UV printers offer print service providers a high level of flexibility and versatility, allowing shops the chance to step up their profits. Not only does UV technology let PSPs expand into new markets, but it also can enable them to broaden their offerings to current customers.
“They can use the products for indoor, outdoor, short-term and long-term applications,” says James Cain, director of sales, digital, for Polytype America in Philadelphia, PA. “They can use a wider variety of substrates, such as paper, plastics, wood, metal, and glass. In addition, UV inks have adhesion characteristics that a lot of traditional inks, like solvents, lack.”
Adds Larry D'Amico, vice president of digital imaging for Elmwood Park, NJ's Agfa Graphics, of UV printing: “It's just getting faster and [of] higher quality. We've already shown the ability to replace traditional screen printing, and now with the advancements in quality and speed, we're seeing more opportunity to replace traditional offset and flexo as well.”
The uniqueness of UV printing presents an advantage to PSPs, observes Oriol Gasch, category manager, large-format signage Americas with HP in Boise, ID.
“The fact that you can print on flexible substrates as well as rigid substrates, such as Corruplast and foam cores, acrylics, glass, wood and cardboard, opens up other applications” for any PSP willing to explore these avenues, he says.
Speaking of Applications
Gasch reports opportunities awaiting PSPs in UV printing extend from printing signage to point-of-purchase to packaging to décor. “When you think about the amount of square footage that is subject to being covered by advertising and decoration, this market grows exponentially,” he says. “For example, there are signage applications, such as retail, events and exhibition signage and outdoor signage. Some are on rigid, some on flexible substrates.”
Retailers need décor printing, and restaurateurs need tabletops and floors printed, spurring more innovative PSPs to produce what is being called “digital décor,” he adds.
Then there is packaging. “There are market dynamics in providing shorter runs, where digital now has a fit,” Gasch says. “There are dynamics in the need for customizing, and that's where digital as opposed to offset becomes economic and advisable. You think of pallet wraps in the retail setting, printed on a cardboard or corrugated. The fact that you can customize those by location or by brand makes this an appealing market.”
Free-standing displays, designed to command attention in space away from store shelves, represent still another opportunity for PSPs, he says.
“You see innovative brands customizing free-standing displays on a location basis and a brand basis, in very short turnaround times. That's what makes it very attractive to brand owners. Let's say you have some inventory built up. The fact you can do these free-standing displays in four or five days allows you to move a lot of inventory.”
And while PSPs are investigating and profiting from these markets, they are also realizing a long-time goal of saving money on both labor and materials, Gasch says.
Because they can print directly to the substrate, they avoid the time, expense and potential errors of printing on flexible substrates, then mounting to rigid boards, he adds.
Trends in UV Printing
Among developments trending in the world of UV printing are wider sizes, downward price pressures on printers, new inks, and a demand for higher quality, Cain says.
Flatbed is increasingly moving to wider sizes, a trend that is seeing many machines move from 4x8-foot sizes to 5x10 configurations, he observes. In addition, greater competition in the UV printer space is bringing with it downward pressure on prices, he adds.
New inks represent another trend, both from new ink manufacturers and existing companies. Among those introducing new inks is Agfa Graphics, which is unveiling orange ink for its Titan printers. “We're seeing more demand from PSPs for large consumer companies with corporate colors and spot colors,” D'Amico says.