Highlight: CSR through Core Business Activities
Craftsmanship is the starting point and foundation of Lintec's activities. Through environmentally friendly manufacturing, the company seeks to fulfill its social responsibilities. In this Highlight article, we will look at Lintec's environmental initiatives, including solvent-free products.
Core technologies for adhering and removing materials used in daily life
Labels and stickers that adhere firmly and remove easily — these represent
Lintec's core technologies and the foundation of its craftsmanship.
Let's take a look at Lintec's mainstay, printing-related adhesive products. These products are made up of three layers: the surface base material on which printing is performed, the adhesive for making it stick properly, and the release material to protect the adhesive and enhance its processability. The adhesive is applied to the back of the surface base material, and release paper or film is used for the release layer for easy removal. Working together, these two materials play an important role.
Ensuring that the surface base material adheres firmly, and the release material will peel smoothly away — these are the two factors that determine the quality of stickers and labels.
By accurately controlling the two functions of adhesion and release, Lintec can provide a variety of products that meet the needs of society.
Taking on the challenge of developing solvent-free products for environmentally friendly manufacturing
Tatsuya Tsukida, General Manager of Lintec's Research Center, explains how the
organic solvents toluene and ethyl acetate play an important role in the development and production
of adhesives and release paper. As the name implies, organic solvents are naturally occurring liquids
that can dissolve other substances. They are very useful for making printing-related adhesive
products, as they make it easy to synthesize and combine substances on the molecular level in the
product design process.
As the release agent on the release paper must be applied thinly and evenly at the micron level (one thousandth of a millimeter), and to increase workability in the manufacturing process, the release agent needs to be diluted with organic solvent.
"However, organic solvents evaporate and escape as gas, which creates a big impact on the environment. Therefore, since 1994, Lintec has been continually strengthening its initiatives to reduce the atmospheric emissions of solvent gas from its production processes.
Nevertheless, the best way to reduce environmental impact is to develop and produce products that do not use solvents at all. Coming up with a solvent-free manufacturing process is one of Lintec's major R&D themes. As a researcher in this area, I have spent a lot of time on solvent-free products since joining the company". (Tsukida)
Months of trial and error lead to an accidental breakthrough
Composition of Emulsion-based Adhesive
In its quest to realize solvent-free manufacturing, Lintec has been focusing on
emulsification* technology. Emulsification uses water instead of solvents to dilute or synthesize
"Even from the standpoint of environmentally friendly manufacturing, solvent-free products have been a company-wide theme. When I was working on my solvent-free research, I would receive calls of encouragement from company officers on a daily basis. However, a number of hurdles had to be overcome in order to realize the technology". (Tsukida)
One particularly large hurdle was the development of film adhesive, which needs
to be both high in adhesion and transparency. The development breakthrough happened by chance.
"One day when I was testing paper adhesive, I tried it out on some film that happened to be nearby. The results were surprisingly good and I realized that it could be a breakthrough". (Tsukida)
By steadily advancing R&D into properties such as water resistance, adhesiveness, uniformity and transparency, Lintec researchers first managed to realize generic solvent-free paper products. Afterwards, the technology was expanded to realize high-function products through constant advancements.
However, the development of advanced products is meaningless unless they are used by customers and adopted by society. Therefore, along with the development of new technology to make solvent-free products, cost reduction also became an important goal.
Therefore, the R&D department had to work closely with the production department in order to meet this challenge. Koji Koyama, General Manager of the Production Division, remembers the situation.
"In addition to R&D, innovation in the production process was a major key to the creation of solvent-free products. The question was how to improve workability and lower costs. We first started by improving the existing equipment". (Koyama)
A new process of trial and error then began.
- *Emulsion is a fine dispersion of minute droplets of one liquid in another, without dissolving. Examples include milk and mayonnaise.
Steady improvement utilizing feedback from frontline operators
The coating machine is at the heart of the production process for adhesive
products, as it applies adhesives or release agents to base materials such as paper and film.
Adhesive must be applied at high speed in a uniformly thin layer. If uneven patches occur or air gets
mixed in, defects can occur undermining product reliability.
Workability is an important condition in order to realize high production efficiency and low costs. Therefore, it is also necessary to improve operation speed and setting ease for the coating machine.
"As the ones with firsthand knowledge of the production process, the frontline operators were a major resource in the development of the coating machine necessary to realize solvent-free products. Thanks to their feedback, we were able to resolve one problem after another". (Koyama)
Through this innovation process, a newly developed coating machine was introduced in 2004. It represents a culmination of Lintec's craftsmanship.
"Lintec's craftsmanship is supported by technology and people, a fact that has remained constant over the years. The development of solvent-free products is a natural result of this". (Koyama)
In fiscal 2012, 68% of printing-related adhesive products sold by Lintec were solvent free. Solvent-free products are also used for stickers attached to beverage and other cans and for expiration date labels on eggs. The environmentally friendly products the entire company has been working to produce are playing an active part of people's lives.
Various environmental initiatives for the entire manufacturing process
Lintec is continuing its transition towards solvent-free products, and will continue to expand its product range to the fullest extent of its capabilities. Even for products that require organic solvents, Lintec is reducing solvent gas emissions in the production process, and it is working to reduce the impact on the environment. Specifically, exhaust gas treatment equipment has been progressively introduced since 1994. The company is now treating the organic solvent emissions from all its coating machines in Japan.
"Lintec's environmental manufacturing initiatives are not limited to
solvent-free products. Various other environmental activities are being implemented in plants. A
large of part of these efforts involves reducing CO2 emissions. Besides switching boiler
fuel from conventional heavy oil and kerosene to utility gas and liquefied natural gas (LNG), which
have low CO2 emissions, we are reusing waste heat generated by the production
This was how Yoshiyuki Yamato, General Manager of the Quality Assurance & Environmental Protection Division, described Lintec's activities to reduce its environmental impact. Furthermore, these impact reduction activities extend from raw materials procurement to the disposal and recycling of products, spanning the entire Lintec operations.
"In other words, our environmental activities are based on product life cycle assessment (LCA).* Although we have been employing LCA for a while, our Environmental Preservation Committee is now investigating new activities". (Yamato)
The objective is to prepare easy-to-understand guidelines for the implementation of LCA. Lintec is promoting guidelines that make it easy for staff to determine, for example, what raw materials need to be chosen in the product design stage to reduce environmental impact.
- *LCA: a method for comprehensively assessing effects on the environment by calculating items such as the amount of energy and water input, the amount of raw materials used, and the amount of CO2 and hazardous chemical substance emitted throughout a product's lifecycle.
Aiming for sustainable growth and providing environmentally friendly manufacturing for the next generation
In addition to solvent-free products, Lintec has produced environmentally friendly
products in a variety of areas. For example, WINCOS window film saves energy, while also blocking
solar radiation and shatterproofing the glass. KINATH labels feature a plastic surface base material
that matches the plastic containers to which they are applied, for easy recycling. Lintec also makes
casting paper for carbon fiber composite materials, which provides lightweight and energy-saving
properties for the construction of aircraft fuselages. Therefore, the technologies of Lintec play an
unseen, yet vitally important role. The company is now also promoting R&D with five- and ten-year
Over the years, the starting point for Lintec has always been technology and people. By bringing together the ideas of its people, Lintec aims to develop the next generation of manufacturing. Also, the CSR Management Office maintains a dialogue with employees in various departments and has begun holding CSR Meetings in order to generate ideas for sustainable growth.
Hiroyuki Nishio is General Manager of the CSR Management Office, which is promoting this effort. "Although CSR Meetings have just begun, the aim is to work towards a resolution of issues in the core business by identifying social issues and problems and creating a vision for a sustainable society.
We want to use these opportunities to work towards sustainable growth for the company and society, and develop next-generation manufacturing". (Nishio)
Lintec will continue to take on the challenge of sustainable manufacturing in the future.
Lintec's principle environmental products
WINCOS Architectural Film (transparent) is applied to windows to save energy in buildings. Even with high transparency, the film cuts solar heat transmission by 35% to 63%, thereby improving cooling efficiency and offering significant energy savings.
Lintec makes completely disintegrable adhesive paper with an adhesive that can be broken down in the paper recycling process. The company also has a wide range of label materials designed for reusable and recyclable containers, including the REPOP series, which adheres firmly and peels off cleanly.