Apparently those of us within the personalization business will always be seeking the “next BIG thing” within our industry. In the past, lasers were the “next BIG thing,” then inkjet sublimation made a huge effect on the business. So what’s next? What magical innovation should come along that, again, will revolutionize the personalization industry? Can it be UV printers? Facts are, it simply could possibly be, and here’s why.
A long time ago, computerized rotary engraving machines revolutionized the business, then lasers did the exact same thing, then some major technological advancements in sublimation came along cementing this technique as one of the “next BIG things.” In the process, several other likely candidates cropped up, but they never quite made it on the “next BIG” level. I remember getting pretty enthusiastic about the AcryliPrint process of inexpensively printing full-color images on acrylic. It really is still a fantastic process however it never quite caught on for in-house production. Then there is the device that printed inkjet images on glass. Again, quite a nice product however it never really took off. Finally, there is the Enduring Images system of printing on ceramic using latte art printer. I am still holding out just for this a person to take off, but up to now, only some passionate souls are staying with me.
UV printing, however, appears to be undertaking a life of its very own. For several years now, it offers all but dominated the trade shows with a few really big names going for a marked interest in showing their printers, while they knew they were out of the budget range for 95 percent of individuals walking the floor. 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 that are displaying what is apparently a lot more models.
Steve Gluskin, director of promoting for Rowmark’s GoVivid printers, says, “The message we have been hearing from trophy and award dealers is that their customers are trying to find something new. The ability to add color is a great fit to enhance whatever they are presently offering. Even the capability to offer ‘multi-media’ or multiple processes when creating an award is actually gaining interest. For example, a laser engraved along with a UV-LED printed award adds dimension and color, and, just like importantly, profit margin for your dealer. By having UV-LED printing, the dealer will differentiate themselves using their competition.”
So what is really a UV printer? Well, let’s get started with the UV part, like ultraviolet light. UV light is an invisible (to the eye) method of light present in many light sources, including the sun. UV light has some useful characteristics, specifically the opportunity to cure many photosensitive materials. With regards to UV printing, a UV light source is utilized to stop (harden and solidify) the inks laid down with the printer.
UV inkjet printing differs from conventional solvent inkjet printing. As opposed to having solvents inside the ink that evaporate into the air and absorb in to the substrate, UV inks are exposed to UV lights that are that are part of the printer which quickly cure the ink to transform it from the liquid into a solid. This technologies have several positive aspects, 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.
Why then should we be so excited about this developing technology? The reality is, a year or so ago, not many people in our industry were very enthusiastic about this by any means. With prices inside the $20,000-$80,000 range, there weren’t lots of people who could seriously consider a UV printer being an option from the beginning. But as time has gone by, the prices have dropped plus more competition has come into the market, making both a much wider assortment of printers and print available options in addition to price points-even to the stage that $20,000 are now able to buy a lot of printer.
Today, the situation isn’t a lot price as much as it is actually confusion and misinformation as to what a UV printer can and cannot do, and how much market there may be to back up one.
As an illustration, I occasionally print a plaque using my small uv printer. The price is nearly negligible as well as the markup could be substantial, but how many plaques are ideal for this technology? Remember, sublimation may also be used to create full-color plaques. This is also true having a hundred other products including from metal plates to plastic toys. To put it briefly, just like most personalization processes, there are items that would be best carried out with a UV printer and stuff that are the best finished with other methods. UV printing isn’t another one for other processes, but a substitute for do most jobs and the only way to perform a few.
I needed work recently that involved printing full-color company logos on clear acrylic. I do not know how I might have done this with almost every other process. UV printing was perfect because I could possibly print an excellent white image to produce an opaque mask on the substrate then print the full-color logo along with it. That’s the level of job UV printers work great at.
Many manufacturers present an attachment for printing cylindrical items including water bottles. The RotaPrint attachment can be obtained from Roland DGA Corp.
Printing on clear or dark backgrounds can be quite a challenge for almost all processes and with some, including sublimation, it’s just about impossible. UV printing is additionally more forgiving than other methods with regards to the kind of substrates that it works with. Sublimation, for instance, nearly always needs a special polyester-coated substrate to be effective at all. UV printing, on the other hand, enables you to print on a multitude of substrates of colors, textures, shapes and forms. But, much like other processes, it doesn’t work on everything. In fact, there are lots of substrates that UV inks will 05dexqpky comply with without first applying a bonding or adhesion agent. Some printers can in fact spray an adhesion agent about the substrate from the printer nozzles while with other printers, you must hand put it on. In either case, there is no guarantee the ink will bond until it is actually tested.
Adhesion then, i think, becomes the most significant problem in the UV world since every printer manufacturer offers their own inks and adhesion additives, and each differs. What this means is it is actually ultimately vital that you test both the inks and also the printer to make sure they will work on the substrates you need to print prior to making any type of decision or promises to customers.
In addition to having to learn about adhesion with textile printer, also, it is crucial that a prospective buyer discover the various properties from the inks. Some companies offer multiple inks to be considered but most try to provide a “one size fits all” recipe that may or may not do the job. At the same time, I presumed that an ink cured with UV light would then be UV safe and consequently I printed a task for exterior use. Unfortunately, I had been wrong as well as the signs faded into nothingness within months. Lesson learned? Well, some printer manufacturers claim their inks are UV safe and although I would not necessarily doubt their word, it could make me cautious-once burned and all of that.