It seems that those of us in the personalization business are always looking for your “next BIG thing” within our industry. Years ago, lasers were the “next BIG thing,” then inkjet sublimation created a huge effect on the industry. So what’s next? What magical innovation should come along that, yet again, will revolutionize the personalization industry? Could it be UV printers? Truth is, it just might be, and here’s why.
Many years ago, computerized rotary engraving machines revolutionized that is a, then lasers did a similar thing, and after that some major technological advancements in sublimation came along cementing this procedure as one with the “next BIG things.” Along the way, a number of other likely candidates cropped up, but they never quite made it for the “next BIG” level. I remember getting pretty looking forward to the AcryliPrint procedure for inexpensively printing full-color images on acrylic. It is still a great process however it never quite caught on for in-house production. Then there is the system that printed inkjet images on glass. Again, quite a nice product but it never really became popular. Finally, there was clearly the Enduring Images system of printing on ceramic using latte printer. I am still patiently waiting for this someone to take off, but up to now, only a few passionate souls are staying with me.
UV printing, however, looks like it’s taking over a life of a unique. For several years now, it’s got all but dominated the trade events with some really big names going for a marked curiosity about showing their printers, even though they knew these were out of the budget range for 95 percent of the people walking the ground. I see these printers exhibited at big shows and small: Sign shows, personalization shows, awards shows and print shows are all hosting several manufacturers of UV printers which might be displaying what seems to be an increasing number of models.
Steve Gluskin, director of selling for Rowmark’s GoVivid printers, says, “The message we’re hearing from trophy and award dealers is the fact that their customers are trying to find something new. The power to add color is a great fit to reinforce what they are currently offering. Even the capacity to offer ‘multi-media’ or multiple processes when coming up with an award is actually gaining interest. For example, a laser engraved plus a UV-LED printed award adds dimension and color, and, just like importantly, profit margin to the dealer. By adding UV-LED printing, the dealer will differentiate themselves from other competition.”
So what exactly is a UV printer? Well, let’s commence with the UV part, as in ultraviolet light. UV light is an invisible (for the eye) form of light seen in many light sources, such as sun. UV light has some useful characteristics, in particular the capacity to cure many photosensitive materials. In the case of UV printing, a UV light source is used for stopping (harden and solidify) the inks laid down by the printer.
The iUV-600XL from Graphics One, Inc. features a large flatbed table. Direct Color Systems’ flagship printer, the 1024UVMVP15, are designed for a maximum substrate thickness of 15″.
UV inkjet printing is unique from conventional solvent inkjet printing. Instead of having solvents within the ink that evaporate in the air and absorb into the substrate, UV inks have confronted UV lights which can be built into the printer which quickly cure the ink to change it from your liquid with a solid. This technology has many perks, including eliminating environmental and workplace health issues, the capability to print over a wide selection of substrates, high print speeds plus a wide range of printing applications which range from outdoor signage to tennis balls.
So why should we be so pumped up about this developing technology? Truth is, 12 months or two ago, few people in your industry were very excited about this in any respect. With price tags in the $20,000-$80,000 range, there weren’t many people who could consider a UV printer being an option inside the first place. But as time has passed, the costs have dropped plus much more competition has come in the market, making both a lot wider various printers and print possibilities open as well as price points—even towards the point that $20,000 is now able to buy a lot of printer.
Today, the issue isn’t so much price up to it is confusion and misinformation in what a UV printer can and cannot do, and just how much market there is to support one.
For instance, I occasionally print a plaque using uv flatbed printer. The cost is actually negligible along with the markup may be substantial, but exactly how many plaques are appropriate because of this technology? Remember, sublimation could also be used to create full-color plaques. The same is true having a hundred other products including anything from metal plates to plastic toys. In short, associated with pension transfer personalization processes, you will find things which might be best done having a UV printer and things which can be best completed with other methods. UV printing isn’t an upgraded for other processes, but a substitute for do most jobs and also the only way to complete a few.
I had work recently that involved printing full-color company logos on clear acrylic. I have no idea how I might have done this with any other process. UV printing was perfect because I could print a great white image to produce an opaque mask around the substrate and after that print the full-color logo on top of it. That’s the type of job UV printers are really good at.
Many manufacturers offer an attachment for printing cylindrical items like water bottles. The RotaPrint attachment can be acquired from Roland DGA Corp.
Printing on clear or dark backgrounds can be quite a challenge for the majority of processes and with a few, like sublimation, it’s almost impossible. UV printing is additionally more forgiving than other methods when it comes towards the type of substrates which it works with. Sublimation, as an example, often requires a special polyester-coated substrate to work in any respect. UV printing, about the other hand, can be used to print on the wide various substrates of most colors, textures, sizes and shapes. But, much like other processes, it doesn’t develop everything. In fact, you’ll find many substrates that UV inks won’t adhere to without first applying a bonding or adhesion agent. Some printers can actually spray an adhesion agent for the substrate through the printer nozzles while along with other printers, you need to hand use it. Either way, there exists no guarantee the ink will bond until it can be tested.
Adhesion then, for me, becomes the largest problem inside the UV world since every printer manufacturer offers their particular inks and adhesion additives, and each differs. This means it really is ultimately crucial that you test the inks and also the printer to ensure they will work around the substrates you want to print prior to any kind of buying decision or promises to customers.
Along with having to understand about adhesion with UV inks, it can be also crucial that a potential buyer read about the various properties of the inks. Some companies offer multiple inks to be considered but a majority of try to give you a “one size fits all” recipe that could or may well not work for you. At one time, I presumed an ink cured with UV light would then be UV safe and therefore I printed a job for exterior use. Unfortunately, I was wrong along with the signs faded into nothingness within months. Lesson learned? Well, some printer manufacturers claim their inks are UV safe and although I would definitely not doubt their word, it will make me cautious—once burned and that.
One of the most popular features of UV printers recently continues to be the introduction of cylindrical devices for printing stuff like water bottles. I believe that cylindrical items are offered as a possible option for every printer with enough throat to allow for one. This brings a minimum of two questions to the light: One, how user-friendly could be the software for establishing a cylindrical job and, two, do I need another specialized ink? Although metal water bottles may be successfully printed generally UV inks, there is often a different story with plastic bottles that can be squeezed. These demand a flexible ink, so some with the printer manufacturers now produce an ink that stretches around 200 percent.
The flexible ink option reveals other applications, including printing banners. Magnetic signs are another possibility and some manufacturers have built their printers so you’ll find no paramagnetic (steel) parts that would interfere with printing a magnetic material.
With the great number of inks available, a major decision you’ll want to make is discovering the right ink on your applications. Inks can’t simply be changed so once an ink is selected you are pretty much stuck with it for that duration. Ink changes are possible in the event you thoroughly clean the printer, but this might be time-consuming and is not suited to job-to-job use.
Inks are generally specific towards the manufacturer, and they are the print heads and rails (the bars the heads and UV light run using). Some companies manufacture their unique print heads and rails, while many others use assemblies using their company inkjet manufacturers, like Ricoh and Epson. Depending on the print head, the printer may be capable of varying the size with the ink dot from as little as a couple of picoliters to up to 20 picoliters. By varying the dot size, the printers are better suited to manipulate ink density, which ends up in sharper images and colors that smoothly change from one shade to an alternative. Variable-dot printing is controlled by firmware from the inside the printer as well as software.
All UV printers come with many kind of RIP (Raster Image Processor) software drive an automobile and control these firmware options. Usually, the RIP software packages are developed with the manufacturer for the specific printer and possesses various functions, like translating images from your computer into raster devspky91 for that printer and enhancing color consistency. Although you might not exactly be able to talk and understand RIPs in any great detail, you can observe the results within the printed image, for example vivid reds, white-colored and the capacity to smoothly transition in one color to an alternative. When you’re considering purchasing a printer, it’s very important to look closely, compare results and get questions if you see something that doesn’t look right. If it doesn’t look right in the demo, it won’t look right when you are getting it home!
So where will be the money in UV printers? What kinds of products produce enough return to make them well worth the $20,000 to $80,000 or maybe more investment attached to these devices? It couldn’t possibly be the capability to make one-up products as is the case with sublimation. Clearly, UV is to the bulk production shop. Although 1,000 water bottles could be personalized as is also printed, the contribution of the textile printer is printing a great deal of products with the same imprint—what we’re going to call production.