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UV WEB OFFSET PRESSES -- Finding the Cure

November 2002

Improved press technologies, better ink formulations and the absence of environmental regulations are just a few of the reasons why UV web offset press designs are turning the heads of heatset web printers.

In the past, a heatset printer might not have considered a UV web press as a viable option in the pressroom. The cost and the complexity alone of UV printing outweighed any benefits a printer could gleam from printing and drying/curing with the UV process.

"Had anyone predicted five years ago that the UV market would be where it is today, they would have been met with scorn," admits Robert Pitel, vice president of sales and marketing for Sanden USA. "It is now feasible, if not increasingly common, to run at sustained speeds in excess of 1,000 fpm. This was impossible five years ago. Holographic printing, short-run magazines, and much work previously the domain of sheetfed equipment are now run regularly."

Andrew Fetherman, manager of the Muller Martini press division, agrees, adding that the improvement of UV ink has had a major impact on the UV press market.

"Not too long ago, UV inks offered a very small window of operation. Ink/water balance had to be extremely precise and toning was a recurring occupational hazard. But over the past few years, the ink manufacturers have made a huge investment to perfect their UV products. Now, they're easier to run and provide a bigger window of operation," says Fetherman.

But it is not just ink that has improved over the 30 years that the UV process has been available to the graphic arts industry, explains Frank Roberts, vice president of sales for Didde Press Systems by Alcoa Packaging Machinery. "The inks have made press manufacturers develop presses that are also more compatible with UV inks."

Because UV inks are sensitive to press-generated heat, temperature fluctuations make them break down, which affects printability. But, new press technology has taken care of that problem. The new generation of presses feature full cooling of ink trains and the web itself—so everything is kept at the optimum temperature. Maintaining the temperature in the proper zone has also helped eliminate ink breakdown and all the problems associated with it.

Since the UV process has gotten easier to use, and the new generation of presses offer the same advancements that are reducing make-readies and increasing the speed of conventional heatset web configurations, UV presses are now easier to run and much more productive to operate.


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