Ultraviolet-curable ink printers offer huge advantages. They’re the best choice for many large-format printing situations. They can work well where solvent-based ink has problems. At the same time, no single printing technology is ideal for all situations. Let’s look at some cases where UV curable printing is the right solution, and some where it’s not the top choice.
The advantages of UV curable ink
Unlike solvent-based ink, UV curable ink doesn’t have to “dry” in the sense of making solvent evaporate. Rather, an ultraviolet lamp or LED polymerizes the ink, turning it into solid form. There’s no loss in volume and no fumes emitted. The curing process takes just seconds, and no separate dryer is necessary. This method of printing allows for fast printing, and it produces clear, vivid colors.
Where UV printing stands out
When environmental friendliness is at a premium or volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in the air are an issue, UV has a big advantage over solvent-based inks. This can be important in shared real estate where adequate ventilation isn’t practical.
Dryers for solvent-based inks take up a lot of floor space, typically more than the printer itself. UV curing doesn’t require a separate dryer, making it attractive where shop space costs are high.
The need for high throughput is another reason to choose UV. Curing is very fast, and a four-color print run doesn’t require removing the substrate to dry after each ink.
Rigid materials like metal, plastic, and glass work especially well with the process. Glass may require an adhesion promoter to hold the ink well. Printing a double layer on glass can reduce the translucency, making the printed product more vivid. Done properly, some very nice effects on glass are possible. Acrylics also require pretreatment to improve adhesion.
The ink resists fading, and temperature and humidity don’t bother it much. It’s a good choice for outdoor displays and light abrasion isn’t an issue. White ink for UV printers used to be a problem, but usable white inks are now available.
Digital UV large format printing makes the process a good choice where detailed, realistic images are the goal. Photographs and artwork come out very well with high-resolution UV printing, showing vivid colors and sharp details.
Making the choice
UV printers are a valuable part of many kinds of print shops, and they enjoy wide popularity. LED curing is more energy-efficient than traditional lamps and is gaining in popularity.
The technology requires more precision than other printing techniques, so it’s important to choose a good-quality printer and maintain it well.
If you’re considering a UV flatbed printer for your shop, get in touch with us.