UV Printing — Horse of a Different Color
Is it expensive? Yes. A UV press costs substantially more than a conventional press. Inks can be twice as expensive. Ditto working with different coatings and chemistry. UV blankets cost about the same as conventional, although they tend to wear out fast under heavy usage. Plastic substrates are more expensive, often $2 or more per sheet. However, practitioners insist the extra cost is worth it in customer satisfaction, repeat business and margins that tend to be higher than with conventional, largely because having UV capability simply excludes a lot of the competition.
Within the constraints of time and budget, in-line UV capability can serve as a launch pad for flights of creative fancy, enabling printers to execute what designers previously could only imagine: unique or complex layered effects that take advantage of gloss, matte, gloss-dull, metallic, pearlescent, textured, micro-encapsulated coatings and more--all of which add value to print jobs without going outside or off-line.
Because good results depend on communication among the designer and printer, as well as press and consumables vendors, UV projects also tend to be collaborative, enabling the printer to advise his customer as specifications for the job are being developed. Involving the printer early is essential to keep expectations realistic and reduce the need for costly rework.
World of Hybrids
For printers that need the flexibility to run both UV and conventional on the same press, the hybrid approach may be the answer since, as noted before, the different blankets, rollers, inks and coatings used in dedicated UV printing tend to be more expensive than conventional. Hybrid technology enables a printer to switch between conventional and UV, often (but not always) utilizing the same blankets and less aggressive hybrid inks formulated to cure like UV inks. It is also said to be easier to maintain ink-water balance with hybrid inks than with the full UV variety.