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Ultraviolet Printing — Followers of the Light

September 2005 By Chris Bauer
Managing Editor
Many printers swear the light at the end of the printing industry’s tunnel is ultraviolet. The advantages of UV printing and coating are numerous, including the ability to print on non-absorbent materials, the convenience of instantaneous curing, the consistency of high print quality, and extreme resistance to scratching and abrasion. It all adds up to become an asset for printers that have moved to the technology—and their customers.

“There is an obvious advantage of eye-appeal that the designers and art directors love—nothing says shiny and new like a gloss coating for some of our vertical markets,” assesses Gary Samuels, managing partner at Pictorial Offset Corp. in Carlstadt, NJ, who lists automobile, cosmetic and luxury goods as accounts that find UV gloss techniques appealing.  

“Other vertical markets tend to like the matte texture of reverse UV coatings to portray a luxurious visual ‘feel’ to their product,” Samuels adds. “Either way, almost all of our customers like the speed of the UV curing process.” 

Pictorial operates an eight-color MAN Roland R-700 series press with UV coating capabilities, equipped with a Grafix IR-HAK-UV dryer. The printer uses Sun Chemical and Superior Printing Ink products, and Samuels notes that the company has long-standing relationships with both consumable suppliers.

“UV printing sets you apart from the others in product offerings,” advises Joel Shapiro, president of Shapco Printing in Minneapolis, whose company has offered UV services for about 3.5 years. “We got into it to be able to differentiate ourselves and provide more options to our clients, as well as to print on plastics and static clings more easily.”

Numerous Usages

Typical work using the UV process at Shapco involves point-of-purchase items such as posters, danglers, rail cards, static clings, wallet cards and book covers.

“We also use it on collateral pieces to provide high gloss spot or overall UV to highlight logos or photos,” Shapiro notes. About 10 percent of the company’s overall business involves UV printing.

To handle this work, Shapco relies on two eight-color, 40˝ Komori Lithrone presses equipped with automated plate hangers, interdeck dryers and extended deliveries for aqueous and UV curing abilities. One press has Grafix and the other has Nordson UV equipment.

In Marietta, GA, Color Spectrum Network has been doing off-line UV work since 2003 and in-line UV jobs since February. This is when the company installed a new seven-color, 40˝ Heidelberg Speedmaster CD 102 press with in-line interdeck drying, coater, full UV capabilities, axis control and extended delivery. For off-line UV coating, the company uses Sakurai screen coaters. Hostmann-Steinberg inks are used for UV projects.

“Most of the work that we do is for the retail market,” says David Harlan, director of marketing, noting that the move to UV printing was fueled by customer demand. “The competitive nature of this market is such that most companies want their products to be noticed. There is no other process that can give you the high gloss look of UV.”

Between 60 and 70 percent of the company’s work involves UV processes, including folding cartons for business software, PC games and golf ball packaging.

“As the competition for the retail dollar grows, the need for our customers to differentiate their product on the shelf grows,” Harlan explains. “A UV folding carton next to an aqueous coated folding carton will always look much better.”

Excited Customer Base

Harlan points out that once customers are educated on the benefits of UV printing, they typically are enthusiastic about the possibilities. Color Spectrum Network markets the process through traditional marketing literature, the Internet and through its sales representatives.

Another printer ready to trumpet its new UV capabilities is Cincinnati-based Stevenson, the Color Company. Although UV currently makes up a small percentage of the company’s overall sales, Andy Stevenson, executive vice president, is confident the UV business will grow significantly thanks to the addition of a Mitsubishi Diamond 3000 press.

“We entered into this niche due to the fact that we are printing on a lot of Styrene and other non-porous substrates,” Stevenson says. “We also regularly print process and whites over foil-coated board.”

The move into UV printing with the Diamond 3000 installation has eliminated the need for two passes through the press, he notes.

“With the Diamond 3000, we can achieve greater efficiency and creativity in printing,” Stevenson adds. “This press can process a range of substrates from thin paper to heavy packaging board. Combined with its use of hybrid, fast-drying inks, it will help us ensure the highest level of sophistication for our clients.”

In another area of the state, as part of a $6 million upgrade at its Toledo location, Cenveo Inc. has purchased a six-color, 64˝ KBA Rapida 162a press with aqueous coating and hybrid UV capabilities, as well as extended delivery. The Toledo facility primarily uses UV ink products from Sun Chemical with curing equipment from Air Motion Systems, informs Chuck Delaney, general manager.

“The large format of the press is very well suited for high-end color point-of-purchase, packaging and corrugated liners,” Delaney says. “In addition, the KBA’s speed, ability to handle very large sheet sizes and to print on thicker substrates, coupled with its UV ink capability, allows us to better serve our customers’ needs with faster production times and flexible paper options. Clients who purchase high-end color catalogs and oversize posters have also been very interested in UV printing.”

Using UV inks, the press sheet is dry as soon it comes off the press, Delaney explains. In addition, Cenveo is now able to achieve high gloss levels with UV ink. As a result, press checks are fast and work can go to bindery and finishing much sooner than printing with conventional inks.

“Customers are always looking for faster production times and better looking ink coverage,” Delaney says. “Because UV curable inks sit on the surface of paper rather than spreading into its fiber, reproduction tends to be bold and crisp. Running UV inks can put glossier, more scuff-resistant printing on higher-quality paper.”

Shawn Welch, director of operations at Madison, WI-based American Printing, reveals his company has been experiencing growth in the double digits for the past three years. More than half of that growth has been a direct result of the capabilities that UV/hybrid technology has given American Printing, he says.

Welch cites the purchase of an eight-color, 40˝ Mitsubishi press in 2001 as a major milestone. “But simply buying the equipment does not open the floodgates,” he advises. “We had to first learn to do all of those techniques successfully, then market them. Partnering with vendors that can teach you how to do them successfully is the key.”

Welsh feels American Printing’s future growth is dependent upon how well it markets its UV capabilities. So the company offers customer tours and small, personal seminars on the subject.

“Having the capability to show customers something different is the foot in the door in many cases,” he stresses. “The tours are very helpful to our clients. We bring them in and show them in detail how we achieve the techniques. This one-on-one contact with a variety of people within our company leaves that customer with a very confident feeling.”

Pictorial Offset’s Samuels concludes that UV printing will go as far as customer demand takes it—and printers will enjoy the ride.

“Our customers are continually looking for ways to differentiate their offering to their customers from their competitors,” Samuels observes. “In servicing those customers—and their customers—we are continually looking for better ways to improve our service to them.”
 

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