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LED has become dominant in many UV curing applications

The UV curing sector is a versatile part of the coatings industry. In the last years especially the UV LED technology had a huge impact on the sector. We spoke with Charles Bourrousse  and Frédéric Taché from Sartomer about their views on the technology.

How prevalent is UV LED technology?
Today, the perceived advantages of UV LED, including increased productivity, higher quality and a more environmentally friendly technology, has enabled UV LED curing to become major and even dominant in many UV curing applications, as well as to turn traditional processes to UV. The most important fields where the use of UV LED technology has increased, are wood coatings and printing inks, to the point where some lines are now “full” LED.

More recently, the development and marketing of low migration systems specifically developed for use with LED has resulted in a greater acceptance across all sectors of the coating and printing industry in EU where indirect food contact is critical. Moreover, the reduction in heat generated during the curing process has enabled thin film, thermo-sensitive plastic substrates to be employed. This has helped in the rapid development in the flexible packaging applications.

Further progression of UV LED will be based on the development of new wavelength lamps and/or more adapted photoinitiator packages. As a key supplier to the UV industry, Sartomer continues to develop & recommend market leading solutions for the highest surface cure performance.

What are remaining challenges (related to the UV curing technology in general)?
Any technology will always entail new technical challenges to maximize performance: adhesion, outdoor stability, durability, low migration. New visual or sensorial effects are also a key driver for future developments. We expect to see growing interest in sustainable and compliant formulation approach from the market players, guided by influential brand owners recommendations. REACH compliance is also a key subject we are addressing with our customers to ensure a smooth market continuity.

Finally, additive manufacturing is a major area of development today, for which we make the most of our UV curing technology knowhow & experience to provide our customers with the highest quality & performance 3D printing solutions.

What are the latest developments in raw materials for UV-curable adhesives?
The electronic market is driving the demand for new products in the field of UV curable adhesives. UV curing is a key technology because it enables a quick and clean process. The high performance UV cured adhesives will provide low viscosity systems enabling high barrier properties, optimal light transmission, low yellowing and good flexibility. This is the ideal solution for the Light Optically Clear Adhesives (LOCA) used in all our smartphones and tablets.

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Flexo Innovation

Each element of the process continues to advance, meeting the needs of an evolving industry.

With so many stories of digital press launches and installations dominating the label industry news feed, to some, flexography has become an afterthought. However, despite the inroads digital printing has made in recent years – and they are indeed significant – the majority of PS labels and packaging printed around the world are done so via flexography. In fact, it’s really not even close.

There are several reasons why the tried and true flexo print method has been the backbone of the label industry for decades. As the name of the process suggests, flexo is flexible. Its versatility plays a pivotal role in its adoption and success. Flexo attributes that set it apart from competing technologies such as offset, litho, gravure and digital, include high press speeds, low equipment and maintenance costs, low cost of consumables, suitability for medium to long runs and ease of integration with other printing processes.

Furthermore, flexo’s flexibility allows the process to continue to evolve, with suppliers responsible for every element in the process working in lockstep to keep moving forward into the future.

Flint Group Narrow Web has recently announced developments in the up-and-coming UV LED flexo and shrink sleeve sectors, as well as addressing the extended gamut trend.

“We knew from interviews with clients specializing in the short-run shrink sleeve market, that they want a UV dual-curable ink with better adhesion and increased curing speed to boost productivity and reduce yield losses,” states Kelly Kolliopoulos, global marketing director for Flint Group Narrow Web. “Our experience in LED and conventional mercury curable ink system technology, combined with our understanding of the shrink market, enabled our R&D team to develop this best-in-class system.”  She concludes, “EkoCure XS combines the latest ink chemistry, including novel binders, that provide perfect cure and sufficient flexibility of the cured ink, allowing the adhesion to remain fool-proof – especially after post shrink processing is completed. The full range of Pantone shades and opaque white are available.”

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i-Sub delivers 3.2m Agfa and Zünd machines to Digital Wordcrafts

i-Sub has announced that Leicester-based print company, Digital Wordcrafts, has purchased an Agfa Anapurna H3200i LED UV printer and a Zünd G3 XL3200 digital flatbed cutter. The Agfa is replacing Digital Wordcrafts’ VUTEk printers and the Zünd G3 is replacing two smaller Zünd machines.

Digital Wordcrafts was founded in 1988 and provides a complete range of printing and signage solutions to companies across the UK. They specialise in building long-term relationships with customers that encompass all their printing and display requirements. Managing Director, Adrian Bingley, says: “As an example, one of our major customers is health food retail chain, Holland & Barrett. We provide all the internal graphics for their stores throughout the country as well as their external fascias and illuminated and projected signage. Our business is full service printing and display, with both large and small format services available.”

The relationship between i-Sub and Digital Wordcrafts goes back more than 15 years. “For many years i-Sub has provided all our large format Mimaki solvent machines and we have always been very happy with their service and support,” says Bingley. “We began with a 1.3m Mimaki and as demand grew, so did the width of our printers and ultimately we ended up with a 2.6m Mimaki JV34 and a 3.2m JV5. Now we have two 1.6m and one 1.3m Mimaki JV150 machines, all of which are serving us very well. The Agfa Anapurna has primarily been purchased to replace our VUTEk machine and at 3.2m wide, this satisfies all our print requirements.”

The Agfa Anapurna H3200i LEDUV is a belt-driven hybrid machine that can handle all types of rigid sheet materials up to 3.2m wide, and with the ability to print a 10’ x 5’ (3000mm x 1500mm) sheets landscape, productivity is impressive. Roll media is available up to 3.2m wide, both in a single-roll and a dual-roll configuration. Thanks to the LED UV curing it supports the widest media mix in the market at all print quality levels. The printer offers both high throughput and high print quality and has white inks as standard thus increasing the range of possible applications.

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Flint Group Narrow Web Introduces EkoCure® XS

Flint Group has globally launched EkoCure® XS – a UV LED ink series with the best adhesion and post shrink performance on shrink substrates, that is also dual-cure, and provides consistent cure at the highest printing speeds.

EkoCure® XS is specifically designed for the demands of shrink sleeve applications.  “We knew from interviews with clients specializing in the short run shrink sleeve market, that they want a UV dual-curable ink with better adhesion and increased curing speed to boost productivity and reduce yield losses” states Kelly Kolliopoulos, Global Marketing Director for Flint Group Narrow Web.  “Our experience in LED and conventional mercury curable ink system technology, combined with our understanding of the shrink market, enabled our R&D team to develop this best-in-class system.”  She concludes, “EkoCure® XS combines the latest ink chemistry including novel binders that provide perfect cure and sufficient flexibility of the cured ink allowing the adhesion to remain fool-proof – especially after post shrink processing is completed.  The full range of pantone shades and opaque white are available.”

“EkoCure® XS is the first Shrink Sleeve System that is dual-cure.  “Our scientists have developed a unique combination of photo-initiators and binders allowing the ink to cross link from top to bottom and therefore cure fully when exposed to the UV wavelengths from either Mercury or LED lamps” explains Dr. Paulo Vieira, Director of Research and Development, Narrow Web NA. “In depth tests comparing EkoCure® XS with existing UV curable inks on the market show that EkoCure® XS exhibits the best adhesion performance at the highest printing speeds when run using standard 355 W/inch mercury lamps.  This is in addition to having the best performance when compared to other LED curable products”

EkoCure™ XS inks enable converter productivity, yield and finished product quality:  Recognized as a pioneer in the Canadian market, Groupe Lelys is an early adopter of the EkoCure® XS ink series.  “We provide our customers with high quality sleeves and labels,  and impeccable service, and we needed a shrink sleeve ink series that would improve our production rates and meet our high quality standards,” said Mr. Aureo Azevedo, Groupe Lelys Procurement Leader.  “Overall adhesion and capacity release have been our biggest concerns.  EkoCure® XS by Flint Group Narrow Web eliminated our adhesion issues, and significantly increased the satisfaction of our customers.  Additionally, we are able to run at 15-20% faster press speeds now that we print with EkoCure® XS.  Our colors are brighter and our products are more appealing.  We anticipate the expansion of our business via the high quality shrink sleeves our customers expect from Groupe Lelys.”

EkoCure® XS is designed to be easy for any converter to adopt for the full range of shrink sleeve applications.

https://packagingeurope.com/flint-group-narrow-web-introduces-ekocure-xs/

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Fujifilm Launches Acuity LED 1600R for Large Format Graphic Display Market

Fujifilm announced the release of a new machine in its Acuity series, the Acuity LED 1600R. This dedicated roll-to-roll printer is optimized for four-color CYMK printing, but otherwise shares all the benefits in quality and performance of the successful Acuity LED 1600 II hybrid model. The first public demonstration of this new model will take place at C!Print Lyon Feb. 6-8, 2018 on the Fujifilm stand. It will be commercially available on March 1.

Exclusive to Fujifilm and featuring Dimatix Q-class industrial print heads, the Acuity LED 1600R offers four channels, with the option of a modular upgrade in the field up to eight channels. Like the Acuity LED 1600 II, it offers productivity of up to 33m² per hour.

Producing low levels of heat and requiring lower ink volumes and less power than similar machines on the market, the newest member of the Acuity range has instant start-up, long-life LED UV lamps, no ozone or VOC emissions and only one consumable – the ink.

That ink is the new Uvijet RL ink range, which is available in CMYK and CMYK plus light cyan and light magenta. A modular upgrade option to include white is available, with an option for up to eight channels to include clear ink, also being added later in the year. Designed for roll media, Uvijet RL is manufactured by Fujifilm Specialty Ink Systems in the UK, and combined with the 1600R’s Fujifilm patented LED curing system and Dimatix print heads, it delivers near-photographic print quality at an impressive speed, the company said.

“Fujifilm has established a strong business with the Acuity LED 1600 and then the Acuity LED 1600 II, with close to 1000 installations globally,” said Tudor Morgan, segment manager, Sign & Display at Fujifilm Graphic Systems Europe. “To build on this success, we are now offering an equally robust, lower-cost model in the Acuity LED 1600R that can provide a great investment opportunity for printers looking to produce high quality, large format display work – all without compromising on the excellent performance characteristics that have gained the Acuity LED 1600 II such a formidable reputation.”

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Realisaprint.com Becomes First Printer in France to Invest in the AccurioJet KM-1 from Konica Minolta

Konica Minolta formalised the first sale in France of its B2+digital inkjet press, the AccurioJet KM-1, to Realisaprint.com printers. This new deal reinforces its existing partnership with Realisaprint.com, an ambassador for Konica Minolta and the first reference site for Southern Europe.

The AccurioJet KM-1 integrates easily into offset and digital environments and offers productivity of up to 3,000 sheets an hour. Its numerous advantages include the patented “dot freeze” LED UV-cured ink technology, guaranteeing perfect colour registration and outstanding image stability. The AccurioJet KM-1 offers immense flexibility, not least through its unique ability to produce duplex prints that come off the press and go straight to finishing. Registration accuracy is guaranteed by using the same gripper-to-gripper technology used in offset.

Its ability to handle a wide variety of media, including coated and uncoated, offset, textured, canvas and PVC from 60 to 600 microns thick without pretreatment, in particular, was one of the reasons Realisaprint.com chose this press. The LED (UV) printing operation intends to immediately finish the sheets. The colorimetric stability associated with inkjet production and the cost efficiency for short runs also justified Realisaprint.com’s decision. “Being the first company in France to buy the AccurioJet KM-1 reinforces our reputation as pioneers and strengthens our expertise in the graphics chain, allowing us to support our customers better in post-print processes,” emphasised Rémy Barelli, co-founder of Realisaprint.com.

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Finding Opportunities in Industrial Printing Applications

Is there a business opportunity for the commercial printing segment in industrial printing applications? The most reliable answer at this point is a definite maybe. But, a market that’s been described by many pundits as “ready to pop for a long time” is definitely worth exploring.

When printing stops being printing for its own sake, it’s time to recognize it for what it actually is: industrial printing.

Another way to delineate industrial printing is by application. Broadly speaking, points out Josh Hope, senior manager of 3D Printing & Engineering Projects, Mimaki USA, industrial printing is putting ink onto “anything that isn’t paper,” but often in small batches that don’t scale up to true “industrial” quantities. He advises printers to look at the printable objects they are outsourcing for clues to the kinds of industrial printing they might be able to do in-house.

At Fujifilm Dimatix, says Timothy Rosario, senior project manager, Fujifilm Inkjet Technology, “we define ‘industrial printing’ by the various substrates we are printing on, including sandpaper, waterproof seam tape, cement board, drywall, house wrap and insulation.” This gives a sense of the role industrial printing can play in non-traditional markets such as homebuilding, where Fujifilm Dimatix has introduced an LED-UV solution, the StarFire SG1024 industrial inkjet printing system, for printing construction materials.

Flatbed UV inkjet printers that can accommodate solid objects, as well as flat substrates, work best. Hope says that Mimaki’s UJF Mark II (MkII) Series LED-UV tabletop printers are tailor-made for late-stage customization of phone cases, USB drives, skateboards and other items produced in small batches. With its 4˝ inkjet head height, the Ricoh Pro T7210 UV flatbed — the device that printed cinder blocks at the SGIA Expo — has been used to image bar stool seats and guitars, according to Dollard.

Unlike in traditional production, the printing isn’t the dominant technique, but one of a number of steps in a complex sequence of events. In industrial printing, “print adds value within a bigger process,” says Tom Molamphy, business development manager of the Industrial Inkjet Ink Div. at Agfa Graphics.

Molamphy points out that while there are industrial applications for Agfa devices such as the Jeti Tauro hybrid LED-UV inkjet printer, wide-format equipment generally isn’t geared for the high-speed, single-pass performance that industrial printing on an industrial scale requires. As a supplier of industrial inks, Agfa is working with printhead manufacturers and system developers to push wide-format inkjet further in this direction.

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Excelitas Expands OmniCure UV LED Curing Line With AC8-HD

Excelitas Technologies, a global technology provider focused on delivering customized photonic solutions, expands its OmniCure UV LED Curing product line with the introduction of the OmniCure AC8-HD (High Dose) Series of UV LED Curing Systems.

Offering higher optical power and enhanced performance in the same air-cooled mechanical enclosure as its AC8 and AC9 predecessors, the new AC8-HD delivers more than 50% dose with optical uniformity. Excelitas Technologies’ patented control technology for addressing individual UV LED modules enables an outstandingly tight irradiation across the UV emitting length, as well as between heads. Its robust light engine design also provides more protection and longevity of the LED modules. The new UV light source is designed for large area curing of inks, adhesives and coatings in medical, industrial, electronics manufacturing, wood coating, touch panel/display, solar panel, conformal coating, automotive and print applications.

The scalable architecture of the OmniCure AC8-HD allows for multiple heads to be adjoined for customization and flexibility, without compromising output uniformity. The commonly shared platform with the current large area product offerings allows customers to upgrade and support faster process speeds without any changes in mounting or control.

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Marstan Press makes LED-UV move with RMGT Ryobi install

Marstan Press has moved up to SRA1 format from B2 after investing in an RMGT Ryobi 920 series press

The RMGT Ryobi press will enable Marstan Press to print on uncoated stocks

The five-colour LED-UV machine, which was supplied by Apex Digital Graphics, has replaced a 10-colour Heidelberg Speedmaster XL 75 perfecting press. The Heidelberg machine was removed just before Christmas and the RMGT Ryobi press was installed in the period between Christmas and the new year.

While the 50-staff company praised the productivity of the Speedmaster, sales and marketing director Martin Lett Jnr said the RMGT machine enables the firm to cater for larger items, such as A1 posters and 8pp A4 roll-fold leaflets, and offers cost savings in areas including finance and upkeep.

“Going up to SRA1 has also generated a whole bunch of other savings. For example, we’re getting the SRA1 plate cheaper than the B2 plate price,” said Lett Jnr.

“We’ll also be able to print on plastics, vinyls and window cling up to 600 microns, so that’s a market we’re going to actively pursue,” said Lett Jnr.

“Originally the LED option did get ruled out because of the ink cost, which is much higher than conventional ink, but when we did a further in-depth analysis we found that the benefits outweighed the negatives. And as more people put UV presses in, and retrofit UV, the ink prices will continue to come down.”

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LED the UV Technology for Future Applications

For a number of years, UV technology has been a reliable technique for the curing of photo-reactive chemicals. In response to increasing production speeds and new applications, for instance in the field of 3D, UV lamp technology has also developed. Presently, a significant range of different systems are available, each specific to the particular application.

Users and providers of chemistry are continually developing new applications for UV curing. Their groundbreaking ideas mostly mean increasing demand on UV curing devices – where at times conventional UV technology has touched its technical limits. Therefore, within the recent years, a totally new branch of UV technology has formed: UV LEDs. This article offers the reader with an objective comparison between both technologies, UV and UV LED. It should help the user determine to what degree LEDs can provide a substitute to conventional UV solutions.

The operating technology of conventional UV lamps is based on plasma physics and optics, while UV LEDs are based on optics and semiconductor technology.

LEDs are founded on semiconductor technology. Specific wavelengths are directly discharged by the current input. The spectrum is a quasi-monochromatic radiation in distinct wavelengths, for example 365 nm, 385 nm or 405 nm.