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Perspectives on UV LED Curing

(April 2013) posted on Tue May 07, 2013

This roundtable discussion focuses on UV inkjet printing and the emergence and impact of UV LED technology.

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By Gail Flower

Williamson: UV-cured printing is a popular option. It allows us fast turnaround times for print projects, flexibility in choice of substrates, and consistent color throughout the printing process.

Why did you decide to or not to use inkjet printing with UV LED curing capabilities?
Dziak: We went with UV alone because we needed a machine with more versatility (Figure 2) than solvent and aqueous methods.

Meek: Our customers are hyper-critical when it comes to color results, and UV LED gives more consistent color. Also, UV LED helps by using less energy, making it less expensive to run. We can print on thinner substrates with UV LED because it uses less heat. We run a lot of styrene, 0.030 and 0.040 normally, but with LED, we can run 0.015, and we’ve even tested 0.010 guage, a material that is easily destroyed with too much heat.

Williamson: We have two UV printers, an Océ Arizona and a Screen TruePress, chosen because of fast turnaround, flexibility in substrate choice, and color consistency. Additionally, the TruePress allows for multi-layer printing in one process, laying down seven layers of ink in one pass (Figure 3). We can use this process to create raised-image Braille and textured prints, as well as double-sided printing on clear substrates.

What is the next step beyond UV LED that your firm plans to check out?
Williamson: We have recently invested in a 10-ft-wide latex printer, which uses heat and airflow to cure prints. Latex ink is flexible and durable, which makes it a great option for wall coverings, fabric, vehicle graphics, and banners.

Dziak: I will probably look into toner-based applications.

Meek: We want a digital printer that uses LED and prints in roll-to-roll format. At least 60% of our inkjet is roll-to-roll. We’re also looking at grayscale capability. Again, anything we can gain color consistency and detail wise for our clients is key. We’re looking into software that lets us streamline production and pre-production of files. There is always a minute or two that we can shave off the production cycle.

What are the requirements for maintaining your UV inkjet equipment?
Dziak: We clean and check UV lamps based on usage hours. We also ensure that various filters are clean and free from obstruction because that can cause excessive heat buildup and shorten lamp life.


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