- June 01, 2003, Nsenga Byrd, Thompson Staff Editor
With costs coming down and application possibilities going up, converters are talking about UV (ultraviolet)/EB (electron beam) inks. But before you stop talking and start buying, the first order of business is to get sound advice.
Kurt Hudson, general manager of UV products, Water Ink Technologies (waterinktech.com), Lincolnton, NC, explains: “The first thing a converter should do when purchasing UV/EB inks or coatings is to have a very frank conversation with someone in an organization who knows what they're doing. This person needs to be able to talk in specifics about the coater or printing press unit the converter has. The probability you'll have success is exponentially greater than if you have a conversation with a generalist who says, ‘Well, I think this might be what you need.’”
Paul Gupta, technical manager, Radiation Cure Group, Flint Ink (flintink.com), Ann Arbor, MI, agrees. “Some of the things to discuss up front are expectations and the specific end use. This way you avoid unnecessary trial and error and associated cost.”
“Having the right installations and printing equipment [i.e., number of stations, special blankets and rollers, curing lights — their cost and energy requirement] is critical for maximum visual results,” adds Ray Verderber, technical service, paste ink, Eckart America (eckartamerica.com), Painesville, OH.
Once converters understand what they want (and need), there's plenty to get excited about, with the advancements that have surfaced in energy curable inks recently.
Rod Balmer, technical director of paste ink research at Flint Ink, says the bad reputation that once plagued the old formulations is a thing of the past. “[UV inks] used to be formulated from very basic materials. Those materials have now expounded. Those materials are now cleaner. Residual acrylic acid is removed and then more finely processed. So they are actually cleaner, and they will have less irritantacy.”
Gupta says the overall performance and the odor level of the inks have improved, and in the area of UV flexo, he adds, inks are much better now for viscosity and flow. “The printer can use finer anilox and get sharper print quality.”
A major change in the use of UV/EB inks is the increased popularity in printing on secondary food packaging. “There is more focus on food-type packaging, although it's secondary packaging,” explains Gupta. It's giving us this window of having lower odor and lower extractability.”
Changes in the raw materials used to create the inks have played a major role in UV/EB improvements. According to Verderber, “Improved ink formulations, chemistries, and raw materials provide a more forgiving or a wider window for the printer to use existing equipment without having to invest in add-ons, thus reducing costs and improving margins. Turnaround time is shortened.”
Balmer says a trend to watch is the use of hybrid inks, already popular in the Netherlands and Germany. “For a minimal investment [a converter] could install precoater lamps, preferably two, in addition to lamps in delivery, then run hybrid inks without changing anything on his press except, in some cases, the rollers. He can achieve the quality of UV and get the advantages over conventional ink, such as instantaneous drying, so work could be processed immediately off-press rather than leaving it for a day to stand and dry. He can coat it inline and get a very high gloss level, similar to UV.”
So is a revolution brewing in the niche of UV/EB inks? “There is not going to be anything dramatic,” says Hudson. “Rather, there is going to be constant improvement in the products that exist today. And if we can continue to have cost reductions of UV/EB-curable products, you are going to see more penetration into evaporative technology home bases and applications.”
Restrictions of time and space limit the number of companies, products, and trends that we can discuss in these reports. For additional information, see PFFC's features and departments each month, consult the June Buyers Guide, and check pffc-online.com.