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EFI leads the LED fever

Tuesday, 10 October 2017
By Laurel Brunner

An AMS XP5 Series UV LED curing system lamp module.

Not a week goes by that we don’t hear of another digital printer manufacturer making the switch to LED curing technology for ultra-violet (UV) inks. In the digital printing arena, this is most commonly for wide format digital print engines. UV-curable inks stick to pretty much any nonabsorbent substrate including paper and board, wood, PVC, glass, metals and ceramics. They produce minimal VOCs so they don’t need expensive exhaust systems.

Laurel Brunner

The arguments in favour of using LEDs instead of conventional mercury arc curing systems for UV ink curing get more compelling as technology advances and as more developers follow EFI’s lead and go for the LED alternative.

In part the rise of LED curing technologies is due to the market’s acceptance of UV-curable inks. Unlike conventional inks, UV inks do not dry through evaporation, but rather must be changed into a solid surface that sits on top of the substrate. A UV light source heats the printed inks, which contain photoinitiators and other ingredients. The heat causes photoplymers in the ink to cross link and form a solid layer. The ink sits on the substrate surface rather than being partially absorbed into it, so these inks can have much larger and more intense colour gamuts than conventional offset inks. They are also instantly dry so the prints can move straight into finishing, storage or be readied for shipping. This can hit the bottom line, in that it means faster throughput in the plant and ultimately more jobs on press.

And LEDs are cheaper than mercury bulbs, lasting for several years instead of two or three which is the case with the mercury lamps. LEDs are far kinder to fragile substrates than mercury arc lamps, they use less energy, don’t have to warm up before they start working and they can be switched off when there is no curing to be done. They also pose no risk if they fail, unlike mercury arc lamps which involve glass and mercury and lots of heat.

The thing mercury arc lamps have going for them is their sheer intensity and power, which means curing takes place very, very quickly. For high productivity environments where absolute top notch quality output must be produced at speed, mercury arc curing is still the preferred choice for some manufacturers, such as Inca. However, it’s just a matter of time before LED technology advances such that it makes sense for all manufacturers make the switch.

– Laurel Brunner

This article was produced by the Verdigris project, an industry initiative intended to raise awareness of print’s positive environmental impact. This weekly commentary helps printing companies keep up to date with environmental standards, and how environmentally friendly business management can help improve their bottom lines. Verdigris is supported by the following companies: Agfa Graphics, EFI, Fespa, HP, Kodak, Kornit, Ricoh, Spindrift, Splash PR, Unity Publishing and Xeikon.

 

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3 Responses to “EFI leads the LED fever”

  1. October 10, 2017 at 4:06 pm,

    Fairgo
    said:

    LED promises a lot but the printers I speak to say they can not get the speed nor ink adhesion on a variety of substrates out of it. Even EFI uses ‘pin and cure’ with LED pinning the ink and conventional UV curing it. It’s another case of ‘green dreams’ out of kilter with commercial reality: how are you going to deliver 2,000 full bed boards the next day with LED? You can’t – it would take a month!

  2. October 16, 2017 at 3:03 pm,

    said:

    Hi, the HS100 and 125 are the only EFI platforms that utilises “pin and cure” technology. Other hybrid products from H1625 up to LX3 and many EFI roll to roll devices use only LED technology and this delivers great savings for EFI customers. If you want to get in touch I can put you in contact with several customers in Australia and across Asia Pacific who have seen these benefits first hand.

  3. October 17, 2017 at 10:45 am,

    Fairgo
    said:

    There’s no doubting the benefits of LED-UV and EFI’s leading position where the productivity requirements suit the customer. I was clumsily referring to the highest volume producers who need sheer grunt and high-output UV for speed and adhesion, which is also what the article’s author admitted to. Even EFI Matan still offers conventional UV roll-ro-roll machines for speed. Inca is currently UV-only. High-end HP Scitex the same. Everyone wants LED-UV to take over and the ink manufacturers to get the inks right – it’s just the ‘here and now’ is that the fastest, most adherent wide format needs conventional UV, in part or totally, for the foreseeable future.

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