Mike Wozny, product manager, EFI-VUTEk: Solvent has been available in the SWF industry for more than 10 years. A significant amount of advancement was realized in the first five to seven years of its availability. Quality, productivity and application range improvements were the primary advancements. Recently the product has reached a mature stage of development and most development is focused on stabilizing the platform and reducing cost of ownership to the PFP. In addition some solvent providers are developing eco solvent solutions and positioning them as more green alternatives.
2. What are the primary applications solvent technology is used for? Has it changed compared to one year ago? If so, how?
Amerine: The biggest change in solvent has been the movement of UV roll printers into the billboard (due to the use of the poly materials that do not do well with solvent ink) and POP markets (due to better print quality). This has resulted in solvent roll equipment being used more for fleet work.
Jeff Burton: Since solvent inks adhere by etching into the surface of the media, the common applications are printing onto PVC based vinyl, in its many forms.
SGIA’s 2009 Product Specialties survey ranks the top ten products that producers manufactured.
2. Point of Sale
3. Window Displays
5. Indoor wall graphics
6. Vehicle graphics
7. Presentation graphics
8. Back-lit sign
9. Trade show displays
10. Construction signs
Hecht: Primarily indoor/outdoor signage, vehicle/other wraps, banners, etc. One application that is new to the solvent market, and became possible when the Epson GS6000 was introduced, is fine art. Prior to the GS6000, fine art was produced on water-based machines and solvent machines were just starting to be tested for the application. Due to the quality, speed, expanded color gamut, and Epson’s GS Canvas Gloss paper, many customers have adopted the GS6000 for fine art décor or fine art reproduction applications.
Hutcheson: Solvent inks/technology has generally been more popular for long-term/outdoor applications particularly fleet graphics, vehicle and architectural wrap, billboards etc. Traditionally, solvent technology was the perfect fit for these applications due to its excellent image durability and low running costs. It is important to note, there were some positive strides within outdoor advertisement even during the recession. And users of solvent technology used to own this application, but this is changing rapidly. Today, UV technology now competes with solvent and is enjoying market growth due to its improved image quality, environmental benefits and low running costs. Overall, customers have more options to choose from…and this doesn’t help the solvent market.
Oransky: From its inception, solvent printing was developed for outdoor graphics like signs, banners and vehicle graphics. This has not really changed, but over the past year or two we have seen a definite increase in the volume of printing that our customers are doing for indoor displays including posters, backlit signs and POP displays. The quality of solvent printing is now high enough even for indoor graphics that are viewed close up, and the high speed, low cost and great durability of the images have driven a lot of printers to use an eco-solvent printer as their only inkjet device. In the past these same printers might have owned a solvent printer for outdoor work and an aqueous printer for indoor. Some art printers are even starting to see the advantages of eco-solvent ink. Apparel decoration has really taken off as well. With the availability of products like Roland’s HeatSoft transfer solution, users can produce t-shirts, bags and other items with high quality, durable graphics that stand up to repeated washings. This same level of durability has always been difficult to achieve with aqueous ink.
Paar: Solvent printing is becoming more of a niche such as for vehicle wraps. A portion of the overall print volume has and continues to move to UV systems.
Ryan: Overall, the primary applications for solvent technology continue to be ones requiring PVC such as outdoor graphics, both adhesive-backed and banners. While there is some pressure to move to more recyclable materials (especially for indoor graphics), PVC continues to be the main product group for the majority of printing in wide-format, outdoor graphics. Within this sector, there definitely has been an explosion in the growth of higher resolution vehicle graphics and wraps—and many of our largest customers are active within this market segment.