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High energy UV

Jun 1, 2009 12:00 AM


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The second annual Print UV Conference was held this March in Las Vegas. The sold-out event attracted 150 attendees and a broad range of sponsors.

According to Steve Metcalf, president and CEO of Air Motion Systems (AMS), the conference's success is a testament to the technology's growth. “Just trying to cover UV in one breakout session is inadequate,” he says. “Once a printer invests in UV it opens the door to so many variables. Beyond the [growth] opportunities, there's the challenge of getting familiar with inks, chemistries, coating formulations and different printing sequences. Networking also is important. Working together with key suppliers in the UV industry helps bring it all together.”

Conference organizers recruited users to address different aspects of UV on plastic, packaging and general commercial applications. While the printers didn't divulge all of their secrets, most were generous.

“In the past, some probably wouldn't have shared [a lot of] information, but the growth is so strong and it's the future direction of so many printers that it behooves everybody to [contribute],” says Metcalf.

Special effects and superior quality

Hal Stratton, director of new technologies for manroland introduced Rod Franson and Doug Mohagen of Carlson Print Group (Minneapolis) and Mike Winterham of Metropolitan Fine Printers (Vancouver).

Carlson, a division of American Spirit Graphics Corp. (ASGC) added the ROLAND 706 Hi-Print UV press with Prindor inline foiler for the “wow” factor in December 2008. Carlson has branded its inline foil capabilities on the 40-inch, 6-color press as ColourFoil. Thanks to its UV capabilities, Carlson can print specialty applications on top of the inline foil, for example adding high gloss in different areas on a sheet.

Veteran UV practitioner Metropolitan Fine Printers detailed its experiences with 10-unit manroland 700 presses equipped with Eagle Eye and other quality control technology. Delivery times prompted the printer's first UV foray. “We can turn jobs instantly,” says Winterham. “Uncoated jobs are amazing and we don't have to varnish them.”

The printer, winner of a 2008 AMERICAN PRINTER Environmental Excellence award, won a 2007 InterTech award for its UV blanket refurbishment program. Metropolitan reportedly is one of the few printers in the world using UV printing in combination with 10 micron Staccato as its standard process.

Stratton cited press consistency and Metropolitan's tight process control as a key factor in achieving this milestone. “Their process control is very good. They know their platemaking system, plates and consumables inside and out. They can accurately predict and execute the UV process.”

Outstanding production efficiencies and environmentalism

Ken Kozol, manufacturing manager of Irwin-Hodson Press (Portland, OR) teamed with KBA North America's Chris Travis to describe the commercial printer's experience with a KBA Rapida 105 41-inch, 10-color long perfector with double coaters and full conventional and UV capabilities. Prior to installing the press in the summer of 2008, Irwin-Hodson had no UV experience.

Kozol, who attended the inaugural UV conference, said as the company investigated the technology and its advantages, the more apparent it became that UV was the way to go. “When you look at the efficiencies as well the environmental aspects, it's something we can offer our clients right now that most of our competition can't.”

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UV specialties at Irwin-Hodson include annual reports, marketing collateral, catalogs, art prints and calendars. Self-mailers, brochures and short-run catalogs are printed digitally.

Many UV printers Kozol contacted started with hybrid UV in the hopes of an easier learning curve. But Irwin-Hodson opted to go full UV from day one. “UV has been around a long time,” says Kozol. “It has a reputation as a tough technology to master, but there have been so many advancements, even in the past five years, it's opened the doors for companies like ours. We've learned a lot, and the rewards far outweigh the challenges.”

Irwin-Hodson's Rapida 105 is reportedly the only one of its kind west of the Mississippi. “What makes it unique is it's a perfector, 5-color over 5-color, but it also has double coaters on it,” explains Kozol. For high-end special effects, the press can be configured as 10 units with double coaters. Jobs are produced in one pass vs. several that might be required on a less sophisticated press.

Great gloss levels for ‘green’ UV coatings

Teaming with an ink vendor, the Oregon printer has created Soya-Kote, a trademarked line of soya-based aqueous and UV coatings. The coatings are available in gloss, satin and dull as well as an extended line of special effects.

“It's one of the most rewarding things we've done in the last year,” says Kozol. “The end result is fantastic. We're not only using bio-renewable materials, we've replaced a great deal of petroleum [products].”

Best of all, the printer is achieving a gloss rate far beyond that of the conventional coatings it replaced. “We're getting gloss levels in perfecting mode that are in the 94 to 96 range as a wet trap, without a double pass,” reports Kozol. “It's been a great selling tool, people can't believe the results.”

Irwin-Hodson's next project is Soya-Kure, a complete line of soya-based UV inks. “We're just finishing an effects book that represents the whole line,” reports Kozol. “We've created [and branded] several effect coatings, everything from Soya Touch to Soya Sparkle and Soya Suede.”

Kozol plans to attend next year's UV Conference. “It's a great tool. The printing industry must stick together and rebuild itself. To have this energy, to share openly what's working and to be part of something new and exciting is a great thing.”

Vibrant colors and spiffy substrates

Komori's Angelo Possemato joined Jack Gustafson of JohnsByrne Co. (Niles, IL) to review some award winning UV work, including “Reality UV.” As noted in February 2007's “Razzle Dazzle,” JohnsByrne printed the book on a 40-inch Komori Lithrone S40 press equipped with interdeck UV and inline UV coating, using full-cure and hybrid UV inks.

“Reality UV” showcases a variety of UV printing and coating techniques on paper (coated and uncoated), plastic and foil. The images were produced with 20 micron FM stochastic screening. Another project, a translucent lug-on for a Maybelline POP display was printed on a Lithrone LS 840 40-inch press. (See “Tough Enough,” January 2009.)

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Unbelievable potential

Steve Trevino of Versatile Card Technology, Inc. (VCT) (Downers Grove, IL) described some production efficiencies achieved on its new Mitsubishi 10-color Diamond 3000TP tandem perfector. UV curing on both sides essentially enables the plastic card printer to cut production times in half.

Mitsubishi's Vince Kowalski, Trevino's co-presenter, said he wouldn't start a plant today without a UV press. “Printing has become a commodity with 5- and 6-color 40-inch presses all over. UV provides a lot of versatility for delving into specialty markets.”

Like IST's Bill Bonallo, Kowalksi would like to see more stringent labeling requirements for hybrid products. Nonetheless, he applauds the maturation of modern UV consumables in general. “Today it's almost a no-brainer to open a can of ink, put it in the fountain and know what you're going to get. Ten years ago, you crossed your fingers. It's really come a long way.”

Kowalski, a first-time attendee, said the event serves an important purpose in disseminating technical information. “UV is not nearly difficult as some people [think it is]. That's where the education factor comes in. The potential is unbelievable — we're just scratching the surface.”

What's next?

AMS' Metcalf offered an overview on LED and related UV developments that promise longer lamp life with dramatically lower power consumption. “LED is already starting to take off in lower line speed applications such as grand-format inkjet machines,” said Metcalf.

“To control ink and coating chemistry there has to be a handshake between the ink formulators and light source [suppliers],” says Metcalf, citing Ryobi's partnership with Toyo Ink. At Drupa, the two companies offered a concept demonstration of an LED UV system on Ryobi's 525GX press. (Matsushita Electric Works supplied the LED-UV IR system.)

Metcalf predicts we may see a few early LED sheetfed adopters this year, but notes the technology is still in its infancy. “If I were buying a UV systems today, I wouldn't be concerned about missing the boat, but you'll be hearing a lot more about it in the years to come.”


Katherine O'Brien is the editor of AMERICAN PRINTER. Contact her at KOB@americanprinter.com.

An interesting agenda

UV 2009 speakers included Leo Burnett's Vince Cook (“Unleashing UV's Creative Force,”); UV Print Control's Kurt Kroening (“Killer UV Print”); Curtis Packaging's Don Droppo (“Growing Green”); INX's Mike Sajdak (“Green UV Inks, Coatings and Sustainability”); Transilwrap's Cliff Brunson (“Green Plastics? Seriously!”); and Zeller & Gmelin's Les Watkins (“FDA Approved Inks and Coatings for Direct Food Contact”).

Sponsors included Absolute Graphic Technologies USA, ACTEGA, Air Motion Systems, Conti-Tech, Eltosch, INX, Joules Angstrom U.V. Printing Inks, KBA North America, Komori, manroland, Mitsubishi, Pamarco Global Graphics/Diamond, Pamarco Global Graphics/Sentinel, Ryobi Graphic Systems, Toyo Ink, Transilwrap and Zeller+Gmelin Corp.

The third annual Print UV Conference will return to Las Vegas next spring. Dates are being finalized — see www.printuv.com.

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Short-run UV

Presstek (Hudson, NH) is pushing the short-run UV envelope. At Drupa 2008, the company announced a UV printing version of its Presstek 52DI and 34DI digital offset presses. Adding UV capabilities to the waterless DI presses supports faster turn times on a wider range of substrates.

UV ink's instant curing seems well matched with the DI presses' quick makeready — a “standard” DI press reportedly achieves sellable color within 20 sheets.

“With UV capabilities, a printer can compete for high-end lenticular and other jobs on non-porous substrates,” says Mark Sullivan, Presstek product manager for digital presses. Applications include labels, direct mail, packaging, POP and general commercial printing.

Sullivan further notes that “Unlike a tower press, there's no transfer cylinder on these DI presses. Registration is dead on. And the ‘sweet spot’ for the DI press is one of the fastest growing segments of the industry; quantities from 500 to 20,000.”

In addition to being VOC-free, environmental advantages for a DI press include on-press imaging of chemistry-free plates. “This not only reduces the materials that need to be purchased and disposed of, but the pressroom also benefits from reduced emissions,” says Sullivan.

Presstek currently has several DI UV installations — further details are expected to be announced next month.

See www.presstek.com.

MLP celebrates 25 years, showcases new press platform

Mitsubishi Lithographic Presses (Lincolnshire, IL) recently hosted an open house for the trade press and some association executives. President Marke Baker and Dennis Dessilla, national sales director, invited attendees to get a closer look the Diamond V3000LX which debuted at Graph Expo 2008. Visitors also toured the press vendor's new customer lounge and learned more about the company's 25-year history in the United States.

“Looking ahead to the rest of 2009 and beyond, the key message is Mitsubishi is committed to bringing breakthroughs to the market to help printers succeed in this new economic environment,” Baker said.

More ups for Coastal Printing

Coastal Printing (Sarasota, FL) installed the first Diamond V3000LS in the United States this past December. “I've been in printing since I was 19 years old and have run every press under the sun,” Jack Palmer, Coastal's vice president of operations told the group. “We bought this press because of the relationship we've had with Mitsubishi over the years. I appreciate their integrity.”

The press has a maximum sheet size of 29 1/2 × 41 11/32 inches and accommodates paper, plastic and up to 40 pt. board. Palmer says that the slightly larger format provides a competive advantage vs. 40-inch presses. He's also keen on the automation: “I'd heard of 10 to 15 minute makereadies before, but I'd never seen it until now. We do five four-color makereadies a day without breaking a sweat.”

The Diamond V3000LS's SimulChanger lets Palmer's crew change all six plates at the same time within a minute and six seconds. “When you hang eight or 10 sets of plates in a day, the savings you gain puts your competitors at a major disadvantage in pricing jobs,” he said.

An oil-less gripper shaft torsion bar and oil-less bearings on gripper shafts of impression and transfer cylinders save operators 75 hours per year in lubrication time. Coastal routinely runs the press at 16,200 sph.

Diamond Color Navigator, Mitsubishi's color adjustment option, automates the fine-tuning of colors to match color proofs. It reduces dependence on press operators' color knowledge and eliminates complicated ink key moves. It also simplifies remote-controlled operations related to adjustments, such as register, water fountain and ink fountain rotation speed and ductor roller on/off timing.

“At Drupa 2008, Mitsubishi covered up the keys on the press console and ran the demonstration press using just Color Navigator,” recalled Palmer. “We were extremely impressed.”

Ready for UV

Founded in 1971, the 57-employee printer specializes in full-color books, magazines, product catalogs and brochures. Coastal Printing currently doesn't print UV, but its Diamond V3000LS is prepared for that eventuality. “It's all there but the lamps,” said Palmer.

High-speed UV printing

Want to see the UV components on a modern press? It's not easy. “You can't really tell today [at a glance] if a machine has UV components on it,” says Clarence Penge, vice president, sheetfed product management for Heidelberg (Kennesaw, GA). “That's because the presses are designed with UV in mind. If you look at the position of the UV interdeck lamps, they're designed to be extremely close to the machine. Every centimeter closer to the sheet represents higher efficiency — less energy is being used for curing.”

Heidelberg's Speedmaster XL105 reportedly can run UV at 18,000 sph. “UV printers know ink and water balance is critical. Most can't imagine running at 18,000 sph,” says Penge. “We can do this due to the machine design — the positioning and efficiency of the IST UV lamps, the delivery, ink train, ink mist extraction and so on.”

The XL105's ink train has five oscillating rollers vs. the four typically found on presses. Narrow gap technology provides high-pressure water cooling for consistent temperature control.

Best configuration

Penge, who has been with Heidelberg since 1994, recalls that as UV gained a foothold in the offset market, some customers favored a cautious approach. “They wanted to walk before they ran, so they went with a hybrid machine [switching between UV and conventional].”

Hybrid printers generally have a longer learning curve because they aren't doing a high volume of UV work and thus aren't gaining daily practical experience. To help customers determine the best press configuration, the vendor reviews the status quo. “We'll look at the work a customer is currently doing, the sequence they're using to run those jobs and ask them about other applications they see in their market,” says Penge.

A helping hand

Heidelberg has helped customers with various levels of UV expertise achieve peak production efficiency. One customer with no prior UV experience asked the press vendor to train its operators on equipment as well as applications.

“We have a machine set up in our demo center where we can show customers UV lamps, inks, fountain solutions and really work through fine tuning the process before their press gets on the floor,” says Penge.