Highlighting LED UV – A survey throughout the label industry
The whole industry is talking about LED UV, but what is the current market situation for LED UV really like? What about ink migration? Where do companies see the greatest potential in this regard? NarrowWebTech asked a range of companies who are active in the label industry what they think about LED UV and its current status quo in the market.
In recent years, LED UVs have gained traction in the marketplace due to a number of contributing factors. These include downward pricing trends, increased performance and efficiency, and wider availability of curing solutions and LED UV compatible materials. The landscape has started to shift from utilizing the technology in only a small handful of applications to broader adoption in a wider range of applications. With the technology enhancements, increased knowledge base, and decreasing costs, further use of LED UVs will be seen in next-generation printers
LED UVs offer lower-temperature curing compared to traditional lamp solutions. With no output in the infrared range, heat output is sharply reduced and no cooling through chill rolls or shutters is needed. It enables printing and curing on heat-sensitive substrates, films, foils, plastics and thinner materials for increased productivity and a broader application range. While print speeds are important in narrow web production, the ability to offer expanded print capabilities and differentiating features can set printers apart. LED UV can help with this whilst providing faster speeds and more consistent yields
Compatibility of ink/formation with the LED system is critical for customers integrating LED UVs into their process. Unlike the broad-spectrum irradiation of traditional lamp solutions, LEDs are monochromatic and emit radiation in a narrow spectrum. As such, curing with LED UV systems requires wavelengths which match the photo-initiator package in inks. Not only is there a minimum irradiance (peak power) to trigger the cure, but there is also an energy dosage required to ensure the cure is complete. Applications testing should be thoroughly conducted to truly understand the quality and to validate the cure.
LED UVs offer a number of environmental benefits, including lower power consumption, no ozone emissions, and longer lifetime (and thus less waste/consumables). Using LED UV in printing processes has enabled manufacturers to significantly lower their carbon footprint and improve sustainability of the process. UV inks are also essentially solvent and VOC free, and materials coated with these inks have been shown to provide excellent adhesion and consistent cure. Furthermore, with advances in processing technology, UV printed materials can be defibered and recycled.