It seems that people in the personalization business are always looking for your “next BIG thing” in our industry. Years ago, lasers were the “next BIG thing,” then inkjet sublimation designed a huge impact on the industry. So what’s next? What magical innovation will come along that, again, will revolutionize the personalization industry? Could it be UV printers? Truth is, it might be, and here’s why.
Many years ago, computerized rotary engraving machines revolutionized the industry, then lasers did a similar thing, and then some major technological advancements in sublimation arrived cementing this procedure as one in the “next BIG things.” Along the way, other likely candidates cropped up, but they never quite made it towards the “next BIG” level. I remember getting pretty looking forward to the AcryliPrint means 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 took off. Finally, there is the Enduring Images system of printing on ceramic using coffee printer. I am still ready for this someone to take off, but to date, only a few passionate souls are sticking to me.
UV printing, however, is apparently taking over a life of its own. For several years now, they have all but dominated the industry events with some really big names taking a marked desire for showing their printers, but they knew they were out of the cost range for 95 percent of your companion walking the ground. I see these printers exhibited at big shows and small: Sign shows, personalization shows, awards shows and print shows are typical hosting several manufacturers of UV printers which might be displaying what looks like it’s an increasing number of models.
Steve Gluskin, director of promoting for Rowmark’s GoVivid printers, says, “The message we are hearing from trophy and award dealers is that their customers are trying to find something new. The ability to add color is a perfect fit to enhance what they are currently offering. Even the ability to offer ‘multi-media’ or multiple processes when making an award is basically gaining interest. For example, a laser engraved plus a UV-LED printed award adds dimension and color, and, just as importantly, profit margin for that dealer. By adding UV-LED printing, the seller will differentiate themselves from their competition.”
So what exactly is a UV printer? Well, let’s begin with the UV part, such as ultraviolet light. UV light is an invisible (towards the eye) form of light present in many light sources, including the sun. UV light has some useful characteristics, especially the capability to cure many photosensitive materials. In true of UV printing, a UV light is used to stop (harden and solidify) the inks laid down through the printer.
The iUV-600XL from Graphics One, Inc. comes with a large flatbed table. Direct Color Systems’ flagship printer, the 1024UVMVP15, are prepared for a maximum substrate thickness of 15″.
UV inkjet printing is different from conventional solvent inkjet printing. Instead of having solvents inside the ink that evaporate into the air and absorb to the substrate, UV inks have confronted UV lights which are built in to the printer which quickly cure the ink to turn it coming from a liquid to some solid. This technology has many perks, including eliminating environmental and workplace health concerns, the power to print over a wide various substrates, high print speeds as well as a wide range of printing applications ranging from outdoor signage to tennis balls.
So why should we be so excited about this developing technology? Truth is, annually or two ago, few people in your industry were very looking forward to this in any way. With price tags inside the $20,000-$80,000 range, there weren’t a lot of people who could you should consider a UV printer being an option inside first place. But as the passed, the have dropped plus more competition has come in the market, making both a lot wider selection of printers and print solutions as well as price points—even towards the point that $20,000 can buy a lots of printer.
Today, the issue isn’t much price around it is confusion and misinformation about what a UV printer can and should not do, and exactly how much market there is certainly to support one.
For instance, I occasionally print a plaque using phone case printer. The cost is actually negligible as well as the markup may 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 with a hundred other products including everything from metal plates to plastic toys. In short, associated with pension transfer personalization processes, you can find things that are best done which has a UV printer and things that are best carried out with other methods. UV printing isn’t an alternative for other processes, but a substitute for do most jobs and also the only way to accomplish a few.
I had work recently that involved printing full-color company logos on clear acrylic. I have no idea how I could have done this with another process. UV printing was perfect because I could print a solid white image to create an opaque mask around 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 present an attachment for printing cylindrical items like water bottles. The RotaPrint attachment is available from Roland DGA Corp.
Printing on clear or dark backgrounds can be quite a challenge for the majority of processes and with many, like sublimation, it’s extremely hard. UV printing can be more forgiving than other methods when it comes to the type of substrates who’s works with. Sublimation, by way of example, often requires a special polyester-coated substrate to work in any way. UV printing, for the other hand, may be used to print over a wide selection of substrates of colors, textures, size and shapes. But, just like other processes, it doesn’t develop everything. In fact, there are many substrates that UV inks won’t adhere to without first applying a bonding or adhesion agent. Some printers can actually spray an adhesion agent on the substrate with the printer nozzles while with other printers, you have to hand put it on. Either way, there’s no be sure that the ink will bond until it is tested.
Adhesion then, i think, becomes the biggest problem inside UV world since every printer manufacturer offers their particular inks and adhesion additives, and each is different. This means it really is ultimately essential that you test both the inks as well as the printer to make sure they will work for the substrates you want 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 crucial that a potential buyer discover the various properties of the inks. Some companies offer multiple inks to be considered most try to give a “one size fits all” recipe that could or might not exactly work for you. At one time, I presumed make fish an ink cured with UV light would then be UV safe thereby I printed a job 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 might make me cautious—once burned and all sorts of that.
One from the most popular features of UV printers recently may be 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 accommodate one. This brings no less than two questions into the light: One, how user-friendly is the software for establishing 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 could be squeezed. These need a flexible ink, so some of the printer manufacturers now produce an ink that stretches as much as 200 percent.
The flexible ink option opens other applications, including printing banners. Magnetic signs are another possibility and a few manufacturers have built their printers so you’ll find no paramagnetic (steel) parts that might interfere with printing a magnetic material.
With the large number of inks available, a serious decision you’ll want to make is determing the best 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 if you thoroughly clean the printer, but this can be time-consuming and it is not suited to job-to-job use.
Inks are usually specific to the manufacturer, and so are the print heads and rails (the bars the heads and UV light operate on). Some companies manufacture their unique print heads and rails, although others use assemblies off their inkjet manufacturers, like Ricoh and Epson. Depending for the print head, the printer could possibly be capable of varying the size in the ink dot from as low as a couple of picoliters to around 20 picoliters. By varying the dot size, the printers are better suited to manipulate ink density, which results in sharper images and colors that smoothly change from one shade to a new. 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 operate a vehicle and control these firmware options. Usually, the RIP software is developed from the manufacturer for a specific printer and has various functions, such as translating images from a computer into raster devspky91 for the printer and enhancing color consistency. Although you may not be able to talk and understand RIPs in a great detail, you can see the results in the printed image, including vivid reds, bright white and the capability to smoothly transition in one color to a new. When you are considering investing in a printer, it’s extremely important to look closely, compare results and ask questions if you 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 return to make them well worth the $20,000 to $80,000 or maybe more investment attached to these devices? It couldn’t come to be the ability to make one-up products as will be the case with sublimation. Clearly, UV is for the bulk production shop. Although 1,000 water bottles may be personalized as is also printed, the true contribution in the dtg printer is printing a lot of products with similar imprint—what we’re going to call production.