Discover how UV inks differ from other formulations and what it takes to print and cure them successfully.
By Bea Purcell
Ultraviolet (UV) curing technology and its use in screen printing has evolved from infancy in the 1960s to maturity in the 1990s. Improvements in raw materials and better understanding of the UV-curing process made a substantial impact on ink-performance characteristics and led to greater acceptance of the technology among printers.
As printers, we are inundated with dozens of important choices when working with UV. We not only have to select the right ink for particular materials, but have to make decisions about the curing equipment and the various lamps we may need in order to achieve successful results.
For those of us who explored the use of UV when the technology was in its infancy, lessons came in a variety of ways but were based mostly on trial and error. We had to make UV inks work and learn how to get the order out the door while trying to understand the hows and the whys behind the technology. But thanks to ink manufacturers, curing-unit manufacturers, substrate suppliers, and printers who were diligent in communicating with one another, the materials and processes involved in UV curing have become much better understood.
This article will try to explain some of the mysteries and myths of UV curing typically confronted by printers who are new to the technology. These mysteries and myths are based on the most common questions and misunderstandings surrounding UV inks and curing equipment.
The mysteries behind UV relate to scientific facts and principles that are not widely known or understood. These mysteries typically involve ink chemistry and polymerization, the function of curing units, and processing considerations.
How are UV inks different from conventional inks? If we were to compare two buckets of ink, one with conventional or solvent-based and the other a UV ink, we would find that there are three major types of raw materials that go into the inks' chemistry. For a conventional ink, they are resin, pigment/additives, and solvent. In a UV ink they are resin, pigment/additives, and monomers.
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