It seems that individuals in the personalization business will almost always be looking for the “next BIG thing” inside our industry. Years ago, lasers were the “next BIG thing,” then inkjet sublimation made a huge effect on the industry. So what’s next? What magical innovation can come along that, again, will revolutionize the personalization industry? Could it be UV printers? Truth is, it really might be, and here’s why.
Many years ago, computerized rotary engraving machines revolutionized that is a, then lasers did the same thing, and after that some major technological advancements in sublimation arrived cementing this procedure as one from the “next BIG things.” Along the way, many likely candidates cropped up, nevertheless they never quite made it to the “next BIG” level. I remember getting pretty excited about the AcryliPrint technique of inexpensively printing full-color images on acrylic. It is still a great process but 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 however it never really became popular. Finally, there were the Enduring Images system of printing on ceramic using coffee printer. I am still ready for this anyone to take off, but to date, just a few passionate souls are keeping me.
UV printing, however, looks like it’s taking on the life of its very own. For several years 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 folks were out of the price range for 95 percent of those walking the floor. I see these printers exhibited at big shows and small: Sign shows, personalization shows, awards shows and print shows are common hosting several manufacturers of UV printers which can be displaying what seems to be an increasing number of models.
Steve Gluskin, director of selling for Rowmark’s GoVivid printers, says, “The message were hearing from trophy and award dealers is the fact that their customers are looking for something new. The ability to add color is an ideal fit to enhance what they are currently offering. Even the ability to offer ‘multi-media’ or multiple processes when coming up with an award is really gaining interest. For example, a laser engraved and a UV-LED printed award adds dimension and color, and, just as importantly, profit margin for your dealer. By adding UV-LED printing, the dealership will differentiate themselves from other competition.”
So what exactly is a UV printer? Well, let’s begin with the UV part, as in ultraviolet light. UV light is definitely an invisible (towards the eye) way of light found in many light sources, such as the sun. UV light has some useful characteristics, in particular the capacity to cure many photosensitive materials. In the truth of UV printing, a UV light is used to cure (harden and solidify) the inks laid down from the printer.
The iUV-600XL from Graphics One, Inc. includes a large flatbed table. Direct Color Systems’ flagship printer, the 1024UVMVP15, can handle a maximum substrate thickness of 15″.
UV inkjet printing is different from conventional solvent inkjet printing. Instead of having solvents within the ink that evaporate to the air and absorb in to the substrate, UV inks experience UV lights which might be built in the printer which quickly cure the ink to make it from your liquid to your solid. This technology has several positive aspects, including eliminating environmental and workplace health concerns, the capability to print on a wide number of substrates, high print speeds plus a wide range of printing applications including outdoor signage to baseballs.
So why should we be so enthusiastic about this developing technology? Truth is, a year or two ago, few people in our industry were very excited about this whatsoever. With price tags within the $20,000-$80,000 range, there weren’t a lot of people who could seriously consider a UV printer as an option inside first place. But as the years have passed, the costs have dropped and more competition has come to the market, making both a lot wider selection of printers and print options available as well as price points—even to the point that $20,000 is now able to buy a lots of printer.
Today, the situation isn’t so much price just as much as it is confusion and misinformation by what a UV printer can and cannot do, and how much market there is certainly to support one.
For instance, I occasionally print a plaque using uv printer. The cost is nearly negligible as well as the markup can be substantial, but wait, how many plaques are appropriate because of this technology? Remember, sublimation can also be used to create full-color plaques. The same is true which has a hundred other products including anything from metal plates to plastic toys. In short, there’s personalization processes, you will find things which can be best done using a UV printer and things which are best finished with other methods. UV printing isn’t an upgraded for other processes, but a substitute for do most jobs as well as the only way to do a few.
I had work recently that involved printing full-color company logos on clear acrylic. I have no clue how I could have done this with some other process. UV printing was perfect because I could print an excellent white image to make an opaque mask around the substrate and then print the full-color logo on top of it. That’s the sort of job UV printers are really good at.
Many manufacturers produce an attachment for printing cylindrical items such as water bottles. The RotaPrint attachment can be acquired from Roland DGA Corp.
Printing on clear or dark backgrounds could be quite a challenge for many processes and with some, including sublimation, it’s almost impossible. UV printing is additionally more forgiving than other methods when it comes on the type of substrates that it works with. Sublimation, as an example, often requires a special polyester-coated substrate to work whatsoever. UV printing, around the other hand, could be used to print over a wide various substrates of most colors, textures, sizes and shapes. But, the same as other processes, it doesn’t work with everything. In fact, you’ll find many substrates that UV inks will not adhere to without first applying a bonding or adhesion agent. Some printers can spray an adhesion agent about the substrate over the printer nozzles while to printers, you’ll want to hand apply it. Either way, there’s no ensure that the ink will bond until it is tested.
Adhesion then, in my opinion, becomes the most important problem inside the UV world since every printer manufacturer offers their very own inks and adhesion additives, and each is unique. This means it can be ultimately important that you test both inks along with the printer to make certain they will work for the substrates you want to print prior to any kind of buying decision or promises to customers.
Along with having to master about adhesion with UV inks, it can be also critical that a potential buyer find out about the various properties from the inks. Some companies offer multiple inks to be considered but many try to offer a “one size fits all” recipe that could or may not work for you. At one time, I presumed make fish an ink cured with UV light would then be UV safe and therefore I printed a career for exterior use. Unfortunately, I was 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 definitely not doubt their word, it might make me cautious—once burned and all that.
One with the most popular options that come with UV printers recently has been the introduction of cylindrical devices for printing items like water bottles. I believe that cylindrical tools are offered as a possible option for every printer with plenty throat to allow for one. This brings at least two questions in the light: One, how user-friendly may be the software for setting up a cylindrical job and, two, do I need another specialized ink? Although metal water bottles can be successfully printed with many UV inks, there is a different story with plastic bottles that might be squeezed. These require a flexible ink, so some in the printer manufacturers now offer an ink that stretches approximately 200 percent.
The flexible ink option reveals other applications, for example printing banners. Magnetic signs are another possibility and several manufacturers have built their printers so you will find no paramagnetic (steel) parts that would interfere with printing a magnetic material.
With the large number of inks available, a significant decision you’ll want to make is determing the best ink to your applications. Inks can’t easily be changed so once an ink is selected you are pretty much saddled with it for the duration. Ink changes are possible should you thoroughly clean the printer, but this could be time-consuming which is not suitable for job-to-job use.
Inks are usually specific to the manufacturer, and they are the print heads and rails (the bars the heads and UV light operate on). Some companies manufacture their own print heads and rails, although others use assemblies off their inkjet manufacturers, for example Ricoh and Epson. Depending around the print head, the printer could possibly be capable of varying the size of the ink dot from as low as a couple of picoliters to around 20 picoliters. By varying the dot size, the printers are able to better manipulate ink density, which ends up in sharper images and colors that smoothly vary from one shade to an alternative. Variable-dot printing is controlled by firmware from within the printer and its particular software.
All UV printers come with some kind of RIP (Raster Image Processor) software drive an automobile and control these firmware options. Usually, the RIP software programs are developed with the manufacturer for the specific printer and contains various functions, including translating images from your computer into raster devspky91 to the printer and enhancing color consistency. Although you may not be able to talk and understand RIPs in different great detail, you can observe the results in the printed image, such as vivid reds, white colored and the power to smoothly transition from one color to another. When you’re considering investing in a printer, it’s extremely important to look closely, compare results and ask questions you may notice something that doesn’t look right. If it doesn’t look right with the demo, it won’t look right when you are getting it home!
So where is the money in UV printers? What kinds of products produce enough come back to make them really worth the $20,000 to $80,000 or higher investment that come with these devices? It couldn’t often be the ability to make one-up products as will be the case with sublimation. Clearly, UV is to the bulk production shop. Although 1,000 water bottles could be personalized since they are printed, the real contribution in the t-shirt printer is printing a lot of products with similar imprint—what we’re going to call production.