It would appear that folks in the personalization business will always be looking for the “next BIG thing” in our industry. Years back, lasers were the “next BIG thing,” then inkjet sublimation created a huge impact on the business. So what’s next? What magical innovation may come along that, once more, will revolutionize the personalization industry? Could it be UV printers? The reality is, it really could possibly be, and here’s why.
Many years ago, computerized rotary engraving machines revolutionized the market, then lasers did exactly the same thing, then some major technological advancements in sublimation emerged cementing this technique among the “next BIG things.” On the way, a number of other likely candidates cropped up, however they never quite caused it to be to the “next BIG” level. I recall getting pretty pumped up about the AcryliPrint technique of inexpensively printing full-color images on acrylic. It is still an excellent process but it never quite caught on for in-house production. Then there was clearly the program that printed inkjet images on glass. Again, a pretty nice product but it really never really took off. Finally, there was clearly the Enduring Images system of printing on ceramic using latte art printer. I am still holding out for this particular one to explode, but to date, just one or two passionate souls are staying with me.
UV printing, however, is apparently taking on a life of its unique. For many years now, it provides all but dominated the industry events with some really big names having a marked interest in showing their printers, though they knew these people were from the price range for 95 percent of the people 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 which can be displaying what seems to be a lot more 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 clients are trying to find something new. The cabability to add color is a perfect fit to enhance the things they are now offering. Even the opportunity to offer ‘multi-media’ or multiple processes when making an award is very gaining interest. For instance, a laser engraved along with a UV-LED printed award adds dimension and color, and, equally as importantly, profit margin for the dealer. With the addition of UV-LED printing, the dealer will differentiate themselves from the competition.”
So what exactly is a UV printer? Well, let’s begin with the UV part, as with ultraviolet light. UV light is an invisible (for the eye) kind of light present in many light sources, such as the sun. UV light has some useful characteristics, especially the capability to cure many photosensitive materials. With regards to UV printing, a UV light source is utilized for stopping (harden and solidify) the inks laid down through the printer.
UV inkjet printing differs from conventional solvent inkjet printing. As opposed to having solvents from the ink that evaporate in to the air and absorb into the substrate, UV inks are in contact with UV lights that happen to be that are part of the printer which quickly cure the ink to transform it from a liquid into a solid. This technologies have several advantages, including eliminating environmental and workplace health problems, the cabability to print on a multitude of substrates, high print speeds and an array of printing applications ranging from outdoor signage to golf balls.
Why then should we be so enthusiastic about this developing technology? The reality is, a couple of years ago, not many people in our industry were very enthusiastic about this in any way. With prices inside the $20,000-$80,000 range, there weren’t many people who could consider a UV printer as an option to start with. But as time has passed, the prices have dropped and more competition has come to the market, making both a far wider assortment of printers and print options available as well as price points-even to the stage that $20,000 can now buy lots of printer.
Today, the problem isn’t a lot price around it really is confusion and misinformation in regards to what a UV printer can and cannot do, and exactly how much market there may be to back up one.
For instance, I occasionally print a plaque using my uv printer. The fee is practically negligible and also the markup can be substantial, but exactly how many plaques are appropriate for this technology? Remember, sublimation may also be used to make full-color plaques. The same is true with a hundred other products including everything from metal plates to plastic toys. In a nutshell, as with most personalization processes, you will find things that are best done with a UV printer and stuff that would be best carried out with other methods. UV printing isn’t a substitute for other processes, but an alternative choice to do most jobs and the best way to execute a few.
I had employment recently that involved printing full-color company logos on clear acrylic. I do not know the way i might have done this with almost every other process. UV printing was perfect because I could possibly print a great white image to produce an opaque mask on the substrate and then print the complete-color logo on the top of it. That’s the level of job UV printers work great at.
Many manufacturers provide an attachment for printing cylindrical items such as water bottles. The RotaPrint attachment is available from Roland DGA Corp.
Printing on clear or dark backgrounds is definitely a challenge for the majority of processes and with some, such as sublimation, it’s just about impossible. UV printing can also be more forgiving than other methods with regards to the sort of substrates that this works together. Sublimation, as an example, nearly always demands a special polyester-coated substrate to work by any means. UV printing, however, can be used to print on a multitude of substrates of all the colors, textures, shapes and forms. But, just like other processes, it doesn’t focus on everything. Actually, there are lots of substrates that UV inks will 05dexqpky stick to without first applying a bonding or adhesion agent. Some printers may actually spray an adhesion agent about the substrate with the printer nozzles while with some other printers, you have to hand put it on. In any case, there is no ensure that the ink will bond until it can be tested.
Adhesion then, in my opinion, becomes the largest problem in the UV world since every printer manufacturer offers their particular inks and adhesion additives, and each is different. What this means is it is actually ultimately vital that you test the inks and also the printer to ensure they will likely work towards the substrates you wish to print before you make any kind of buying decision or promises to customers.
Together with having to learn about adhesion with textile printer, it is also essential that a prospective buyer discover the various properties in the inks. Some companies offer multiple inks to be considered but a majority of try to provide a “one size fits all” recipe that may or may not be right for you. At one time, I presumed an ink cured with UV light would then be UV safe and thus I printed work for exterior use. Unfortunately, I used to be 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 might definitely not doubt their word, it could cause me to cautious-once burned and all that.