The utilization of inks using Ultra-Violet wavelength light to cure them is increasing all over the world, in all printing processes. Instead of relying on oil/solvent-based inks to cure by evaporation, thereby releasing unwanted VOCs (volatile organic compounds) into the atmosphere, UV energy instantly polymerizes a combination of monomers and oligomers present in inks and coatings, onto a wide range of substrates. If that sounds a little fancy, in practical terms it means UV dries and fixes the ink instantly, so the printed item is ready-to-use straight off the printer.
The uptake of UV is strongest in the industrial inkjet printing market. These are the printers that make billboards, POP displays, posters, window signs, exhibition booth graphics, backlit panels, wall and floor décor, product decoration, printed textiles and, increasingly, labels, cartons and boxes for packaging use. Not so long ago these products would have been printed by the ‘silk screen’ process where thick pigmented inks are squeegeed through a fine mesh directly onto the substrate. The screen process is still around, but inkjet UV has taken vast chunks of its market due to its speed, cost and convenience.