UV technology, both traditional UV and UV LED, offers a great number of advantages for print service providers. One of them are lots of tangible benefits that enable shops to parlay greater flexibility, a wider assortment of capabilities and lower materials, energy and labor costs into new opportunities to make money.
When Jay Roberts, Irvine, CA-based Roland DGA product manager, latte coffee printer, thinks of benefits associated with UV printers and UV technology, the initial word that comes to mind is versatility. “UV printers are designed for printing on virtually anything,” he said.
Flatbed and hybrid UV printers are employed in a multitude of large and small print shops, helping them grow and diversify. Larger print shops with multiple print capabilities have become capable of accept short-run print jobs in addition to long-run assignments, dramatically growing work at home opportunities and profits.
The opportunity to produce specialized and smaller-sized pieces and long-run campaigns, as well as handling color management and production schedules, allows larger shops to effectively control timelines and fulfillment schedules. Capacity to “keep all this under one roof” is a big value for production, he explained.
“Smaller PSPs are employing UV printing technology to increase output and better fulfill the requirements the short-run market,” he added. “When provided with flatbed and hybrid UV printers, these shops are already able to capture jobs that larger print operations may deem too small to consider. For that smaller shop, the opportunity to accept such jobs can significantly impact the important thing.”
While there’s a threshold as to what may be produced on these devices, requiring some print campaigns to migrate to traditional printing methods, that threshold is growing shorter because of today’s UV-inkjet capabilities.
Versatility also extends to the types of substrates that may be printed upon. For example, Roland’s VersaUV printer-cutters can print on anything from box and carton materials to shrink-wrap films.
“We have a new UV flatbed printer, the LEJ-640FT that could print on wood, plastic and metals as much as six inches thick, and weighing approximately 220 pounds,” he was quoted saying. “Heck, we can easily even print on cowbells.”
Increasing amounts of PSPs are producing package prototypes for graphic design firms and other clients, even though many design firms are printing prototypes for themselves in-house, he stated.
From the perspective of Becky McConnell and Heather Roden, product managers at Hanover Park, IL-based Fujifilm, probably the most tangible advantages of UV printing is that it allows PSPs to change around projects more quickly, as their printing cures as soon as it will come off the press. “We were talking to a customer this year going from solvent solution to a UV cure solution, and they will probably be capable to significantly decrease their production time since they can immediately finish this product,” McConnell said.
Moreover, from an environmental standpoint, lacking volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in UV printing is important to numerous clients. That’s particularly true in states like California, where VOCs are highly regulated, she added.
UV printing’s introduction some dozen years ago opened up printing on an array of substrates, and UV LED makes possible printing on an even wider array of materials. So said Mark Goodearl, senior marketing manager for Meredith, NH-based EFI, Inc. “Heat happens to be a challenge with traditional UV, plus it was solved with the development of UV LED,” he said.
“In traditional UV curing, the carriage shuttles back and forth jetting the ink, and it has lamps right and left hidden behind shutters that open according to the UV process.
“The operator would power within the printer, the lamps would be required to surface to temperature, and once they were up you have been ready for curing.
“With UV LED, the lamps don’t happen and remain on while they did within the traditional process. The lamps last a lot longer-being rated for 10,000 hours-simply because they come on and off. Also, the bulbs in traditional UV degrade after a while. You experienced to take into account the degradation of power in the lamps through giving them increasingly more power until you will no longer had the energy to achieve the desired result. Together with the UV LED lamps, there is absolutely no degradation of power.”
According to a European power study that was conducted using phone case printer and identical inks and substrates, UV LED bulbs used 82 percent less power compared to traditional UV bulbs, he reported.
Furthermore operators not have to take into account degradation of the bulb, they no longer must adjust the color because the bulb degrades.
The consequence of lowered power consumption and lowered temperatures may be the ability to utilize heat-sensitive substrates, Roden said. Especially, PSPs can prevent the rippling effects that plague thin plastic substrates in contact with heat.
With UV LED, PSPs gain more printable substrates, take away the heat, enjoy more productivity, endure less necessity for adjustment after a while and decrease energy consumption. As a green byproduct, PSPs reduce waste also. They don’t suffer from color shift or materials melting within the lamps.
“Of our UV cured portfolio, most is LED,” Goodearl said.
“Our fastest machine, the HS product, has a combination of UV LED and mercury arc lamps offering faster speed. There’s no limitation around the speed as being a byproduct of the curing, and that we are able to carry out some interesting things with all the curing finish, building a matte or gloss effect with just how the cure is varied.
“Curing is initiated about the UV LED and finished on mercury arc process.”
Financial savings are viewed as a prime advantage of UV LED, stresses Ken VanHorn, director of advertising and business development for Mimaki USA in Suwanee, GA. Users can skip lots of the labor-intensive steps by printing right to most substrates, he was quoted saying. “Further, UV LED lamps tend to be more cost-effective because they use less energy than older mercury vapor lamps that need to warm up and stay on whilst in production,” he reported. “Total ink volumes can be below other print technologies, leading to ink cost savings that can help a shop offer more competitive pricing and realize improved margins.”
Roden also touted cost, as well as space, savings being a UV LED benefit. One of several products from Fujifilm is the Aquity LED 1600, a UV LED machine that runs using a 110-volt power source. “That will make it alluring to smaller businesses, since they don’t must contract with an electrician to implement the brand new press,” she said. “It’s not merely for print providers. It can fit into many different types of firms that are printing since it fits within a smaller footprint.”
Still, traditional UV retains some advantages over LED, said Mark Schlimme, director of marketing for that Americas and wide-format product manager with Rolling Meadows, IL-based Screen Americas.
The company is the North American sales and marketing arm for the Graphic and Precision Product Group for Screen Holdings. Screen Holdings also includes Screen Americas sister company Inca Digital, which manufacturers the Onset collection of wide-format inkjet production printers sold by Fujifilm worldwide.
LED inks use UV reactants that cure inside the LED spectrum. What he calls “the sweet spot” for curing with LED inks is exceptionally narrow, and LED ink manufacturers have room to further improve in this way.
“What that means for the user from the printers is at this time, LED has limitations to slower printers,” Schlimme said. “Because that sweet spot is a touch narrower, we need to print slower hitting that sweet spot.”
He explained some printers work with a hybrid of UV and UV LED, with the UV LED employed to pin the drop and control dot gain. “But the only method they can have a full cure is usually to cure with mercury arc,” he explained. “On the printers which can be LED only, there’s difficulty maintaining faster speeds and having a sufficient cure.”
Another benefit for traditional UV will be the UV LED lamps are extremely expensive, but market forces will likely drive that cost down, Schlimme said. Ink manufacturers too continue dexjpky07 aim to advance inks, endeavoring to widen the sweet spot, and during this process enable faster curing to take place.
“But today, garment printer cannot support the higher speeds required of production-class printers,” he added. “Screen and Inca will continue to engineer the most effective mixture of technology for speed and quality.”
The opportunity to focus more attention on printing and on new opportunities is probably the chief benefits of UV LED technology, experts say. VanHorn noted the wider variety of substrates available allow PSPs to consider new markets.
“For example, products which were previously outsourced because materials were too delicate for hot lamp curing can now be carried out in house, securing all revenue and margin for this job, enabling the consumer to have complete power over quality and delivery,” he explained. “Since the plethora of substrates is virtually unlimited, print providers can offer higher-value alternatives which were previously unrealistic on account of technology limitations of costs.”
Enjoying consistent color output and curing energy means operators can focus much more about the printing, and fewer in the tweaking of color or lamp power, added Goodearl. “Those concerns have left,” he asserts. “They also can buy thinner materials that lead to lower shipping costs and less expense.”