ink, but water-based systems – as an entire concept, not just a product – should not be overlooked. There are many areas where water-based inks have an advantage over solvent-based inks. They have no VOCs, and there is no need for costly incineration or reclaiming of solvents. The machinery does not need to be explosion-proof, since water-based inks are not flammable. These are all reasons why a water-based system can be beneficial.


Do you have any advice for companies considering switching to water-based inks?

Get in contact with an ink supplier – and don’t stop there, but assemble a team of suppliers covering everything your shop might need. All aspects of printing should be represented: the press manufacturer, your rollers/sleeves, the ink and substrate.

In fact, take it a step further and get in touch with the different parties who joined PRETHINK INK. By growing the network, we can all benefit from each other’s knowledge, experience and opinions, and ultimately create a future-proof printing environment centered on water-based inks.


What do you think the future holds for inks and packaging as a whole?

Of course, there are many developments ongoing, taking us towards carbon-neutrality, the circular economy, digitalization, and more. Whatever happens, inks in the packaging industry will always have an important role: attracting people and informing them about the product in the package.

A few facts about our interview partner:

Name: Ludo Hof

Role: Sales Director

Company: Polytex Environmental Inks B.V.

Founded in: 1943 (USA), 1993 (Europe)

Specialisms: Water-based, UV and EB inks and coatings

Describe your company in a few words: Creativity, product performance and unmatched service make Polytex your partner.


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