For years the graphics industry has been improving its environmental footprint. The introduction of LED drying of UV inks is an energy saver in more ways than one. LED technology has been around for many years and turns up in all sorts of applications, from car headlights to jewellery. (It’s just a matter of time before we see LED piercings.) In the graphics industry, LEDs are used for curing UV inks in both analogue and digital printing systems. The technology has many advantages including low energy consumption and long life. LEDs emit no heat or ozone; they are compact and relatively inexpensive.
However, the technology’s not perfect because it’s constrained by limited wavelength and the need to focus the light very precisely. LEDs need to be used in quantity to be effective, so development costs can be steep. Its slowness and insufficient depth of cure have also been barriers. Implementations in the printing industry must deliver complete drying or curing without creating any adverse chemical reactions, such as ink migration.
These limitations are partly why LED technology has taken a while to get into the field. But with the uptake of UV inks for all sorts of substrates, the use of LED curing is becoming less of an oddity. It delivers handy benefits because the prints are immediately dry and ready for finishing. The short runs and multiple changes typical of today’s industry require rapid processing of prints. Systems can deliver a competitive advantage, as well as being energy efficient and cutting consumables costs.
The savings LED can deliver in terms of energy and consumables is starting to balance the higher cost of the inks: as more such inks are produced the price is dropping. The environmental savings are clear. LEDs use less energy and have a longer life than the mercury arc lamps they replace. They are the way forward for UV ink curing.
This work by The Verdigris Project is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/3.0/.