The benefits of converting to UV-LED include reduced operating costs and energy consumption, lower emissions, increased safety, and more.
By Karla Witte
While the UV curing process has been in the printing industry for more than 30 years, LED- curing technology for UV printers has just begun to replace the older curing technology. This change offers compelling advantages, such as improved economics, system capabilities, and environmentally friendly benefits. Advanced UV-LED curing of inks is now available for screen printing, inkjet, offset, flexo, and other processes. Of course, without ink there can be no printing, so you can expect more developments and improved systems to continue in the future.
This article offers insight on how some companies are approaching UV curing technology. It also examines current industry challenges and questions of interest posed by printers.
Advantages of UV-LED curing
UV curing is used for drying inks, coatings, adhesives, and other UV-sensitive materials through polymerization. The process can be defined as the hardening of a liquid material when exposed to ultraviolet energy. The ultraviolet curing of inks, coatings, and adhesives requires a high-intensity source of UV energy to initiate the chemical reaction that hardens and turns the liquid into a solid through chemical polymerization.
Three key advantages that come to mind are economic, advanced capabilities, and environmental advantages. From an economic standpoint, UV-LED curing is energy efficient, long lasting, and can be regarded as low maintenance. Light-emitting diodes (LEDs) are solid-state devices that produce light when an electrical current flows from the positive (anode) side of the circuit to the negative (cathode) side. I have seen LEDs run well past 10,000 hours of working exposure without drift in Joules or Watts. Therefore, I’m not surprised to see vendors state the expected lifetime of UV-LED systems to be up to 20,000 hours.
The advanced capabilities available in the market today represent the newest developments allowing for heat-sensitive substrates, deep-through cure, small, compact machines with controlled curing intensity. Similar advancements have impacted the environment factor. The current emphasis is better than ever on workplace safety. Devices are now both mercury and ozone free, and there is greater interest in UV-A wavelength range.
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