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The Environmental Aspects of UV Screen Inks: Past, Present, and Future

(December 2007) posted on Thu Jan 03, 2008

If developing a sustainable graphics-printing process is a goal for your business, consider how the latest generation of UV-curable screen inks can help. This discussion looks at the history of UV inks, recent ink-formulation developments, and ways you can increase productivity while helping to reduce carbon dioxide emissions.

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By Laura Maybaum

UV screen inks were developed in the late 1970s and have revolutionized the screen-printing industry. This technology introduced the use of UV radiation to cure a printed ink to an almost 100% solids film, all but eliminating the release of VOCs into the air versus its solvent ink counterpart.

Most ink manufacturers today formulate UV ink with several environmental and health and safety advantages in mind over solvent based inks: elimination of heavy metals, less VOC emissions, less harmful solvent vapor exposure to the printer, less harsh cleaners required during the print process and in cleaning/ reclaiming screens, more efficient curing of the ink, less energy use by the curing unit as compared to thermal dryers used with solvent and water-based inks, use with multi-color printing presses, and the elimination of NVP or V-Pyrol. As early adopters of UV technologies, screen printers have seen environmental, worker safety, and economical benefits for years, and today’s UV graphics inks have kept up with the ever increasing demands of screen printers in these areas.


What is a UV ink?

A UV ink is formulated to contain oligomers, monomers, pigments, photo initiators, and various additives to enhance performance. Most UV inks used today are based on free radical cure of acrylated pre-polymers.

UV screens inks are formulated to adhere to a wide range of materials for graphics, decal, poster, container, CD, banner, metal-decorating, nameplate, automotive, fleet graphic, and industrial applications. Inks are tailored to each market’s requirements for outdoor durability, chemical resistance, cold/heat resistance, water resistance, flexibility for processing and mounting graphics, etc.


Use in the graphics market

The US screen-printing industry was early to adopt UV ink technology. UV ink has continued to grow in the USA to make up 60-65% of ink sales in comparison to solvent- and water-based inks. The growth rate of UV ink is approximately 4% per year. By far, the USA is the most active user of UV screen inks.


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