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THE UV PROCESS

Introduction The process of ultraviolet or UV curing is defined as hardening of a liquid film


of material when exposed to ultraviolet light. The particular substance to be
processed may vary widely depending upon its application and final use, but
basically is composed of base polymers, non-solvent diluents and
photoinitiators.
UV curable Materials to be cured by exposure to UV energy are specially formulated to
materials polymerize in a certain way. This system of curing is used on an astounding
array of products and in many industrial processes. While the list below
indicates the more widely used, others are being added as the technology
becomes more widespread.

(a) Adhesives, permanent or temporary.

(b) Graphic Arts use. Inks, coatings for various processes.

(c) Metal decorating. Printing etc.

(d) Metal coatings. Other industries besides printing.

(e) Building materials. Fillers for particle boards etc.

(f) Fiber-optics coating.

(g) Electrical and electronics uses.

(h) Footwear industries.

(i) Leather and textiles.

Curing The equipment used to produce a cure in the previously mentioned


Equipment applications may fall into one of several categories depending upon available
space, cure speed and other considerations.
Two of the more commonly used methods of achieving cure are:

(a) The medium pressure mercury vapor lamp (electrode type). This lamp is
made in various lengths to suit the machine or application, and is a quartz tube
about 1" or 25mm in diameter. An inert gas, such as argon or xenon, together
with a small amount of mercury is used to fill the tube, which also has an
electrode installed at either end. When the lamp is connected to an appropriate
power source an electrical arc passes between the two electrodes vaporizing
the mercury. The resultant energy emission from the lamp is primarily white
light, infrared and ultraviolet. Lamps are available to suit almost any
application and power requirement.
(b) Electrodeless lamp. This type of lamp has a similar spectral emission to the
electrode type but the method of operation is totally different. The lamp in
operation is energized by microwaves generated by magnetrons rather than an
electrical arc. The tube may also be filled with other materials depending on
the spectral emission required for the application.
Early history The concept of using ultraviolet light to achieve rapid or instant drying is one
which has been developed over many years. Although there have been earlier
claims for its beginning in research and development work, a patent to convert
a liquid to a solid film was not granted until the 1940's. Good results were
somewhat hampered by the low intensity of the lamps which were then
available.
Early Early use of the new technology was in the area of wood printing using
Applications extended printing lines having multiple banks of fairly low-powered lamps. By
today's standards, these lines were not very efficient because of the slow
speeds then possible. They did show, however, that problems such as space
requirements and solvent pollution could be solved using the new process. The
development and subsequent introduction of the medium pressure mercury
vapor lamp gave rise to interest from the printing trade in the area of heat-set
web because of greater curing speeds being possible. Pressure to do something
about the quantity of pollutants being pumped into the air was also being
experienced by this section of the trade. This step forward caused others in
allied areas to reflect on what the advantages for other facets of printing would
be. Trials for various types of printing were initiated and resulted in machines
being redesigned or adapted to take advantage of UV curing.
Over the years a great deal of development work was done to improve the
characteristics of the UV cured products. Much time and effort was devoted to
improving the inks to make them perform more like conventional ones. Early
UV inks had a great tendency to gain, some colors being worse than others.
Technology has advanced to the point where it is now extremely difficult to
determine the difference between the two inks. Printing characteristics have
also improved considerably.
Update to today One of the principal users of this innovative technology has been the graphic
arts or printing industry. The advantages offered by this process were
recognized at an early stage in development and are being utilized at an ever
increasing rate. Technical advances in inks and coatings for various print
processes such as screen, flat and rotary, semi-rotary and rotary letterpress,
sheetfed and web offset brought about developments in machine design,
producing presses which were not thought possible earlier. In-line processing
had arrived. Curing ink by the use of UV energy is today recognized as an
efficient method of obtaining dry prints directly from the press, using no spray
powder. Various government authorities show evidence that UV curing is also
energy efficient when compared to other forms of drying or curing. To obtain
the greatest benefit from UV curing as a process it is advisable to examine the
features of the process in detail.

Inks Although great advances have been made in the conventional ink sphere, it still
remains a process which depends largely on air drying. UV cured inks, on the
other hand, remain open in the duct and on rollers.Curing only occurs on the
substrate when ink is exposed to UV energy generated by the machine's UV
lamp array.
Process Curing ink by UV allows the printer to expand into areas which previously
suitability would have presented many difficulties. One instance is in the production of
plastic products. As the inks are cured virtually instantaneously, no spray
powder is required. This results in the product feeling smooth, not gritty to the
touch. Lack of spray powder also has a bearing on another benefit of UV cure,
that of high scuff-resistance.
This highly sought-after feature is synonymous with the production of an
overwhelming number of cartons for many quality products. Products that
require high scuff resistance, such as wine and other labels, are almost
exclusively printed with UV cured coatings and inks. The range of products to
suit various applications is quite comprehensive and can be tailored to suit
stringent requirements.
Space saving As the products are cured almost immediately, the prospect of saving space is
great. Space can be utilized more economically than normal due to higher
machine piles, faster turn-around for partly finished products and also speedier
conversion of products. Short deadlines become more easily achievable. Many
companies could benefit from not having to wait for inks to set and dry on the
short runs which are now part of the overall printing scene. Scratching is less
of a problem on back-up work, as is the build-up which is often so prevalent on
short-run, backed-up work.

Viewed as an essential component of today's printing scene, UV curing can be


used to eliminate "dead-time" in the press room and also other areas, like
converting and final packing.
Environmentally Conservation of the atmosphere is increasingly becoming an issue for most
sound businesses. Many processes used at present release massive quantities of
solvents into the air.

Evidence shows that the use of volatile solvents can have long term adverse
health effects.

UV cured materials do not release solvents into the air. Strict guidelines apply
to the manufacture of UV products to ensure safe usage by print personnel.
Materials used have an extremely low impact on the human body. Accidental
ingestion of UV ink has been shown to have a non-cumulative effect. Further
reference to this above aspect can be found under the heading "Health and
Safety".
Quality control Problems which occur while using conventional inks due to drying are
eliminated completely when UV curing is employed. Results of this are shown
in maintaining closer control over the color on the job in hand. Color variation
due to individual interpretation of color dry-back is removed.
Stock suitability Using normal parameters and conventional printing methods, it has become an
accepted norm that a top quality production requires the use of the best
material available. This is largely due to the absorption of part of the ink into
the substrate. Technical advances in the paper manufacturing field have
produced materials with excellent working characteristics. Color rendition is
usually brilliant on these materials. Substrates in this category are usually
priced accordingly at the upper end of the price range as a top quality product
normally would be. Instead of being in the situation of most users of quality
stock, the UV printer is able to utilize a good stock which can be considerably
less expensive. This does not mean that the final product is less attractive; in
fact, the opposite is usually the case.Almost all of the credit for this situation is
due to the fact that in UV printing the print remains on the surface of the
substrate, and does not become absorbed by it. Comparison of UV and
conventional prints on the same lower grade stock show a pronounced increase
in quality and color on the UV print. Further, coating the product with a UV
cured coating visually enhances the print while also substantially increasing
the body of the substrate.
Energy savings Curing materials using UV is an efficient method which can lower production
costs. Apart from the "dead-time" elimination during production there is also
the lack of press cleaning which involves cleaning the spray powder from
gripper bars and other internal and external parts. This is a normal and
necessary part of press maintenance with conventional printing. Electrical
power usage is also lower with normal UV curing than a typical IR lamp,
hot/air drying system.
Conclusion The use of UV curing technology is applied to several separate processes in the
printing industry. Examination of the methods of utilizing UV curing in these
various processes shows the level of acceptance of this progressive and
innovative curing method. It should be noted that the processes examined are
not the only ones to which UV curing may be applied.

MARKETING THE UV ADVANTAGE

The ultraviolet printing process opens up new ways of printing a wide range of new products.
Many of the products produced by UV printing are superior in appearance, finish and overall
effectiveness for the end user. These products have developed new markets and create
opportunities for printing companies seeking a marketing edge over their competitors. UV
printed products, produced either by offset, screen or flexo give a sharp, strong density color
reproduction, and can be complemented in production by high gloss, UV matte or special effect
finishes. With UV printing you are no longer restricted to high priced papers and boards to
achieve quality print products. The higher grade coated and absorbent materials designed and
manufactured specifically to suit conventional oil based inks are not necessarily essential to
obtain quality print results with UV inks and varnishes. UV inks print consistently on most
papers and boards and practically all sealed surfaced substrates such as plastics, vinyls, foils,
acetates, etc. These materials leave the press dry and without the production problems
experienced with conventional printing inks, such as the necessity of using spray powder.
A particular advantage of printing with UV inks and varnishes over a range of different types of
papers and materials is its consistency of reproduction. This is due to the fact that UV inks dry
(cure) on the surface, unlike oil based inks that rely on a certain absorbency to assist print and
drying. Therefore, printed results vary substantially from coated to uncoated stocks with
conventional inks. This is not the case with UV inks and varnishes. Whether the stock is coated
or uncoated or even a sealed surface, UV inks and varnishes produce a much more consistent
quality and visual result across this diverse range of materials. Because of this consistency on
different surfaces, customers can be offered a larger range of products on various materials and
expect high quality results that are more uniform.

Example:

Let's say a customer wants advertising and packaging produced over a range of applications
with one particular advertisement, i.e. a soft drink and pizza promotion and packaging exercise.
The customer will require quality, consistency and a cost efficient print that will enhance the
product to the best possible effect. By choosing the UV print process for the customer's
packaging and promotional material:

The billboard (large outdoor display) can be printed UV screen on outdoor durable vinyl or
similar weather-proof substrate in sharp, bright, fade-resistant UV inks that can be matched to
other UV print applications.

The pizza product carton, printed UV offset, is produced cost efficiently on inexpensive (low
grade) one sided cardboard with a high density sharp print, surface dried and enhanced with a
UV gloss finish. This economically produced package is not only cost efficient, but it also has
high impact presentation and is sealed and protected by the UV plastic finish from outside
moisture when stored in the freezer compartment.

The choice of materials for producing the soft drink labels with UV is not limited to label
paper. Pressure sensitive papers, vinyls or foil papers may also be used for effect and appeal
and produced on sheet or rotary presses. If label paper is used, UV matte or gloss coating
protects the label from scuffing during shipping, enhances the appeal, and keeps moisture from
damaging the label.

Advertising and point of purchase display material, such as pressure sensitive stickers,
promotional incentive material, display showcards, dump bins and many other products, can be
produced either with UV screen, UV offset or UV flexo on a wide range of materials for best
economy and consistent quality. This of course is only one example of the type of print
production enhanced by UV printing and coating.

Adopting When a printing company is considering UV as an addition to existing printing


UV machines or as an introduction of new equipment to the plant, it is important to
first conduct a few exercises. The company must start with a marketing/sales
exercise to explore the market potential and customer needs, and follow with a
business plan to show the viability and rewards of investing in and adapting to UV
printing.

I. The marketing/sales exercise should cover:

(a) Identifying market potential and customer base.


(b) Identifying the range and types of UV products to be produced.
(c) Selection of products to most benefit the company.
(d) Specifying quality, service and cost advantages for customers.
(e) Formulating the sales and promotion plan for the process.
2. The business plan should include:

(a) Current plant capabilities.


(b) Additional new plant/equipment specifications and costs.
(c) Staff training/maintenance.
(d) Availability and cost of accessories and consumables/materials required.
(e) Health and safety requirements.
(f) Identifying production benefits of the process.

A range of products selected by the marketing/sales exercise should then be


production planned and cost estimates produced for comparison with existing
operations and print costs of the company. From these findings management can
directly plan their introduction and long term development in UV printing, and
enhance its sales opportunities with existing and new customers with an
understanding of their investment and expected return.
To assist with these important exercises let us examine each area individually.

1. THE MARKETING/SALES EXERCISE


(a) Identifying market potential and customer base.

Product research can commence by simply shopping around. All around us, in our
stores and shops, inside and around our homes/factories, print products are
emerging daily in different shapes and sizes. They are produced on various
materials by many different print processes. Products of quality, impacting of
appearance and presentation will stand out from others. A careful eye should be
kept for low cost but effective products. It should be remembered most ideas are
copies or originated from another company's developments with simply a change
of size, logo, color, and product type to make it appear different.

For innovative and new ideas, printers should seek the advice of creative designers
and artists. With the restrictions of conventional print processes removed, they can
create more innovative and effective print designs with the UV process adding
more dimension to your range of available products.

Consult your existing client base showing them the UV samples with ideas you
now have, asking where they feel restricted by conventional printing. Establish
with your customer whether it would encourage him to place more of his print
business with your company if you introduced UV to your plant.

Show potential new clients who are currently placing UV printing work with your
competitors the UV products you can offer, and seek their support for your
investment by providing a better service.

When you have completed this market research, finally obtain from your sales
staff their findings and suggestions for the best products for your customers.
(b) Identifying the range and types of UV products to be provided.

We begin by appraising the most common types of print products available.

(i) Packaging.

(ii) Books, brochures, catalogs, company reports.

(iii) Point of sale material

(iv) Specialized printing and continuous web products.

(v) Small and medium size general printing.

(vi) Pressure sensitive stickers, decals and labels.


(i) Packaging

There has been a dramatic shift to UV printing and coating by packaging printers
throughout the world. Printers are faced with an increasing demand for UV and
aqueous coated packaging.

Aqueous coatings are becoming increasingly popular for in-line printing and
coating. UV coatings, however, are seen as the best possible finished result for
totally dry and high quality gloss results. While aqueous coating improves the
finish and protection of printed material on selected materials, UV coatings give
consistent high gloss on most types of materials for a superior, more consistent
end product.

Bright colorful packages are a most effective means of displaying products and
advertising their contents. They provide a strong advertising medium and
encourage purchase selection by customers. To this end, the shape, size and color
composition of cartons and packages is essential to buyers of printed packaging.

Coatings enhance the appeal resulting in smooth to touch packaging. Coatings are
important for protecting the product from extreme external strains such as
industrial processing, frequent handling, shelving, as well as the scuffing rigors of
transport. Shelf life is prolonged.

Packages produced with UV coatings in particular retain that "just printed" look
after many months of storage on shelves. Many cartons and boxes are designed
with large solid color areas, particularly in the cosmetic packaging range. UV inks
also produce strong bright colors, even solids, that are free from "hickies" and
markings. Printing of large solids with heavy ink coverage does not present set-off
problems as the UV inks are cured on-press instantly and without the need to use
gritty spray powders.

Designers of packaging are free to create innovative specialty effects by designing


with the choice of foil boards, clear and colored plastics and other sealed surface
materials that cannot be used with conventional inks and varnishes. Instantly dry
packaging can be converted immediately and stored without fear of blocking or
clinging; thus, less floor space and warehousing is required by the printer.

Creative designs utilizing whites and special opaque colors in conjunction with
matte, gloss or textured coatings are possible with the UV process. These can be
complemented with foil stamping, holograms and embossing to create very
attractive and unique packaging products.

(ii) Books, catalogs and company reports

In a marketplace that demands the best in quality presentation and value, UV


printing is a strong option for printers who produce books, catalogs and company
reports.

The UV process allows quick turn-around and a high quality finish over this much
sought after range of print products. The cover finish of a book is very important.
It reflects an image of the story inside. With UV coatings, the effect of a bright,
strong print result is achieved and the feel and protection of the UV coat is
preferred.

UV spot coating can be incorporated for:

Printing companies who specialize in catalogs and company reports can quickly
reproduce premium quality, effective printing results that best show the advertiser
or company's products and services.
(iii) Point of sale material

Nothing in printing is quite so demanding of creativity, urgency and quality as


Point of Sale material. If any one area required the diversity of application that the
UV print process offers, this is certainly one of them. These advertising products,
whether screen or offset printed, benefit greatly from UV drying and printing. The
product range includes posters, banners, showcards, shelf talkers, display units,
billboards, backlit illuminated displays, wobblers, decals, sales presenters, print
incentive material and much more. Because of the sizes and thickness of material
used and light fastness of ink required for outside use, UV screen printing has
grown tremendously around the world.

The quality and consistency of reproduction across a large selection of materials


and substrates has become increasingly upgraded as UV inks and varnishes
improve and print techniques gain in experience. UV screen printing has improved
over conventional screen print through:

• instant drying even with heavy solids


• finer screens which give more consistent results over different surfaces
• elimination of drying on the screen
• high density solids on most surfaces
• improved gloss to where mirror finish gloss is readily achieved.

The printing of Point of Sale material by UV offset has grown particularly as press
manufacturers have addressed the need for printing machines to be made to handle
UV inks and coatings, and the realization that UV is not just for the packaging
printers who have utilized the process for many years.

With UV offset, high quality advertising materials produced on materials once


restricted to screen printing can be quickly and efficiently produced. UV curing
allows most materials and stocks to be fed and delivered by small and large size
presses, and be printed with outstanding results. Different materials can be utilized
for new products such as backlits on clear polyester, binder covers on soft vinyl.
Spot and overall coating effects can further enhance the extended range of Point of
Sale print products.

Both UV screen and UV offset have their respective advantages for short runs and
sizes ranging from only a few square centimeters to giant billboards on almost any
thickness and type of material. UV screen, however, remains the versatile answer
to a large percentage of Point of Sale printed products.

UV offset on the other hand, is preferred for economy with longer runs, for finer
screen resolution and register, and for other advantages that are consistent with
printing on the modern offset press.

(iv) Specialty print and continuous web products

While many printers over the years have targeted general commercial printing,
others have concentrated their efforts on specific specialized print products. There
are many new examples of these of different shape and style appearing regularly.
They include such products as:

Magazines/publications

Calendars

Reproduction of art prints

Greeting cards, post cards, novelties

Plastic binders

Credit and membership cards

Continuous stationery
Place mats and coasters

Scratch-off and other lottery tickets

Sample swatch selectors

... and various others

These products are only a few of the specialty print products that have emerged in
recent years. UV inks and coatings have made many of these products possible on
a wide range of materials that in some cases were difficult or impossible to
produce with conventional inks.

The adhesion and printability of UV inks encourages these printers to develop


new and better products without the production problems that were once faced.

(v) Small and medium general printing

UV curing should be understood and considered by general printers who are


experiencing drying problems, or who have a desire to speed up their turn-around
and delivery times. UV curing systems can fit most single or multi-color model
presses regardless of whether they have low or high pile deliveries. UV coating is
also achievable even on smaller offset presses. Many printers initially entered into
the UV process by converting a single press to UV drying for urgent or hard to
handle jobs, but developed further into the more profitable areas of specialty
printing once knowledge and confidence was gained in the process.

UV printing and coating may not be needed for all print applications, but UV
curing can complement and benefit the overall print capabilities of the plant by
eliminating existing drying and set-off problems encountered through backing-up
wet printing sheets or perfecting configurations on presses.
(vi) Pressure sensitive stickers, decals and labels

Great advances have been made by printers over the past two decades or so for the
print production of stickers, decals and labels. These print products are an
important and essential means of enhancing the value of products to which they
adhere. They offer a large range of applications for signage and advertising media.
Because of this diversity of application they need to be manufactured specifically
to meet the external conditions to which they may be subjected. Areas to consider
are lightfastness of inks to resist fading, particularly in outdoor exposure, the
durability of the image and the base material itself. Many labels experience harsh
scuffing and rubbing in transport and shelving and are subject to and/or are
required to meet refrigerated conditions.

The use of ultraviolet curing of printing inks and coatings is therefore essential to
printing companies that produce stickers, decals and label products. It is the one
process that will produce high quality results on the wide range of materials that is
necessary to meet these demanding conditions.

Depending on the specifications required for producing these products, i.e. size,
quantity, type and thickness of base material etc., the choice of printing method,
whether screen, offset, rotary letterpress or flexo, fitted with UV curing systems
can be considered.

For large-size pressure sensitive stickers and decals, UV screen printing is popular
particularly for short to medium print runs. Offset presses fitted with UV drying
systems can produce a wide range of high quality long run pressure sensitive
stickers, decals and labels. Web presses have developed enormously over the
years and have become a major source of producing stickers and labels
worldwide. Whatever printing equipment is chosen, the UV results are
outstanding.
(c) Selecting products to most benefit the company

The findings of the market potential exercise will help you create positive ideas
and identify many of the products and effects available through UV printing and
coating. These findings need to be discussed in detail with production staff. With
guidance from management, production and creative department heads must then
carry out the business plan and assure management that selected products can be
produced with the existing and proposed facilities.

After these exercises have been completed, the final selection of products and
services to be produced by the introduction of UV printing and coating will most
likely be on the merit of:

• value of product to customer


• value added contribution to production capabilities, output and cost
savings
• overall financial return to the printing company
• increased market share, and profitable sales.

(d) Specifying quality, service and cost advantages for customers

To assist in appraising the quality and benefits of UV printing and coatings, we'll
analyze actual print comparisons.

Spot and all-over coated samples with matte and gloss varnishes will show some
of the various effects that would appeal to print customers. Each of these can be
produced in-line on a multicolor press with coating facilities fitted, or by off-line
coating of printed work. Both methods produce outstanding results. The cost
advantage of in-line coating is an obvious one. Single pass printing is cured on-
press, and is immediately ready for the finishing department to convert for fast
turn-around. In-line printing and coating not only assists tight delivery times but
greatly reduces downtime and job lifting because of wet work. This is particularly
important if the sheets need to be printed both sides.

If, however, a printer does not want to convert his conventional printing plant to
UV inks and UV curing systems, the option is available to produce in-house
coatings off-line by converting a one- or two-color press to UV coating and
drying.

When applying UV coatings to previously printed sheets, it is recommended that


IR drying is utilized with previously applied conventional inks to reduce time lost
waiting for work to dry and also to reduce excessive use of spray powder.
Specialty printing on various stocks and substrates is not possible with
conventional oil based inks. This opens many creative and innovative
opportunities to the UV print process. Your sales staff can use this to add value for
your customers.

When comparing conventional print with UV inks, UV coatings and aqueous


coatings on various grades of papers and boards, it is easy to demonstrate how
high quality prints can be achieved on less expensive materials. This is a major
cost advantage to customers as materials are a high percentage of overall print
costs.

Therefore, by using the UV print process, customers can be offered top quality
printed products on less expensive papers and boards printed dry from the press
for fast delivery. They can also choose from a wider range of printed options, even
on sealed surface materials with special effects which are not possible through oil-
based conventional printing.

(e) Formulating the sales and promotion plan for the process

Print buyers rely on printed media because it is integral to the packaging, display
and promotion of the customer's products. It is therefore important to present to
those buyers the quality, service and various options available from your printing
business. Most customers are not technically aware of the options from which
they can choose.

A service-oriented printer, therefore, should not simply be satisfied with the


company's abilities to produce efficient printed products and expect customers to
know their options. The company should communicate closely with their
customers and advise accordingly about the best and most cost efficient
methods/products available to suit his needs. Because there are so many different
materials, designs, colors, size etc. from which to choose, most print buyers or
agencies rely heavily on the designer and printer for advice in planning printed
products. Particularly with the ever changing new technologies and print process
changes, it is necessary to present visual samples and ideas to customers so they
can see the many options available to them. It is beneficial to produce an in-house
promotional piece as a handy sales aid for the company's sales people, showing
the printing company's capabilities, range of services and products. With a
selection of previously printed samples of various designs, colors, shapes and
materials, print can be communicated more easily between the company and its
customers.

2. THE BUSINESS PLAN


(a) Current plant capabilities:

UV curing systems can be fitted to most press makes and models. A printer's
existing offset presses can be fitted with UV and allied drying systems such as IR
or combination UV/IR units.

They are normally fitted in the gooseneck of the high pile delivery in a fixed
position or in cassettes. Interdecks can also be positioned between printing units
of multicolor presses. Interstation UV units are also designed for web and rotary
presses with final curing after the last printing unit. For smaller, low pile presses
and screen printing machines, mobile UV curing dryers are available that simply
roll-up underneath the machine's delivery. Larger mobiles are also available for
large offset presses as an option to directly fitted units in the delivery. Matching
the press and the correct UV system is critical.

Retrofit coating devices are available to fit most sheet and web presses because of
the latest developments in UV coatings, printing plates, and print techniques. UV
coating through the inking duct of a printing unit has become increasingly
popular.

The types of presses being considered need to be capable of producing the quality
and speed desired, and be capable of handling the range of materials required.
Consideration should also be given to prepress requirements, finishing
requirements and outside services necessary to process the products the printer
wishes to produce.

Electrical supply and usage needs to be examined along with venting of the UV
systems.
(b) Additional new plant / equipment specifications

Offset Presses: There are a wide range of new presses to choose from for UV
printing. Most makes and models are designed to handle UV curing equipment,
and multicolor offset and sheetfed presses are available with coating stations on
most press sizes. Presses designed and built specifically for coating and drying at
high speeds also feature extended deliveries between the coating unit and the
delivery for UV varnish flow-out. UV and IR drying systems can be fitted for
extended deliveries for best gloss results and easy access to the drying systems.
With the choice of press, consideration must be given to the type of papers,
boards, and specialty material that will be printed.

Web Rotary Presses: Most new rotary web-fed presses are prepared for or are
already fitted with UV curing systems. Because of the pure nature of products
produced and substrates to be printed, UV is essential to these types of printing
presses.

UV Screen Presses: Efficient UV printing and drying equipment is available


from screen equipment manufacturers with the UV drying section built to suit the
print application required.

Plant Layout: Because UV printed materials are dry from the press, the
equipment can fit into a smaller plant area due to the fact that space for wet work
in progress in not necessary.
(c) Staff training / maintenance

For the introduction of any new technology or change of printing procedures, staff
training is an essential and key factor to the success of a printing company. Press
operators, supervisors and maintenance staff should be trained in all facets of the
process. Staff should fully understand the UV process and the handling of
equipment and materials. A staff training program should be planned prior to
installation of equipment with emphasis on:

1. Use and handling of materials/consumables and accessories.

2. Pre-press requirements.

3. Press set-up/maintenance.

4. Press operation and procedures.

5. Finishing procedures and requirements

6. Health and safety requirements.


(d) Availability and costs of accessories, consumables and materials required

It is most important to identify and discuss with suppliers the availability and
prices of UV accessories, consumables and printing materials for your transition
to the UV printing process.

Accessories: Press accessories

Spare parts for UV systems

Reflectors

Lamps

Consumables: Printing/coating plates

Inks and varnishes

Press chemicals

Rollers and blankets, etc.

Stocks and materials: Papers

Boards

Specialties

Safety: Gloves: UV Barrier creams/Hand Cleaners

UV Filtering Safety Glasses

Testing Instruments: Radiometers

While price is a most important consideration for the selection of products, it is


equally important to start up using proven quality materials to gain experience and
confidence. Once the staff and management have control and the company is
producing efficiently, economies of lesser-priced materials may be considered, but
not introduced until thorough testing has been conducted. When new products are
introduced they should be handled at a "one at a time basis" to reduce the
variables when problem solving. For example, when evaluating a new ink or
coating, test over different materials as there is not a single ink/coating best for all
substrates. Continuous communication with your suppliers during testing and
product selection is critical for efficient and trouble-free printing. New and
improved products and materials are being continuously released from suppliers.
Therefore, a quality control program of testing is best carried out prior to actual
use on print orders.

Job reports of print runs together with production costings should be continuously
compared by the planning and estimating departments and discussed at regular
production meetings to keep control of the quality of work being produced and to
attain maximum cost advantages.

Availability and shelf life of essential products and accessories should be


discussed with suppliers to identify types and quantities of inventory. Some UV
consumables, such as inks and coatings, have a limited shelf life and need to be
measured against anticipated usage.

(e) Health and Safety requirements

Employee health/safety is of increasing importance to printing companies as are


the effects of pollution on our environment. Safe equipment/products that meet
health and safety standards are readily available these days and attention should be
paid to specifications with guarantees obtained by the suppliers of equipment and
products to be used.

If proven "safe equipment" is installed and ducted correctly and procedures of


chemical storage and handling followed, the UV printing process is a clean and
safe printing method.
UV inks and coatings do carry special handling and storage requirements. As
these products do not dry or cure unless exposed to a ultraviolet energy source,
users must protect against skin contact. Failure to use adequate protection and
clean-up procedures can lead to skin disorders such as dermatitis. The use of
barrier creams in conjunction with UV-resistant gloves offer suitable protection
against such contact

In addition, the unique curing aspect of UV inks and coatings requires that spills
be quickly contained and managed with compatible spill control products to
prevent tracking and contamination.
(f) Identifying production benefits of the UV process

It would be true to state that the UV print process has been a market driven one.
Although conventional offset, letterpress and screen processes have been
continually advancing over many years, UV has gradually gained strong and
growing acceptance by many printers. It has finally arrived simply because it can
produce printed products of very high quality without many of the restrictions of
oil based ink printing. As well as producing quick, dry print on a wider range of
materials, UV printing, coating and curing has other production advantages such
as:

1. Cleaner plant with less press wear and maintenance due to the non-use of
abrasive spray powders.

2. Significant reduction in factory floor space due to instant curing on-press.

3. Less ink waste due to full contents of container used, without ink "skinning"
when container is opened.

4. UV ink does not dry in the inking unit or on the press - it will only cure under
strong UV light.

5. Set-off is a thing of the past - instant drying eliminates need for spray powder.

6. Fewer "hickies" due to the viscosity properties of UV ink.

7. Wash-up and start-up times are reduced considerably - ink and varnish can be
left unattended when the press is not printing.

8. No hold-ups for off-loading sheetfed work and waiting for work to dry - dry
print can be printed on reverse side immediately.

9. No odor from UV ink - UV ink dries sealed in hard form.

10. Printed work can be finished and delivered straight from the press.

11. No dry-down and variance of color finish after printing - UV inks and
varnishes dry on the surface.

12. Higher density colors and solids as set-off is not a factor.

13. Similar thickness set-up/over sheets can be used over and over again - dry
sealed print.

14. Less print problems over various papers/boards - UV inks don't require the
printability demands set by conventional inks on materials.

15. Various types of materials can be used on the same print run - UV inks print
well on all stocks.
Summary The UV process, like all others, is not the complete process for all applications.
The production of this printing manual, though, highlights the growing importance
and recognition that UV printing and coating has in the marketplace. It has not yet
reached its full potential or acceptance with printers and suppliers alike, but the
growth and understanding of UV printing is ever-increasing and it will continue to
develop strongly in the printing industry.

Without doubt a significant marketing edge can be achieved by the procedures of


UV print.
PROCESS DEVELOPMENT

Printers need to keep abreast with on-going process changes if they are to compete and pr
print and associated industries.

Because of the high cost of new "state of the art" equipment, the right direction to take
and decisions made are critical to their future. While there continues to be a reduction in
labor-driven manufacturing, the cost of technology and the skills of the people that drive
it are no less important today than when the printing industry relied on craftsmen using
basic mechanics and physics to achieve the printed image.

Because of ever-changing developments, print companies must continually plan for the
future even if they are at the forefront today. They need to develop the marketing and
sales skills as well as technical and management abilities. Staff retraining has to become
a necessary commitment to ensure that the people who direct and operate these plants
keep attuned to improvements and developments of high tech equipment such as
computer generated controls and monitoring systems.

These changes have made desktop publishing, color-generated separations, and fast,
reliable instant printing available to companies outside the printing industry. It is
therefore important for printing companies to specialize rather than trade uncompetitively
with a broad mix of markets where cost of operations and technologies and development
investment varies greatly.

UV printing will see many changes in the future with continued developments of curing
systems that will not only be more efficient but less costly. Although the technology will
be more easily available because of this cost reduction, only those who have kept pace
with the technology advances will be able to enjoy its benefits.

We will see much more improvement and cost viability with inks, varnishes, chemicals
and other UV consumables. Press developments, particularly the continued move to web
presses, will be a major growth area for UV printers.

Paper manufacturers will develop and market more recyclable and synthetic materials to
further alter how we print and what we print on.

Health, safety and the environment will influence the print processes and end products
that are produced. Aqueous products and less polluting products will dominate.

Most certainly other print processes, such as flexography and digital printing, will change
how the market works. UV print technology has emerged in all markets and will take a
strong part in the way we print in the future.
Reflection The 20th century has given birth to more scientific discoveries than have
ever before occurred in the history of man. Consider such basicfindings as:

• Understanding the nature of the Universe - it is expanding.


• The fundamental structure of matter - three families are said to be
basic to matter.
• D.N.A. - the molecule of life - genetic engineering is now real.
• The transistor, lasers and computers.
• Plate tectonics and continental drift - evidence supports the theory
that the continents originated from one great super continent.

Is it any wonder then why such rapid technological progress has been
experienced in the lifetime of most of humankind today?

Consider again that there are more scientists, physicists and technologists
alive today than have ever been born. Small wonder then that scientific
progress has been and will continue to grow exponentially in the future.

The printing industry like every other aspect of life will be a beneficiary of
these discoveries; therefore, keeping pace with new developments is
essential to survival.

Consider, finally then, that UV curing is a relatively fundamental


advancement for the printing industry and the future belongs to those who
seize it.

UV EQUIPMENT DESIGN AND OPERATION

Introduction In this section, we examine the equipment that is required for the
efficient processing of UV inks and coatings. The components of
several systems are explained and the effect each has on the
operation is evaluated. The intention is to give the potential buyer
of UV equipment a broad overview of equipment that is currently
available. It is not possible to examine every system in detail, but
to give an idea how the systems operate, and why certain features
are included.

The areas which will be discussed are:

Lamps/Reflectors/Irradiators

Shielding equipment

Cooling equipment

Power/Electrical controls

Compressor requirements and uses

Exhaust requirements.
Lamps The energy to effect curing of the ink or coating film is provided
most efficiently by a high-intensity, medium pressure mercury
vapor lamp. The emission from this type of unit is rich in UV
radiation in the 200-400 nanometer band. This energy is in the
area suited to the proper and complete curing as most UV curable
products incorporate photoinitiators which react within this
bandwidth.
The basic physical characteristics of this type of lamp are a quartz
tube, approximately 1" (25mm) in overall diameter, filled with
precise, predetermined quantities of mercury, and an inert gas (i.e.
argon).

LAMP DETAILS

The mercury is in a liquid state when the lamp is at room temperature.


Each end of the tube has an electrode connected by means of leads or metal
caps to the power supply. The electrical system must be designed for
proper ignition, warm-up and operation of mercury vapor lamps. The lamp
requires high voltage to initiate the arc, and, once stabilized, a lower
voltage during operation to maintain it.

Mercury vapor lamps are sensitive to cooling. For this reason no excessive
moving air should be directed at the lamp since this may over-cool the
quartz. Excessive cooling can cause partial condensation of mercury
leading to a lowering of gas pressure in the lamp, and subsequent reduction
in lamp output.

This factor is even more critical when the lamp is "idling" or operating in a
reduced-power mode as the lamp may be completely extinguished.

FOCUSED REFLECTOR PRODUCING MULTIPLE EXPOSURE POINTS

BAND APPROX. lOmm WIDE


Irradiator/reflector This part of a UV system takes various forms according to the
specifications of the manufacturer.

Most system designs on the market have merit, and the ideas
behind each are valid. Design differences illustrate the on-going
desire of major manufacturers to provide their customers a
product without faults.

The usual purpose of the irradiator, or lamp housing, is to


provide an increase in the curing capacity of the lamp. There
are units on the market which use the irradiator head primarily
as a heat-sink to maintain the lamp at an optimum temperature.

The temperature of the quartz lamp is typically in the range


600°C-800°C. The lamp end seals must not be permitted to
approach this temperature and should be maintained at around
250°C-300°C. maximum. Temperatures above this range may
cause oxidization of the molybdenum foils resulting in seal
fracture.

Irradiator surfaces are usually specially processed aluminum


which has a high UV reflectivity (around 90%) attributed to it.
Other units use in place of solid reflectors a reflector skin
which can be easily replaced when required. The "skin" is
usually in contact with a paste material which permits the
transfer of heat from the outer surface to the inner extruded
metal especially if cooling by chilled or refrigerated water is
incorporated. If the reflector is not equipped with replaceable
surfaces, then the whole reflector head may need to be replaced,
if and when the need arises. With proper care and maintenance,
reflectors can last a long time. Unfortunately, there are a large
number of installations which are seldom cleaned because of
access limitations. Therefore, lamp and reflector maintenance
becomes critical if the unit is designed with poor access.

Changing of lamps is also accomplished with greater ease if the


irradiators and lamps are accessible without having to dismantle
any part of the press. Newer cassette-type systems offer
immediate accessibility and are integral to the marketability of
such systems. Accessibility on mobile curing units is usually
easier as lamp changes require little downtime.

Lamps should be installed in the irradiator head after being


cleaned by wiping with alcohol to remove dust and grease. The
lamp should then be handled only by the ends to ensure that
grease from the fingers is not transferred to the lamp surface.
Cotton gloves should be used if possible. A final wipe-over
after the tube is in place ensures total cleanliness. The reflector
surface should be cleaned in a similar way. Periodical cleaning
of the reflectors and lamps will ensure trouble-free operation. If
this is ignored then the lamp and reflector will become coated
with dust and other foreign matter, eventually reducing the
efficiency of the operating system and reducing effective
output.

TYPICAL EXAMPLES OF

TURNING HEAD IRRADIATOR SYSTEMS

Safety Manufacturers of ultraviolet curing equipment are careful to include


Equipment devices which prevent accidental exposure of the operator to the lamp.
This is a necessary accessory to prevent burns to skin and eyes. In
addition to the more obvious mechanical shielding such as shutters and
guards, there are other devices which are equally as essential to the safe
operation of the system. These are the electrical interlocking devices, by
which the lamps are switched off if a guard is moved or lifted. If these
switches ever fail to operate, it may be possible to be exposed directly
to the lamp. Therefore, it is essential to maintain the switches in
operating condition. Other items such as tinted filters are mainly
included on the machine to reduce any reflected glare from inside the
press. The operator should never be able to view the lamp directly
through the filter material.
Cooling Systems readily available today offer a diverse range of cooling devices.
Systems To simplify appraisal of them it will be necessary to divide them into
various categories.
Air cooled : This system uses air normally at room temperature to cool
the irradiator, lamp sockets and lamps. The normal rate of cooling is in
the order of 120°F (49°C). inside the lamp head enclosure. There are
numerous such systems producing top quality work on a broad cross-
section of machinery types.
The greatest percentage of mobile and web curing units use this type of
cooling system with complete success.
Diagram 1

Air Cooled System

Water Cooled

As this type of cooling is a step up in complexity, it is less suitable for


mobile, end-of-press curing systems. The irradiator heads are usually
arranged in such a way as to allow water to circulate through the head and
through the shutters (if applicable). The water exits from the head area
and is returned to a chillier unit where excess heat is removed and the
water is chilled to a predetermined temperature and pumped again to the
UV heads. Lower operating temperature is claimed for this system.

The chilled water is also used to provide a cool "chiller-plate" on many


models, thus preserving the machine parts and cooling the sheet as it
passes between it and the lamps.

Many air-cooled units built into presses also utilize the chiller plate.
Sheet-fed presses in some instances have both water-cooled and air-
cooled units in the same press.

Diagram 2

WATER-COOLED REFLECTOR
Refrigerated water: This system is somewhat similar to the previous system, but uses refrigeration
to maintain a consistently low temperature; therefore, space must be allowed to accommodate the
refrigeration unit. The waste heat from the unit can be either vented to the exterior of the building or
used to provide supplementary heating for the factory. This may also be done with the system using
chilled water, as waste heat is also a by-product.
UV power Every unit is equipped for the precise control of power from the UV lamps. Control systems
controls range from stepped power control to units equipped with stepless control up to computer
controlled models which match power with press speed. As the use of UV curing becomes
more widespread it seems destined to become even more complex and sophisticated.
Electrical Regular maintenance of equipment includes checking the operation of all electrical safety
safety switches. This usually includes such items as earth leakage detectors, all guard switches, and
exhaust air detectors among others. Such maintenance should ideally be performed by a
qualified electrician.

Safety switches must never be disconnected or over-ridden because of supposed convenience.


Shielding is only adequate when guards fitted with switches are operational. Ducting and
valves, where dust most often tends to accumulate, should be cleaned regularly.
Exhaust For those units fitted with such ducting it is essential, especially on mobile units, to
ducting for maintain the duct tubing in good repair. Moving the unit during normal make-ready
ozone and increases the likelihood of damage.
heat removal
The size of the ducting in relation to the fans and the quantity of air to be exhausted from
the UV unit are crucial to the efficient operation of the system. If the ducting is too small,
air will not be removed quickly enough resulting in the UV unit running too hot. It is better
that ducting be slightly oversized to avoid such problems. Elbows and bends in the ducting
have a restrictive effect on the exhaust air flow, and can produce similar results to fitting an
undersized exhaust duct. Wrong sized ducting may also have an effect on sheet control and
is a major contributing factor in temperature distortion of the substrate. In this case, heated
air is not removed efficiently enough, resulting in overheated and distorted stock.
Compressors It is impossible for UV equipment to operate efficiently on a modern press fitted with
and air pneumatics unless the UV operation requirements are adequately addressed.
control
equipment Many roller and dampener problems can be traced to this cause. Although compressors
may posssess adequate capacity, if leaks develop anywhere in the system, a low pressure
situation will eventually arise, and possibly lead to shutter malfunction. To prevent this
from occurring, it is highly advisable to provide the UV gear with a dedicated compressor.
This permits easier identification should any problem arise with either system.

The compressor unit to be used for shutter operation should be of adequate capacity to
ensure that minor leakages will not interfere with the proper operation of the pneumatic
equipment. Shutters should operate in a definite manner to ensure that the travel is over the
desired movement path with no intermittent sticking or slowing during operation.
Operation Operation of the lamp system is controlled automatically by built-in controls. Units are
usually fitted with safety devices to prevent dangerous situations from arising, and to
prevent damage to lamps. Transformers and other parts, such as fans and cooling
equipment, are electrically interlocked to prevent permanent damage being done to the host
machine or the curing equipment itself.
Mechanical Various methods of protecting a sheet or web from the UV lamp if a stoppage should occur
devices for may be designed as part of the system.
lamp control
Devices such as shutters, which isolate the lamp in the event of an emergency stop, are
offered from most suppliers. Turning heads also prevent exposure at the wrong time, and
are available on a large percentage of web presses.

The operation of these safety devices is either performed pneumatically or electrically. The
normal machine maintenance program should include inspection and operation of such
devices. If shutters and turning heads cannot operate properly, difficult to detect problems
can occur.

Causes of problems can be due to insufficient clearances between metal parts, hoses and
guards.
SHUTTER OPERATION

SHUTTER OPEN SHUTTER CLOSED

LAMP TO FULL POWER LAMP TO HALF POWER (IDLE)

Measuring Although the amount of energy available for curing from one lamp is
output from sufficient for hundreds of hours of work, it is a definite advantage to know the
lamps output of the lamps at any given time. Approximate methods, such as using a
self-adhesive sensitive strip to be stuck to a sheet provides some idea of
output, although a proper radiometric instrument provides far more accurate
information which can be used to determine if a lamp is still usable or not.
Servicing Unit service requires regular cleaning of such items as filters on cooling fans
used for transformers and switch-gear. Other items to check include hoses to
ensure that all are unobstructed and unkinked.

The following table gives an indication of the format for servicing, which
should be carried out at least monthly, perhaps more frequently depending on
prevailing conditions in the press room.
End-of- Lamp 1 hours
press
curing unit Lamp 2 hours
Condition Lamp 3 hours
Good/Poor
Comments Lamp 4 .....hours

Reflectors I

Reflectors 2

Reflectors 3

Reflectors 4

Electrical connectors.

Water hoses and connectors.

Chillier plate condition.

Safety switches.

Vacuum switches for exhaust.

Light shielding.

Exhaust duct and fan operation and condition

Interstation Lamp/s Hours


curing
Reflectors

Water hoses and connectors

Electrical plugs

Exhaust fan and ducting

Shutter operation

Safety switches on guards

Shielding condition

Operation

This section repeated for total number of interstation units.

Control Cabinet safety switch


cabinet
Cooling fans

Filters

Electrical connections

Earth leakage test (if fitted)


Alarm test

Fuses/contactors

Overall condition

Suggested maintenance

Lamp Voltage Interface (new development)

Chiller unit Water level

Circulating pump

Cooling fan operation

Flow switch operation

Hoses

Thermostats

Alarm for water level

Pneumatic Air compressor

Water trap

Oil-mister

Air lines and fittings

Pressure test

Comments:

Summary High quality UV curing equipment will minimize problems following


installation and extended running. As proof, more established brands have
units installed which have operated without fail for years.

The curing systems available today are suitable for use on sheet-fed offset or
letterpress machines, web-fed presses, either letterpress or offset, and with
machines which use several print methods in one print line. All these presses
as well as screen printing machines, are suitable candidates for UV curing.

In addition, a range of off-line coaters may use ultraviolet curing to excellent


effect.