It seems that people in the personalization business will almost always be looking for the “next BIG thing” in your industry. Years ago, lasers were the “next BIG thing,” then inkjet sublimation developed a huge impact on the industry. So what’s next? What magical innovation should come along that, again, will revolutionize the personalization industry? Could it be UV printers? Truth is, it simply might be, and here’s why.
Many years ago, computerized rotary engraving machines revolutionized the industry, then lasers did the same, then some major technological advancements in sublimation emerged cementing this procedure as one with 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 looking forward to the AcryliPrint process of inexpensively printing full-color images on acrylic. It is still a fantastic process however it never quite caught on for in-house production. Then there was the system that printed inkjet images on glass. Again, quite a nice product nevertheless it never really shot to popularity. Finally, there is the Enduring Images system of printing on ceramic using coffee printer. I am still patiently waiting for this someone to take off, but to date, just one or two passionate souls are sticking to me.
UV printing, however, seems to be taking on a life of its. For several years now, it’s got all but dominated the trade shows with some really big names taking a marked fascination with showing their printers, but they knew these were out of the price range for 95 percent of the people walking the ground. 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 which might be displaying what seems to be an increasing number of models.
Steve Gluskin, director of promoting for Rowmark’s GoVivid printers, says, “The message were hearing from trophy and award dealers is the fact that their customers are seeking something new. The power to add color is a great fit to reinforce what they are currently offering. Even the capacity to offer ‘multi-media’ or multiple processes when designing an award is basically gaining interest. For example, a laser engraved along with a UV-LED printed award adds dimension and color, and, equally as importantly, profit margin for the dealer. By adding UV-LED printing, the cafe dealer will differentiate themselves off their competition.”
So what exactly is a UV printer? Well, let’s focus on the UV part, like ultraviolet light. UV light is surely an invisible (towards the eye) type of light within many light sources, such as sun. UV light has some useful characteristics, especially the capability to cure many photosensitive materials. In the case of UV printing, a UV light source is used for stopping (harden and solidify) the inks laid down by the printer.
The iUV-600XL from Graphics One, Inc. features a large flatbed table. Direct Color Systems’ flagship printer, the 1024UVMVP15, are prepared for a maximum substrate thickness of 15″.
UV inkjet printing differs from the others from conventional solvent inkjet printing. Instead of having solvents in the ink that evaporate into the air and absorb to the substrate, UV inks face UV lights that are built to the printer which quickly cure the ink to show it from the liquid with a solid. This technology has several positive aspects, including eliminating environmental and workplace health problems, the power to print on the wide number of substrates, high print speeds plus a wide range of printing applications starting from outdoor signage to baseballs.
So why should we be so looking forward to this developing technology? Truth is, annually or two ago, few people inside our industry were very looking forward to this at all. With price tags inside the $20,000-$80,000 range, there weren’t many individuals who could seriously consider a UV printer as a possible option in the first place. But as time has passed, the values have dropped plus much more competition has come into the market, making both a lot wider variety of printers and print possibilities open as well as price points—even towards the point that $20,000 can now buy a great deal of printer.
Today, the challenge isn’t a great deal price as much as it is confusion and misinformation by what a UV printer can and should not do, and exactly how much market there exists to support one.
For instance, I occasionally print a plaque using uv printer. The cost is almost negligible as well as the markup might be substantial, but exactly how many plaques are appropriate just for this technology? Remember, sublimation can also be used to create full-color plaques. The same is true which has a hundred other products including from metal plates to plastic toys. In short, associated with pension transfer personalization processes, you can find things which might be best done using a UV printer and things that are best done with other methods. UV printing isn’t a substitute for other processes, but a substitute for do most jobs along with the only way to do a few.
I had work recently that involved printing full-color company logos on clear acrylic. I have no idea how I would have done this with another process. UV printing was perfect because I could print a good white image to produce an opaque mask about the substrate and after that print the full-color logo on top of it. That’s the type of job UV printers are really good at.
Many manufacturers offer 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 some processes and with many, like sublimation, it’s almost impossible. UV printing can be more forgiving than other methods when it comes on the type of substrates that it works with. Sublimation, by way of example, usually requires a special polyester-coated substrate to work in any way. UV printing, for the other hand, might be used to print with a wide various substrates of most colors, textures, shapes and forms. But, exactly like other processes, it doesn’t work with everything. In fact, you can find many substrates that UV inks will not likely adhere to without first applying a bonding or adhesion agent. Some printers can certainly spray an adhesion agent about the substrate with the printer nozzles while with other printers, you have to hand apply it. Either way, there is certainly no ensure that the ink will bond until it can be tested.
Adhesion then, i believe, becomes the greatest problem inside the UV world since every printer manufacturer offers their particular inks and adhesion additives, and each differs. This means it can be ultimately essential that you test both inks and the printer to ensure they will work about the substrates you wish to print prior to making any kind of buying decision or offers to customers.
Along with having to master about adhesion with UV inks, it can be also important that a potential buyer discover the various properties in the inks. Some companies offer multiple inks to be considered most try to provide a “one size fits all” recipe that will or might not work for you. At one time, I presumed make fish an ink cured with UV light would then be UV safe and thus 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 would certainly not doubt their word, it would make me cautious—once burned and that.
One in the most popular features of UV printers recently may be the introduction of cylindrical devices for printing stuff like water bottles. I believe that cylindrical tools are offered just as one option for every printer with sufficient throat to match one. This brings at least two questions in to the light: One, how user-friendly is the software for starting a cylindrical job and, two, do I need another specialized ink? Although metal water bottles could be successfully printed with many UV inks, there is a different story with plastic bottles that can be squeezed. These require a flexible ink, so some from the printer manufacturers now produce an ink that stretches up to 200 percent.
The flexible ink option opens up other applications, such as printing banners. Magnetic signs are another possibility and several manufacturers have built their printers so you can find no paramagnetic (steel) parts that would interfere with printing a magnetic material.
With the plethora of inks available, a major decision you have to make is discovering the right ink for the applications. Inks can’t be easily changed so once an ink is selected you happen to be pretty much tied to it to the duration. Ink changes are possible should you thoroughly clean the printer, but this can be time-consuming which is not suited to job-to-job use.
Inks usually are specific to the manufacturer, and they are the print heads and rails (the bars the heads and UV light run on). Some companies manufacture their unique print heads and rails, even though many others use assemblies using their company inkjet manufacturers, such as Ricoh and Epson. Depending about the print head, the printer could be capable of varying the size from the ink dot from as low as a couple of picoliters to just as much as 20 picoliters. By varying the dot size, the printers are able to better manipulate ink density, which leads to sharper images and colors that smoothly vary from one shade to another. Variable-dot printing is controlled by firmware from the inside the printer and it is software.
All UV printers come with a few kind of RIP (Raster Image Processor) software to drive and control these firmware options. Usually, the RIP software programs are developed with the manufacturer to get a specific printer and has various functions, such as translating images out of your computer into raster devspky91 for your printer and enhancing color consistency. Although you might not be able to talk and understand RIPs in any great detail, you can observe the results within the printed image, such as vivid reds, white colored and the capability to smoothly transition from one color to a different. When you happen to be considering purchasing a printer, it’s very important to look closely, compare results and have questions if you notice something that doesn’t look right. If it doesn’t look right on the demo, it won’t look right when you are getting it home!
So where could be the money in UV printers? What kinds of products produce enough go back to make them really worth the $20,000 to $80,000 or more investment attached to these devices? It couldn’t possibly be the capability to make one-up products as is the case with sublimation. Clearly, UV is for that bulk production shop. Although 1,000 water bottles might be personalized as is also printed, the actual contribution from the dtg printer is printing lots of products with the same imprint—what we’re going to call production.