Everything “online” may be hot today, but the public at large doesn’t know that there also is an ongoing revolution in the field of printing. And it is changing everything from what can be printed, to the economy of small print runs, to the costs of printing.
Flatbed printers that use UV curable ink are part of the revolution. They are an innovation for many reasons including the size they can print, the packages and shapes they can handle, and also that they are “green.”
Choosing: Size Matters
The choice of size is almost a defining characteristic of flatbed printers, and the choice is important. Although versatile and efficient at any size, in the larger ranges not every print shop has room for them. That is a question to ask.
Different size beds accommodate different size images and that includes, of course, multiples, such as printing 4, 10. 13 or more 8″ X 11″ images. That increases productivity in several ways, including that less is spent setting up runs and more time printing.
Printing in the Round
The majority of flatbeds are limited to printing on flat, although that can include considerable thickness. But some print on cylindrical objects, including even baseballs and basketballs, not to mention bottles and cans. That, however, requires some kind of jig to hold the object, which means height (and thus the size of the printer) becomes the deciding factor.
The attachment holds and rotates the object to which the printhead applies ink. That can result in less print resolution around the edges as the inkjet’s firing angle changes. Sometimes multiple runs can improve resolution. Overall, though, the resolution that a flatbed printed will achieve ranges from 72 DPI (dots per inch) to about 2400 DPI. Yet another aspect of flatbed versatility is that flatbed printers can be configured to execute multiple passes on a surface to achieve a 3D embossing effect.
UV curing of the printing is not a feature of flatbeds per se, of course, but with flatbeds, as elsewhere, UV technology has big benefits.
Flatbed digital printers using UV curable inks can print a truly extraordinary variety of materials such as paper, film, glass, metal, ceramic, leather, cloth, plastic, PVC, wood, and acrylic. UV curable inks are made with acrylic monomers. When exposed to strong UV light to cure, those monomers are polymerized. It is this process that accommodates so many surfaces—even canvas or carpet—and the adjustable printing bed accepts a range of thicknesses.
Especially in its commercial applications, flatbed UV digital technology has tended to co-opt silk-screen printing and, without either plates or silkscreen to make, can offer much shorter print runs that are still economical.
And yes, the technology may be considered environmentally “green” because compared with earlier solvent printing there are fewer waste cartridges and the drying process produces less indoor air pollution.
Weighing the Choice
Those considering owning and operating a flatbed UV printer will have to be aware of the size issue, the upfront cost (usually more than $25,000 and less than $100,000, quite a range), and the cost of UV inks.
Against those factors are set larger runs of items, printing on objects or surfaces other printers can’t handle, and time required to get the new printer installed and operating. Questions to ask is if training is included with purchase and if the company can provide the technical support you will need.
At Stratojet USA we are happy to discuss the needs of your business, the printing technology and product for your next step, and the logistics of budget, installation, training, and technical support. Check out our website for additional information and get in touch.