“It is imperative to cure the ink completely—not just the ink’s surface—so a strong bond between the ink and its substrate can be established, leading to the best solutions for our customers—and their customers.”
The evolution from solvent to UV comes with a few hurdles, Klostermann adds. That’s because customers desire performance from UV cured inks, both traditional and LED, similar to what they historically have enjoyed with solvent inks. Those performance benefits include durability, color retention and stretch.
“3M and its OEM partners continue to strive for robust UV ink development and solutions to meet or exceed the standard set by solvent inks,” he reports. “We expect to lead the way into the future.”
From his standpoint, Epson America’s Radogna believes it is crucial for today’s wide-format providers to differentiate themselves from competitors, meaning they are always seeking better wide-format ink and printing technology.
“As manufacturers, we are being held to a higher standard, which means today’s products are performing at remarkable levels,” he says.
“We’ve also seen many customers looking to upgrade or bring on additional printers to expand service offerings.”
As for HP, the company has just announced its new family of latex inks, used in its new HP Latex 3000 Printer, which allows a broader range of sign and display customers to shift from traditional solvent and UV-curable technologies to HP latex printing technologies, the company said in a statement.
“We’re taking the best characteristics of existing latex inks and combining them with new technology to improve the performance of the new inks,” Winn says. “Our intention is to invest and develop future generations of latex inks.”
The third generation HP 881 Latex Inks provide a scratch resistance comparable to hard-solvent inks on certain substrates, making them ideal for applications such as retail displays, outdoor advertising, vehicle graphics, and interior décor. HP Latex Inks deliver odorless prints perfect for sensitive indoor display settings, and help create a safe and comfortable printing environment for print shop staff. They are UL EcoLogo and GreenGuard Gold Certified.
Also weighing in for HP is Eyal Duzy, marketing segment manager for HP Scitex Industrial Solutions. “Our industrial print service provider customers are looking for ways to innovate and pursue new business opportunities with higher gross margins,” Duzy says. “As digital UV-curable ink technology has evolved, new media types are now possible, meaning higher value print jobs can be offered to print buyers. At HP, we see growing demand for inks that print to a broader range of plastics, such as PVC, polypropylene, fluted polypropylene, styrene, poly carbonate, and acrylics on high-volume presses.”
New UV-curable inks, such as the HP HDR240 Scitex inks, allow customers to print to most challenging plastic media at high throughput rates without compromising quality or adhesion, and the inks do not require pre-treatment, Duzy says. In addition, the analog-to-digital conversion continues to drive advancements in the ink market, as overall year-over-year ink consumption for high-end industrial digital presses grows at a double-digit pace.
Like others, Duzy sees growing demand for greener media, such as biodegradable or recycled options, as well as for more environmentally friendly inks like HP Latex and HP HDR240, FB225 and TJ210 Scitex UV-curable inks, which are Green-Guard Gold certified for indoor use, he reports.
The HP HDR240 Scitex Inks, which were introduced at FESPA with the HP Scitex FB10000 Industrial Press, enable high-quality printing on plastics and corrugated cardboards with a color gamut complying with the ISO 12647-7 standard for printing and proofing, Duzy says. “Patent pending ink technology enables print providers to achieve excellent cross-hatch level adhesion on plastics, polyolefin materials and acrylics, without pretreatment or compromising throughput,” he explains. “With the new inks, the press’ media span includes the most challenging media types, printed at the full throughput range.”