It would appear that people within the personalization business are always trying to find the “next BIG thing” within our industry. Years back, lasers were the “next BIG thing,” then inkjet sublimation crafted a huge effect on the industry. So what’s next? What magical innovation can come along that, once again, will revolutionize the personalization industry? Could it be UV printers? The reality is, it merely might be, and here’s why.
Many years ago, computerized rotary engraving machines revolutionized the business, then lasers did the same thing, and then some major technological advancements in sublimation came along cementing this procedure as one of the “next BIG things.” Along the way, a few other likely candidates cropped up, however they never quite managed to get for the “next BIG” level. I remember getting pretty excited about the AcryliPrint procedure for inexpensively printing full-color images on acrylic. It is still an excellent process nevertheless it never quite caught on for in-house production. Then there was the system that printed inkjet images on glass. Again, a pretty nice product nevertheless it never really took off. Finally, there seemed to be the Enduring Images system of printing on ceramic using latte art printer. I am still holding out just for this anyone to explode, but thus far, just a few passionate souls are sticking with me.
UV printing, however, seems to be taking up a lifetime of its very own. For quite a while now, it has all but dominated the trade events with some really big names having a marked desire for showing their printers, while they knew these were out of the budget range for 95 percent of people walking the ground. I see these printers exhibited at big shows and small: Sign shows, personalization shows, awards shows and print shows are typical hosting several manufacturers of UV printers that happen to be displaying what seems to be an increasing number of models.
Steve Gluskin, director of marketing for Rowmark’s GoVivid printers, says, “The message we are hearing from trophy and award dealers is the fact their clientele are trying to find something totally new. The cabability to add color is a perfect fit to augment what they are presently offering. Even the cabability to offer ‘multi-media’ or multiple processes when producing an award is really gaining interest. By way of example, a laser engraved plus a UV-LED printed award adds dimension and color, and, equally as importantly, profit margin for your dealer. By having UV-LED printing, the dealer will differentiate themselves from the competition.”
So what is a UV printer? Well, let’s begin with the UV part, like ultraviolet light. UV light is an invisible (on the eye) form of light located in many light sources, for example the sun. UV light has some useful characteristics, particularly the ability to cure many photosensitive materials. In the matter of UV printing, a UV light source is commonly used for stopping (harden and solidify) the inks laid down by the printer.
UV inkjet printing is different from conventional solvent inkjet printing. Rather than having solvents within the ink that evaporate to the air and absorb in to the substrate, UV inks are in contact with UV lights that are included in the printer which quickly cure the ink to make it from your liquid to a solid. This technology has several advantages, including eliminating environmental and workplace health concerns, the opportunity to print on a wide variety of substrates, high print speeds and a wide range of printing applications including outdoor signage to golf balls.
So just why should we be so excited about this developing technology? Facts are, a year or so ago, few people inside our industry were very excited about this at all. With prices inside the $20,000-$80,000 range, there weren’t many people who could seriously think about a UV printer as being an option to begin with. But as time has gone by, prices have dropped plus more competition has arrived to the market, making both a much wider selection of printers and print possibilities as well as price points-even to the stage that $20,000 can now buy lots of printer.
Today, the trouble isn’t a lot price around it can be confusion and misinformation as to 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 my small uv printer. The price is practically negligible and the markup may be substantial, but exactly how many plaques are ideal for this technology? Remember, sublimation could also be used to generate full-color plaques. This is also true by using a hundred other products including anything from metal plates to plastic toys. In a nutshell, much like most personalization processes, there are actually things that are best finished with a UV printer and items that are best completed with other methods. UV printing isn’t a replacement for other processes, but a substitute for do most jobs and the only way to conduct a few.
I had employment recently that involved printing full-color company logos on clear acrylic. I do not know how I might have done this with some other process. UV printing was perfect because I could possibly print a great white image to make an opaque mask in the substrate and then print the complete-color logo on top of it. That’s the level of job UV printers work great at.
Many manufacturers offer an attachment for printing cylindrical items like water bottles. The RotaPrint attachment can be obtained from Roland DGA Corp.
Printing on clear or dark backgrounds can be quite a challenge for most processes with some, like sublimation, it’s just about impossible. UV printing is additionally more forgiving than other methods in terms of the type of substrates which it works with. Sublimation, for instance, nearly always requires a special polyester-coated substrate to operate in any way. UV printing, on the other hand, enables you to print on a wide variety of substrates of colors, textures, styles and sizes. But, just like other processes, it doesn’t work on everything. Actually, there are numerous substrates that UV inks will 05dexqpky adhere to without first applying a bonding or adhesion agent. Some printers may actually spray an adhesion agent about the substrate throughout the printer nozzles while with many other printers, you need to hand put it on. Either way, there is no ensure the ink will bond until it can be tested.
Adhesion then, for me, becomes the biggest problem in the UV world since every printer manufacturer offers their own personal inks and adhesion additives, and every is distinct. This means it is actually ultimately important that you test the inks as well as the printer to ensure they will likely work with the substrates you need to print prior to making just about any decision or promises to customers.
Along with having to learn about adhesion with textile printer, additionally it is critical that a potential buyer learn about the various properties of your inks. Some companies offer multiple inks to be considered but many try to offer a “one size fits all” recipe that might or might not work for you. At the same time, I presumed that this ink cured with UV light would then be UV safe and so I printed work for exterior use. Unfortunately, I was wrong and also the signs faded into nothingness within months. Lesson learned? Well, some printer manufacturers claim their inks are UV safe and although I might not necessarily doubt their word, it might make me cautious-once burned and all that.