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UV Inkjet Printers Face Modern Challenges

(October 2011) posted on Tue Nov 22, 2011

UV inkjet printers have proven themselves capable of handling many types of graphics projects. Some are easy and routine; others take a bit of daring and creativity.

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By Gail Flower

Keith Pritchard says the company has three Fujifilm Acuity UV flatbeds and notes that digital imaging has kept the company in business and is rapidly taking over screen-printing sales. According to Pritchard, the most challenging applications are two-sided prints, those with spot-color printing, really large production runs, and working with unusual substrates (Figure 9). Color matching can be difficult in spot-color applications, and registration is tough to hold with two-sided prints.

ADJ Group, Inc.
Norwood, MA
Anthony Pace, president

ADJ Group Inc. got its start in UV inkjets in 2006 and now makes use of two Mimaki machines: a UJF-605C and a JF-1631.

“Flatbed UV printing has made a significant difference to our operation,” Anthony Pace says, noting that it has replaced screen printing for most of the short-order runs, increased order throughput, and allowed the company to take on orders that others might veer away from.

The company doesn’t shy away from the tough jobs, either. As a personal project, the ADJ took up printing on laser-engraved wood. The engraving process enables the wood to exhibit textured depth after printing (Figure 10).

The company also produced signs for a laboratory—signs that needed to be resistant to cleaning materials (Figure 11). ADJ made the signs on non-glare acrylic with a subsurface print and appliqué lettering/Raster Braille. The backside of the plaques had steel to attach to a backer plate that was coated with magnetic material.

Albert Screenprint Inc.
Norton, OH
Joe Presto, IT manager

Albert Screenprint began using UV inkjet in 2007, investing in an EFI VUTEk GS3200 and, most recently, in an EFI VUTEk GS3250LX. As in many of the other examples above, Albert Screenprint saw increasing customer demand for a one-stop-shop for promotional programs, including shorter run items. The company began looking for a digital solution that could augment its screen and litho capabilities in a hybrid manufacturing model.

“By producing and finishing everything internally, we have more control over timelines and quality, and we are no longer leaving money on the table using outsource partners,” Joe Presto says. He explains that the new printers enable the company to complete projects on schedule at competitive prices while maintaining a healthy bottom line. It also is a greener technology that uses less energy, produces less waste, and uses less in consumables, he notes.

Albert Screenprint produces pennant strings for bars, restaurants, and special events (Figure 12). They may have a 25- to 30-panel pennant string produced on their litho presses in one design, and the customer may wish to customize the remaining five. The shop uses its inkjet printers to produce made-to-order pennants on double-sided poly that would otherwise be too expensive to customize in short runs on screen or litho presses. In addition, the GS3250LX’s UV-LED curing system enables the use of substrates that are prone to dimensional instability under conventional UV curing.

Take a look around
Printers should look around, see what their competitors can do when pairing inkjet printers with demanding applications, and learn from their successes. It’s called the Prairie Dog Effect. Every so often, and not just at trade shows, you need to pop up your head to get a good perspective. Many of the printers expanded into UV inkjet for short runs, prototypes, one-offs, and streamlined production. By looking at what’s happening around you, it may be possible to best competitors with better, and faster, specialized prints and to be able to hold or improve on price.


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