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Need To Know

High-speed Print Drying Technology

Conventional UV curing has been around for many years. Jo Golding looks at the new types of UV curing, offering quick drying times, that are leading the way in this market

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LED-UV drying was introduced by Ryobi (developed with Panasonic), and its RMGT branded presses are distributed by Apex Digital Graphics in the UK and Ireland

At the speed of light

With turnaround times getting quicker and quicker in the print industry, time truly is of the essence. This is why advanced types of ink curing, such as LED-UV, LE-UV, and H-UV, have been created to dry ink as quickly as possible, allowing you to move on to the next stage of the process as soon as possible.

One industry name that certainly knows a thing or two about this area is Apex Digital Graphics, which is approaching its 20th LED-UV press installation in the UK. The company offers genuine LED-UV drying, a technology created by Ryobi (now RMGT) in conjunction with Panasonic that was introduced in 2008.

Neil Handforth, sales and marketing director at Apex Digital Graphics, explains the benefits of this technology: “The main advantages with LED-UV are that it is instant on/off, there is no warm up or cooling down period. It is very low power, less than a quarter of other proposed LE drying systems. It creates no heat and no ozone, so there is no need for any form of ducting from the press, making it a very safe technology.

Apex Digital Graphics has seen impressive sales success with its LED-UV equipped RMGT presses

“People are looking to turnaround work quicker these days and this technology ticks all of the boxes. In terms of capital investment, you tend to find that people are purchasing formations with less printing units or without coating units. Whereas previously we used a fifth unit to add a seal or coating purely to get the work out of the door, with LED-UV you do not need to do that because the ink is instantly cured by the time it reaches the delivery.”

People are looking to turnaround work quicker these days and this technology ticks all of the boxes

Handforth says Apex’s customers are varied in the UK alone, as well as seeing the technology in many different print shops in other parts of Europe and in Japan. He adds: “This technology was originally designed for the commercial printer producing on all kinds of commercial stocks, extending to plastics, synthetic stocks, and labels, so the full range of products a commercial printer might produce on and more.”

The only area where LED-UV is not wholly acceptable is in food packaging, as the inks have not been cleared fully, however, it is approved in certain areas and there are plans to expand on this. Handforth also notes that there is a “proliferation of uncoated stocks” and that LED-UV comes into its own in these areas.

O Factoid: The LE in LE-UV stands for low energy and uses special lamps that are doped with iron. These lamps do not emit the short UV wavelengths that generate ozone, therefore it is an ozone-free operation. O

Northend Creative Print Solutions is one of the latest UK printers to invest in technology through Apex, taking on the RMGT Ryobi 925 LED-UV press. Managing director of Northend, Nigel Stubley, comments that the efficiencies and productivity of the Ryobi 920 with LED-UV takes litho printing to “a new level”, adding: “The return on capital of this equipment means that SRA1 litho with UV curing is the most cost-effective way forward for our business right now.”

Take your pick

Another manufacturer of note is Heidelberg, which can provide any of its Speedmaster models with conventional UV, low migration UV, LED-UV, or LE-UV drying systems, as well as a retrofit service.

Matt Rockley, marketing and product executive at Heidelberg, comments: “Conventional UV is virtually a standard in packaging and has made some inroads into commercial print, but the game changer has been the introduction of the LED (light emitting diode) and LE (low energy) options.

Matt Rockley of Heidelberg says the quality achievable using any of the UV options is “fantastic”

“Because Heidelberg offers all three options as well as conventional litho, anilox models, and a range of digital presses, it considers itself an unbiased consultant. It can provide printers with objective information to ensure they make the right decisions for their business.

“On the conventional UV presses supplied by Heidelberg, H1 lubrication oils are now used as standard, enabling low migration inks to work effectively with no fear of contamination of food packaging. It is also worth noting that in addition to all the UV options, Heidelberg also continues to offer hot air and IR.”

As well as noting the instant drying as a main advantage due to shortened makeready times, Rockley says the quality achievable using any of the UV options is “fantastic” as it does not flatten colour. He adds: “It gives bright, vibrant results. Colour is controllable—Superior is the first company to attain Heidelberg ISO12647-2 colour certification on its Speedmaster XL 106-5 LE-UV press.

Dry Star LE-UV from Heidelberg is a low energy UV system for commercial printers looking to move into UV printing

“Because inks dry through polymerisation there is less absorption into the papers, making this technology ideal for uncoated stocks and for non-paper substrates, including plastics. Less ink has to be applied and using the various UV technologies eliminates spray powder, coating, and reduces the energy costs. Maintenance and associated costs can also be reduced.

“With the LED drying system from Heidelberg there are improved power savings of up to 90 percent over conventional UV and 50 percent over LE-UV systems.”

Worldwide solution

Komori is offering something a little different to the market in the form of its H-UV drying as Steve Turner, director of sheetfed sales at Komori UK, explains: “Komori developed H-UV and is selling it across the world, now with 800 installations. H-UV is the established product in the market and we are the market leader by a huge margin.

“We also offer H-UV L, which effectively is LED-UV. As far as I am aware, we are the only manufacturer that can offer both H-UV and LED-UV solutions. LED-UV is a well proven product, but it has in our opinion some limitations when compared to H-UV in that it is suitable for printing four colour, but if you want to do spot coating, H-UV is better for that application. We happily offer both to our customers. H-UV installations outnumber LED-UV by a significant number.”

Steve Turner of Komori UK says H-UV is ideal for packaging and if you print a lot of uncoated stock

Turner explains the advantages of the H-UV technology: “You get instant drying on all substrates, including uncoated material, plastic, and film. The other benefit of that is that you get no ‘dry-back’. When you are measuring colour on the printed sheet, that printed sheet is how the image will look in an hour’s or a month’s time. With traditional printing, particularly on uncoated stock, you have to pile the ink on to allow for dry-back, but you do not have to do that with H-UV.

“There is negligible heat, so if you are printing on delicate substrates such as plastic, there is virtually no heat from the H-UV dryer, so you do not get any distortion of the substrate. An enormous benefit is that there is no powder spray; the pressroom is much cleaner.”

The four colour Lithrone G29 with H-UV from Komori in action at Enfield printer Swallowmax

Also, high-end added value finishes are possible with a coater, including high gloss coatings and spot coatings.

While Turner points out that the perceived disadvantage is that the ink is more expensive, he says you have to take into consideration where you make savings that help to negate the additional premium for the ink. The savings are in no coating, no cleaning the delivery, and faster turnaround times.

Turner addresses the types of companies H-UV is ideal for: “It is suitable for the vast majority of commercial applications but it is particularly suitable if you are printing a lot of uncoated stock and packaging applications. It is less suitable for very long runs, but that is quite unusual in the marketplace these days. For a high-quality commercial printer, which does short to medium runs on a variety of stocks, who wants the option to use added value finishes, there really are no disadvantages.”

Try it out

IST (UK) is another name in this field and offers a range of services. The company’s joint managing director, Chris Schofield, says: “We can offer advice on all the UV technologies for drying on litho (sheetfed or web) or multi-technology narrow web applications and our sister company ITL in Bicester specialises in digital printing applications. Our parent IST METZ supplies systems to printing manufacturers mainly on an OEM basis.

Chris Schofield of IST says the take up of all versions of UV is “happening fast”

“We support those partners in the UK, but we also offer a retrofit service to businesses that want to trial LE-UV, LED-UV, or UV on an existing press. Or, which know they must add it to meet market expectations. IST retrofits just take a few days to complete and come with a twelve-month warranty. We are attending The Print Show (stand A03) and expect to field many enquiries about the technology there. So come and visit us so we can explain the benefits our technology could bring your print operation first hand.”

IST also offers a Hot Swap unit, which allows users to run both UV and LED-UV interchangeably. Schofield explains: “Printers just exchange cartridges so that the right technology is used for the right job. It provides flexibility moving forward, but also future-proofs the drying system on a press. It was shortlisted in the Stationers’ Company Innovation Excellence Awards this year.”

IST offers a Hot Swap unit that allows users to run both UV and LED-UV interchangeably

IST’s XT8 booster technology now means its LED Cure system has up to 30 percent higher output than conventional LED systems. Also, IST’s system for LE-UV is ideal for the small and medium sized company using a high volume of uncoated stock, with lamps guaranteed to operate for 2,500 hours.

“Resistance to adopting these drying technologies often come down to ink costs, but printers need to look at the whole picture,” advises Schofield, adding: “UV in all its variations uses less ink, less energy (at least in the case of LED and LE-UV), eliminates spray powder, and can eliminate coating units. IST can help a customer with a cost analysis to map the right route forward.”

Schofield concludes: “The take up of all versions of UV is happening fast and no one can afford to bury their head. Today’s differentiator will become tomorrow’s standard and, with that, customer expectations will change.”

The take up of all versions of UV is happening fast and no one can afford to bury their head

So with those wise words, it is clear there really are advantages to all of the solutions mentioned. LED-UV offers incredible power savings and is a strong all-rounder, whereas H-UV is perfect for special effects such as spot coating. My advice is to get in touch with the experts as they can guide you in the right direction for your business. And as those such as IST will be at The Print Show, taking place at The International Centre—Telford from October 11th to 13th this year, then I urge you to pay them a visit and find out how this technology could potentially transform your business.

Should you invest?

Matt Rockley, marketing and product executive at Heidelberg, offers some questions printers should ask themselves before investing in its high-speed print drying technology.

1)    What is the relative running cost of conventional versus any or all of the UV options?

2)    Do the UV versions stack up in running costs against B2 digital technology?

3)    How critical is timescale—order to delivery—to my customers and therefore to my business?

4)    What is the demand for work on uncoated stocks or non-paper substrates?

5)    Can the higher ink prices be offset by the reduction in other costs or be justified by potential new business?

6)    What will my power reduction be over the whole press?

7)    Will this offer my business a differential over my rivals?

8)    How important is colour lift to my customers?

9)    Are there the colour measurement facilities to enable me to work to ISO 12647-2 standards?
10)    How will my staff adapt to this new way of working? Can my supplier help or advise in this area?

11)    Will an investment in this technology improve the pressroom working conditions?

12) Can this fast drying press be linked into a digital workflow?

13) Does the supplier offer top quality support and service?

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