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UV printing shines

May 1, 2001 12:00 AM


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Hybrid inks deliver distinctive, high-gloss, high-quality products

When it comes to complex printing jobs, Quality Graphics Center doesn't shy away.

“Whether it's eight-, 10- or even 12-color work, we don't back off. We take pride in being able to take on difficult jobs that some printers avoid,” says Ed Sadler, plant manager for Quality Graphics Center, Inc., a commercial printer that has been operating for more than 40 years. “That's our niche.”

Quality Graphics specializes in high-end work, such as annual reports, and its customers include Verizon Wireless, Halston, Prudential and Honeywell. It operates from a 12,000-sq.-ft. facility in Roselle, NJ, and employs 40.

A SPECIAL NICHE

When the popular-music cable network MTV approached Quality Graphics Center to print a collection of advertisements for the VH1/Vogue Fashion Awards, the printer knew it could give the ads the unique look and feel sought by the trendsetting TV producers.

The job could have been a nightmare, Sadler says. Each advertiser sent film for its own ad, and the films had varying screen rulings. Although Quality Graphics Center has been direct-to-plate for three years, it had to hand-strip each ad. But the effort was well worth it. “Everybody who sees the book raves about it,” Sadler says, attributing much of the book's appeal to the use of UV printing.

In mid-2000, Quality Graphics Center installed an A.C.T. Spectral UV curing system from Nordson Corp. (Amherst, OH) on its 40-inch, six-color Mitsubishi F16 sheetfed press.

The UV curing process exposes certain photo-reactive materials in specialized inks and coatings to UV light, instantaneously transforming the liquids into a solid, and without releasing volatile organic compounds into the environment. “UV curing can give spectacular gloss and excellent protective values,” Sadler insists. “We have seen gloss readings in the high 90 percent range.”

Making the move to UV printing was not an easy decision. The installation required a capital investment in curing equipment; the UV inks and coatings are also expensive. Quality Graphics' owners, Audrey and Richard Yeats, however, bought into UV printing because they believed it would help them enter a niche for high-end commercial printing.

Sadler notes that printers who offer UV curing can easily differentiate their printed products. Quality Graphics Center uses Sun Chemical Hy-Bryte hybrid inks and coatings on spot UV jobs, resulting in attention-grabbing gloss or matte surfaces on the printed piece.

The hybrid inks and coatings combine conventional sheetfed ink with UV curing materials. They offer the process stability, high quality and ease of use of conventional inks with the high gloss and fast drying of UV inks, as well as higher rub- and scuff-resistance.

They also enable the printer to run jobs on press without special rollers or long cleanups between conventional and UV jobs. A conventional coating unit can be used to apply the UV coatings, although anilox roll coaters may have to be installed to lay down the thicker coating required for high gloss.

Now, after nearly a year of running, Sadler says the hybrid UV inks have gained better mileage and higher stability on press. When combined with improved product quality, this factor helps compensate for the higher costs.

VENDOR SUPPORT

Sadler admits that Quality Graphics Center has had to change some of its operations since installing the curing system, but UV printing has not added any time to the production of a job. “We're running at speeds right up to the press capacity of 16,000 impressions per hour,” he says. “Chemistry is the key to offset lithography, and you must have consistency and stability.”

The success of the installation was due in large part to vendor assistance. “When you're a leader in new technology, if you don't have strong vendor support, you can be hung out to dry,” Sadler says. Spectral, the curing system's UV lamp supplier, worked closely with Quality Graphics Center during installation, and even uses the printer to demo the product. Harris & Bruno Machine Co. (Roseville, CA), manufacturers of coating system technology, also worked closely with the printer to develop an anilox roll coater that can effectively lay down the heavier coating required for maximum gloss.

Sadler also has praise for Sun Chemical. The vendor sent its research and development lab personnel to Quality Graphics Center to observe an early trial of the Hy-Bryte inks. Sun Chemical representatives observed firsthand a water pick-up problem and fixed it immediately, Sadler notes.

“Many of these ideas start in a lab and then have to be field-tested. It takes that interaction between printer and supplier to continually improve,” the plant manager explains. Now, just a few months after printing the VH1/Vogue job, he believes Quality Graphics Center could do an even better job with the improvements made to its UV process and materials.