Are UV Inks Right for Your Print Jobs?
If a printer hasn't mentioned ultraviolet (UV) inks to you yet, it won't be long.
That's because printers are excited about the considerable benefits that printing with UV inks can afford their company, including faster turnaround time (UV inks take seconds to dry on press) and lower environmental impact (UV inks don't use solvents and produce lower emissions than conventional inks). Although these advantages are real, they don't mean you should start using UV inks on every project.
UV Inks Benefit the Printer
UV inks aren't the same kind of inks used in traditional printing. Rather, they are dual-state substances: solids that remain in a liquid form until exposed to UV light. The ink is applied during the printing process on a press, in the same way as conventional ink, but then the ink is dried within seconds by lights mounted on the press.
Since the UV ink dries as the sheet passes under the light, the sheet is ready for the next production step as soon as it comes off the press. With conventional inks, the printer must allow the sheet to dry completely, which often means overnight, so using UV inks allows the printer to get more work done in less time.
Some conventional printing inks contain chemical solvents -- in some inks, up to 70 percent. As conventional inks dry, the solvents evaporate and volatile organic compounds (VOC) are released.
These compounds are considered environmental hazards, and some localities have passed laws to limit the amount of VOC released into the air or the maximum amount of VOCs in products. If a printer can eliminate solvent-based inks from the workplace, he can lessen an environmental hazard and in doing so may also comply with local regulations.
UV Inks Can Benefit the Print Buyer
Besides the upside for the printer, there are several benefits that print buyers and designers can derive from using UV inks. Here's a checklist to help you decide if a project is right for UV inks:
- It is a rush job. Since UV inks dry so quickly on- or off-press, you can get a faster turnaround on a job than conventional inks.
- You are using uncoated stock and want a crisp look to the text and graphics. Conventional inks sink into uncoated stock, but UV inks are cured within seconds on press, so they don't have time to settle into the stock. With either conventional or UV inks, the printer must have experience in controlling dot gain on uncoated stocks, so make sure he knows you want a crisp look on the finished piece.
- You are using coated stock and want a satin (softer, duller) finish. UV inks give you this look on coated stock.
- You want to control the amount of smudging and abrasion. Since UV inks flash-dry on press, they resist smudging and scrapes more than conventional inks, which remain a bit soft after printing.
Sound too good to be true? There naturally is a small "but." Ink as such is not a big cost in any print job, but with a UV ink job, a printer needs different blankets, rollers, inks, and coating for the press.
If you're interested in using UV inks, talk to your printer about the cost differences before making your final decision.
You can also have your printer coat an entire sheet or just a portion (a spot) with a UV coating. The coating is a clear substance that reacts the way UV inks do when exposed to UV light -- it cures very quickly. Mark Latunski, research chemist and project leader for the Flint Group North America, explains why you might consider using this finishing touch: "UV coating is immediately recognizable for its high-gloss, wet-look finish."
He adds that if UV coatings are used over conventional inks, you get the best results if the printer waits a day or two after printing to let the inks dry. Otherwise, the coating may look uneven because the inks continue to dry under the coat that is applied too soon.
"The effect is slightly duller on top of the image area contrasting with the high gloss of the surrounding area," he notes. A UV coating also adds an extra layer of protection from abrasion without adding thickness or reducing flexibility. Plan for extra time and make sure your printer takes the extra time if you want a UV coating over conventional inks.
UV Inks -- Maybe
UV inks can help you achieve the look that you have envisioned for a piece, plus it can save time and add extra protection. However, it pays to walk through and compare the cost of the project with your printer and, as with any print project, allow for enough time if you want a UV coating over conventional inks.
©2007 PaperSpecs. All rights reserved.
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