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Need To Know

Offset Litho Ink Drying

Interest in UV, LED-UV and LE-UV as drying tools has taken off recently due to their appeal to a wider printer audience. Rob Fletcher sees the latest solutions battle it out to become the best drying system

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Different types of drying tools are battling it out to be the best method of print production enhancement

The Drying Wars

Gone are the days when the letters ‘UV’ were only associated with the sun and what factor sun cream you should be wearing. Print-service-providers (PSPs) both in the UK and further afield are turning to UV, as well as LED-UV and LE-UV, as a way of enhancing production.

The benefits of using UV, LED-UV and LE-UV as drying tools have been widely reported, with manufacturers and suppliers alike pledging faster production so that users can expand their business. And with development ongoing within this market, we can look forward to further technology enhancements.

Here, we look at some of the latest solutions in the sector and analyse this kit to find out what it offers the user, as well as how it differs from kit already available on the market.

Critical decision

One of the leading companies in this market is IST (UK), which offers a range of drying options for both conventional and digital presses. Chris Schofield, joint managing director, says that drying is the “lifeblood” of the company and it is able to advise on the best options for various forms of print production setups.

“UV, LED-UV and LE-UV appeals to a much wider printer audience,” Schofield says, adding: “In part, this is because litho and conventional narrow web technologies have to compete with digital rivals and in a response-conscious market that means being able to drive through work from order to delivery as quickly as possible.

Chris Schofield, joint managing director at IST (UK), says “no one can afford to ignore the trend” of the use of UV, LED-UV and LE-UV as drying tools

“It is this that has spurred the growth in the web-to-print business model. Dry sheets off the end of the press means work can immediately be processed, eliminating waiting time.”

Schofield goes into further detail regarding the key benefits of UV drying kit: “As more and more printers adopt one of these different UV drying technologies it becomes harder for those without a quick turnaround press to compete on some jobs. No one can afford to ignore the trend.

“Choosing the right system is critical. Printers need technology that is robust, predictable, produces quality results time after time and is cost justifiable. This is a technical purchase and printers should use an expert company, which can give top and objective advice between the various options.”

Printers need technology that is robust, predictable, produces quality results time after time and is cost justifiable

Focusing in on IST (UK) and its product range, Schofield picks out the Hot Swap solution, which saw the company short-listed for both the Stationers’ Company Innovation Excellence Awards and British Coatings Federation Awards.

Hot Swap is a cartridge-based system that enables printers to run either UV or LED-UV interchangeably using a common housing on press. Schofield says this was developed as the company believes there is a “strong future” for LED-UV, but some existing UV users need a bridge before making a full transferSchofield expands: “It is akin to the hybrid in the automotive industry, a halfway house between conventional fuels and electric. The balance between UV and LED-UV depends on the cost movements in energy and inks.

The Hot Swap is a cartridge-based system from IST (UK) short-listed for both the Stationers’ Company Innovation Excellence Awards and British Coatings Federation Awards

“LED-UV uses up to 60 percent less energy than UV—and energy efficiency can be boosted by an option XT8 Booster—but the inks are currently more costly. LE-UV, an option that has great appeal for small and medium-sized customers, offers an option between the two in terms of energy use and ink costs.
“IST supplies drying systems as OEMs to press manufacturers or as retrofits to customers looking to enhance existing press technology and to give them a competitive edge.”

Setting the standard

Also active in this sector is Komori, which developed its first H-UV and H-UV L (LED) as a low-power, high-efficient curing system for offset printing in 2009. Since this initial launch, the system has been installed more than 850 times around the world.

Komori launched its first H-UV technology in 2009 and has since carried out more than 850 installations worldwide

Reflecting on the success of the technology, Komori’s marketing manager Peter Minis says: “Sheets printed with H-UV are dried instantly, allowing offset printers to execute orders on a real on-demand basis.

Sheets printed with H-UV are dried instantly, allowing offset printers to execute orders on a real on-demand basis

“On many occasions, the decision to move from a conventional setup to H-UV and H-UV L curing is stemming from the need to optimise the full production cycle. Offering quicker curing and reduced start-up times, this technology speeds up printing on a wide range of materials, increasing overall productivity and reducing delivery times.

“The technology also eliminates the need for anti-set-off spraying, which in addition to ensuring a clean working environment also removes a step from the finishing process, allowing orders to be completed fast and efficiently.”

Minis goes on to state that the development of H-UV translated the company’s OffsetOnDemand concept into reality, “offering high print quality and reliability as well as an increased versatility in creating products”.

Minis expands: “When Komori launched H-UV on the market, we did not only develop a new technology, but also tailored all required supplies towards the characteristics of H-UV. By utilising the know-how of Komori and the expertise of industry partners, we’re able to offer not just a drying kit, but a full process, which is essential for a smart investment.”

With this in mind, Minis draws attention to the fact that H-UV is now available throughout Komori’s sheetfed-offset product range, as well as its webfed press range. The new Komori Lithrone G38 is billed as the world’s first webfed press that runs with the H-UV process.

Minis adds: “By utilising H-UV, we see that our customers are developing new applications every single day using K-Supply product which are tailored to the full process.”

Speed it up

Elsewhere and earlier this year, Kyocera unveiled a new, air-cooled UV-LED curing light that it says is not only the world’s most powerful solution of its kind, but also the world’s smallest.

Suitable for use in industrial UV ink printing applications and UV-cured coating and adhesive processes, the new Kyocera G5A Series measures in at 80.3 × 88.0 × 150.5mm and weighs just 950g, which the company says contributes to space savings for the overall system.

Kyocera says its new G5A Series air-cooled UV-LED curing light is the fastest and smallest of its kind in the world

The system uses Kyocera’s ceramic substrate, providing UV intensity of 24W/sq cm among air-cooled UV-LED curing lights. In addition, it is capable of achieving 50m/min of accumulated light, which the manufacturer says will enable the user to benefit from high-speed curing.

Speaking in a statement, Kyocera says: “This product sets a new industry standard by offering the highest performance in a package that is also both the world’s lightest and smallest, at about half the size of a conventional air-cooled UV curing light offering high UV intensity.

“The G5A Series requires less space, and is the industry’s most lightweight system, as it employs its own air-cooling technology with no additional equipment, whereas the conventional water-cooled LED lamps require circulating water cooling equipment such as a chiller.”

Kyocera also highlights how connecting the units can support various media and applications—ranging from fine characters, figures and barcodes to printing on large-scale building materials—thus making it a flexible solution for PSPs of all kinds.

Kyocera says: “The irradiation width can be controlled from 80mm to 1,600mm, in addition to permitting unnecessary light sections to be turned off in 26.5mm increments via serial communications, so the system focuses on the printed area.”

Meanwhile, a monitoring system allows users to track irradiation conditions via serial communications. This covers LED temperature and current, fan operating time and accumulated irradiation time. The system notifies the user when they need to replace filters, or if abnormalities are detected, thus ensuring what the firm described as “stable operation and optimal performance”.

O Factoid: Global research company Yole Développement has forecast that the UV curing market is set to expand by approximately $300m (£226.4m) by 2019. O

From the small selection of manufacturers featured here, it is clear to see there is plenty to be excited about in the drying market. This method plays a key role in the print production process, in that if it is a slower drying system you will need to wait longer before you can deliver work to customers.

However, for those PSPs with a more effective and faster drying system in place, they are more likely to have a quicker turnaround time and, as a result, be able to take on more work. It is these companies that will have the advantage in what is now a very competitive market.

As all PSPs will know, speed is almost everything to the customer; demand for faster turnaround is on the rise and print companies are under pressure to deliver for their clients. An effective drying system could well be the route to success for some PSPs.

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