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UV Web Printing -- Rays of Opportunity

November 2003
By Caroline Miller

Associate Editor

UV drying technology is continuing to make major in-roads into the web offset printing market as printers are forced to deal with heightened EPA restrictions, a sour economy and the need to further diversify their product offerings.

"This year, we've really seen a trend of printers seeking us out. In the past, we've gone to them, but now they are coming to us," reports Elinor Midlik, president of Prime UV Systems.

"We've seen a growing interest in UV systems regionally. We're hearing from many companies located in California, Maryland, Ohio and Massachusetts that are under strict EPA restrictions and cannot install any kind of heatset dryer on their presses. They are coming to us to get a UV system because they need to eliminate their VOCs and emissions," she says.

About Hot Air

Currently, conventional web offset ink technologies rely on exposure to heated air movement as a primary way to dry the ink film. The heated air is generally provided from an oven that is fired by natural gas. The exhaust produced from these ovens is laden with evaporated solvents or diluents from inks and coatings. With the exception of water-based technology, the exhaust is made up of Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs). The use of afterburners and solvent reclamation can limit some emissions, but not all.

Energy-curable inks, on the other hand, pass through a curing unit that uses high-energy electrical power, thus making them emission-free.

Additionally, ovens fired by natural gas are inefficient and can be costly to fuel and maintain, especially as natural gas prices continue to skyrocket, notes Jeff Koszuta, president of Rainbow Graphics in Des Plaines, IL. The $17 million mini-web printer currently runs an eight-unit Muller Martini A52. The company is planning to add another A52 later this year when it moves into a new, expanded location.

"We bought the A52 because we were looking for a press that provided additional speed and technology over what we currently had on our floor," Koszuta notes. The new generation of UV presses offers the same advancements that are reducing makereadies and increasing the speed of conventional heatset web configurations. In addition, UV presses are now easier to run and much more productive.

Because UV inks are sensitive to press-generated heat, temperature fluctuations cause them to break down, which affects printability. Today's 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 of the problems associated with it.


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