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Perspectives on UV LED Curing

(April 2013) posted on Tue May 07, 2013

This roundtable discussion focuses on UV inkjet printing and the emergence and impact of UV LED technology.

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By Gail Flower

Technology changes many industries eventually. Though UV curing has been in the printing industry for more than 20 years, LED curing technology for UV printers is a modern technological twist in digital imaging. For a new technology to take hold, users have to feel a compelling need to accept it.

How is the technology taking hold? We talked to some printers about UV inkjet printing and UV LED inkjet systems and their experiences. We also interviewed industry professionals whose companies supply UV LED printers to get their perspectives. Our particpants in the conversation are: Emily Williamson, president of Columbus, OH-based Franklin Imaging; John Dziak, owner and CEO of Printscape Imaging and Graphics, Pittsburgh, PA; Paul Meek, VP of operations at Indianapolis, IN-based Firehouse; Steve Cutler, marketing product manager, mid-range inkjet, at Fujifilm; and Paul McGovern, sales manager, USA, at Mimaki.

Is UV LED curing more effective than alternative curing methods for inkjet printing?
Williamson: For us, the only lamp curing we do is UV, and [conventional] UV printing is very effective. As the prints come out of the machine, they are cured and require no additional dry time. We can move on immediately to finishing steps, such as lamination, cutting, and mounting.

Meek: I think that curing is more consistent with LED. With LED curing, it’s on or off. When you are using UV, the consistency can change due to the fact that each time the light flashes, the bulb gets less intense. Therefore, the curing can change over time. With LED, that is not an issue. Temperature makes a difference. Whereas the standard mercury lamp is hot when curing, the UV LED is not. Therefore, the latter gives more consistent, cooler curing. Figure 1 shows an example of a retail display his shop produced on a UV LED inkjet printer.

Is it a growing trend to use UV LED curing in inkjet printing?
Dziak: I believe so. It is more convenient and can be used on a wider array of materials.

Meek: We’ve seen an increase in the industry. A year ago, I only knew of four or five printers using LED; now I know at least 15 printers using it. There are certainly more LED machines in the field now than at this time last year.


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