Given all the competing and economic forces in play, printers are in the hunt to find ways to drive sales. To that end, commercial and packaging printers are exploiting UV coatings as a value-added service that sets them apart from the herd.
UV coating applications have evolved from their original function as protective finishes to delivering a dramatic impact to the printed page.
Specialty coatings are only increasing in popularity, as raised, strike-through, pearlescent, soft feel and sandy feel methods are used to create dimension and add texture to packaging, business cards and promotional materials.
The popularity of UV coatings is evident in press sales, with the majority of medium and large-format sheetfed presses shipped outfitted with at least one in-line coater. Digital printing machines are also going in-line: The Epic CTi-635TM In-Line Coating System has recently been updated to support the full iGen4 EXP and iGen 150 media sizes up to 26-inches (660 mm) length.
Specialty UV coatings bring cache to the printed product, much needed as the medium looks to demonstrate its value in this increasingly digital environment.
“Now that we can offer these different coating processes, we can make it more tacitle,” says Rick Rys, president of HiDefColor, a full-service creative marketing agency soon launching an e-commerce site to connect buyers with printers. “Print needs to become more like a piece of art. The whole point is trying to make print more dynamic and viable.”
Adds Rys, “When you have a tactile piece of print, you create demand and more interest in the product. Coating is definitely a big growth area for printers, it allows printers to separate themselves. It allows creative to do some real cool things and attract attention, and marketers to stick out from the crowd.”
When it comes to UV coating, “there is no better way to protect or enhance color, provide a more tactile feel, increase gloss levels and deliver more of an experience,” says Rys.
Keeping print even more relevant in the marketing process, Rys sees UV-coated print as a vehicle to drive cross-media campaigns. “Having that valuable piece of art, that fantastic piece of printing, drive traffic to a landing page—it will allow marketers to see how many visitors came clicked in because of the printed material, giving the marketers the metrics they covet,” says Rys.
UV LED Makes Some Noise
Also making headlines right now is UV LED. While not yet in full commercial mode, UV LED will be a dominant curing method in the very near future, predicts Walter Chmura, VP of technical sales for KBA North America Inc. Currently, the relatively high initial cost and limited choice of inks are hindering the widespread adoption of UV LED dryers, but KBA expects it to take flight soon. In fact, there are rumors that by 2014 mercury vapor lamps will be banned outright in Europe. KBA is offering potential users UV LED-ready dryers that are preconfigured for the later addition of UV LED modules.
Ranging from 365 to 405 nm, UV LED removes heat from the curing process, which not only immediately widens the substrate pool to include all plastics, but also allows easier handling of less expensive moisture-hungry grades of paper and cardboard,
“Whenever you remove heat from the process it’s an advantage for the printer,” says Chmura.
JMC Signmakers in the Netherlands, one of the first to install a UV LED curing system on a wide format inkjet printer, is printing on bubble wrap with its EFI VUTEk GS3250LX.
Also making headlines are high definition UV presses.
In 2011, Komori launched its H-UV press, which uses a Komori-developed lamp and high-sensitivity inks. Also, reports Komori, the amount of VOC emissions is about one-quarter that of a conventional UV curing system; the system operates in the “non-ozone” wavelength of the energy curing spectrum, eliminating the need for roof venting.
In July 2012, Epic Litho in Phoenixville, PA, installed the GL840p H-UV Komori press, the first in the mid-Atlantic region.
Epic Litho is using the H-UV to run both standard coatings, such as gloss and satin, pearlescent coatings, and specialty coatings, such as textured and heat-sensitive, scented, and scratch-off coatings.
The new press is already earning its keep: At the 2012 Printing Industry of America Premier Print Awards, the company won two Benny’s, for AS IF magazine, a visually driven artisanal publication founded by photographer Tatijana Shoan, and a second for a printed invitation for the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts. The high-definition UV printing process was an integral part of both of the award-winning projects.
In May 2012, CPI Card Group installed a KBA Rapida 105 41-inch seven-color UV-equipped sheetfed press with tower coater, an eight-foot extended delivery, and plastics package in its Roseville, MN facility. The company produces finanical, identification and commercial gift cards in plants located throughout North America and England.
“UV is critical, when you look at the materials we are printing on—there is no other option than UV,” says Nick Kordosky, pressroom manager in the Minnesota facility.
The credit cards and gift cards are in-line coated for protection and surface requirement, such as gloss or matte finishes. CPI also runs foil stamping or glitter etch coatings, if the cards require special surface treatments, says Kordosky.
The press is also equipped with the KBA VariDry system with four interdeck UV lamps moveable throughout all seven printing units for complete flexibility. At the end of the press are three UV lamps and IR thermal air for instantaneous curing of plastics at high speeds.
“The interdecking allows us to move the curing system depending on the job, says Kordosky. If we are printing on foil, we print white first, one or two hits, then cure it, then print four-color process; if you don’t cure it first you will pick up the white. Other times we want to give an overall varnish so we want the curing station at the end.”
Also trending are UV coated business cards, which make an impression when networking, as they are glossier and often printed on heavier stock. MorningPrint.com, ian international online gang printing service specializing in business cards, post cards, and stickers added spot UV coating to its cadre of finishing options due to popular demand.