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The Latest Advances in UV Inks, Part I

(June 2010) posted on Mon May 24, 2010

Screen Printing asked industry experts to comment on the latest advancements in UV inks.

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By Gail Flower

Scott Schinlever In terms of digital printing, back in 2002 was when UV inks entered the scene. VUTEk, Durst, and Inca all came out with digital printers using UV inks at the same time then. We develop and produce our own inks for use with our digital printers. The advantage to producing your own UV inks is that you can optimize the process, do more testing and develop ink sets for a particular printer. By having the control, it gets you to market faster. Unlike screen printing, with digital, the inks are developed for a particular printer performance. Inks are tightly coupled to the printer. Because of this, it’s an advantage to produce UV inksets matched to a particular printer.

Robin McMillan Since the 1980s, there has been a gradual migration toward UV ink usage. The plastic-container market has evolved to about 70% use today. The graphics market has evolved to 90% acceptance. Other markets, like optical disc and narrow web for labels, have been 100% UV usage since the mid-1990s when CD-ROMs and CDs went mainstream. The automotive market, on the other hand, has the smallest acceptance at this point, at maybe 10-15%. This is an area where we foresee significant growth.

Michael Plier UV inks started being accepted almost immediately. The logistics and theory behind this technology was logical. However, while this technology was welcomed, or at least considered feasible, it did come with drawbacks. There was a learning curve to say the least.


Johnny Shell, Ray Greenwood, Jeff Burton UV inks provide color density and image quality, while also providing greater production efficiencies. Unlike solvent or water-based ink systems where a large percentage evaporates, UV is 100% solids, so there is less waste. Curing occurs instantly with UV, whereas solvent-based systems require inline heaters (digital). Screen requires ovens or drying racks. UV inks for screen printing also have the added benefit of faster print cycles and less viscosity changes due to evaporation on press. This makes the print speed and color more consistent throughout the run. One of the added benefits is the need for excessive floor space to accommodate curing equipment. The length of UV is about one quarter that of forced-air systems for solvent-based inks. As air-quality requirements have become more stringent due to the evaporative nature of solvent-based screen-printing inks, UV inks have become even more attractive.


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