This roundtable discussion focuses on UV inkjet printing and the emergence and impact of UV LED technology.
By Gail Flower
Is UV LED a growing trend?
McGovern: Yes. As an inkjet device manufacturer, the benefits of LED curing far outweigh the cost, size, weight, start up, power consumption, frequent bulb replacements, and heat of the conventional lamp assembled in the inkjet wide-format industry today.
Cutler: Yes, it is, in my opinion. Since it has come into the wide-format market place, more customers are asking for it. More and more equipment manufacturers are offering it. There are lots of reasons for its popularity: the kW per hr of power used is low. Customers do not have to change mercury vapor lamps every 500-1000 hours. Generally, UV LED is a greener solution.
Why do customers decide to use it?
Cutler: Customers are attracted to the quality and technology found in LED UV systems.
McGovern: Lower power consumption saves money on power bills, and low-temp curing with LED works well for heat-sensitive substrates, especially in graphic overlays. LED lamps can last more than five years. Printhead assemblies are lighter. Advancements in ink, fast start up times, and printing on a variety of substrates (leather, synthetics, soft films, medical device logos, markings) have all opened up new markets.
What’s the next step in equipment technology?
McGovern: Other innovative technology advancements in both curing and ink chemistries will always be considered moving forward into future product development. Mimaki will always respect and incorporate human functionality regarding RIP software, file preparation, imaging, and control panel design to allow easier control and understanding of all the operational aspects of the printer for end-user clients.
Cutler: Everyone wants faster printing, lower cost systems, and robust equipment. LED curing is a change in technology—just as latex was in the past. You will see more and more usage of LED in the future.
What are maintenance requirements?
Cutler: A user can expect to get 15,000 to 20,000 hours out of UV LED lamps. Maintenance is much less in UV LED curing equipment. There’s no fan, no shuttering. It’s self cleaning. The automatic purge and cleaning/wiping is all that it takes.
McGovern: Our experience with the LED lamps so far has been outstanding with the performance, lifecycle span, and ease of replacement.
Was there anything unexpected?
McGovern: As with any new radical technology breakthrough, some of the early LED ink formulations and lamp-power generation within a specific narrow waveform platform during the early days of introduction were challenging to early adopter manufacturers. Some cure and dwell times would result in inks not drying or curing properly, resulting in some sticky media situations needing more lamps to cure. These issues have now been resolved with advancements in stronger and more powerful LED lamps and photoinitiator chemistry for high-speed performance printing and adhesion requirements of both scanning and single-pass LED digital printers.
Cutler: Traditionally challenging substrates have worked quite well with the LED imaging systems. Extremely heat-sensitive substrates, made from very thin plastic, print just fine.
Printscape Imaging and Graphics
Did you enjoy this article? Click here to subscribe to the magazine.