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How to Capitalize On Flatbed UV Inkjet Technology

(September 2006) posted on Wed Nov 01, 2006

Learn how to find a flatbed that's right for your operation and what you can do to take full advantage of its capabilites.

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By Scott Schinlever

Not long ago, the perception was that screen printing and digital inkjet printing represented two distinctly different worlds: Screen printing was for high-volume, lower-resolution work and inkjet for low-volume, photo-quality images. Today, the worlds are converging as screen printers are discovering that the latest inkjet technology can improve the efficiency, productivity, and profitability of their businesses while expanding the range of applications and types of customers for whom they print.

What are flatbed UV inkjets?

Inkjet equipment has become widely known for efficient, high-quality, multicolor printing on flexible substrates. "Industrial grade" systems now print at speeds up to more than 4000 sq ft/hr, and some offer resolutions exceeding 1000 dpi. One of the most appealing aspects of inkjet technology among screen printers is that it eliminates many of the setup tasks that make screen printing impractical for short production runs (Figure 1).

Flatbed inkjet equipment using UV-curable inks takes these advantages and makes them applicable to all of the rigid materials screen printers use on a daily basis, including those listed in Figure 2. It also allows shops to print on numerous materials they may never have dreamed of using before, such as metal, plywood, and glass. Additional benefits of UV flatbed technology include ease of use, quick changeover of jobs and materials, low maintenance, and high reliability.

High-quality flatbed UV inkjet printers are capable of handling both rigid and flexible media up to 6 ft (1.8 m) or more in width (Figure 3). They allow for fast automated and semi-automated change-overs to materials of different thicknesses and widths and may include tight integration with sophisticated automated finishing equipment, such as cutting plotters. Of course, this ability to handle materials of varying sizes is not useful if the inks do not adhere well to them. This is where UV-curable inks come in.

The setting and subsequent adhesion of UV-curable inks is triggered when they are exposed to an ultraviolet light source during the printing process. Management of this UV light source gives users a wide range of control over the ink-curing process, something that is not possible with solvent-based inks. UV-curing variables include intensity and wavelength of the light and duration of exposure.


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