We have recently outfitted one of our ManRoland 700 presses with LED-UV curing technology, and our new Komori GL840PC (due to be installed this summer) also includes the same technology.
LED-UV curing systems instantly solidify printing inks, coatings, and adhesives, among other applications. We would like to take a moment to share the benefits this technology brings to printing, converting, and finishing. Also, we will highlight a bit about its history, how it works, and answer some frequently asked questions regarding LED-UV curing.
The Basics and Benefits of LED-UV Curing from AMS Spectral UV:
AMS Spectral UV – A Baldwin Technology Company – develops and manufactures LED-UV curing solutions for printing and other applications. Their patented LED-UV systems are considered the best available on the market today.
Specifically developed for the printing industry, this solution is ideal for printers who are ready to move away from hot, messy, and toxic conventional drying methods, or environmentally regulated conventional UV curing methods, to enjoy the many improvements enabled by LED-UV curing.
Adding an LED-UV system to a commercial sheetfed offset press brings game-changing benefits to the table; the following are some of the most prominent:
1. Inks cure instantly, so there is no need for drying time or powder
2. Printers can expand substrate offerings to include plastics and other materials that don’t absorb inks
3. Heat-sensitive substrates can be printed on safely, with quality results
4. LED-UV lamps last significantly longer (10x) than traditional UV lamps, saving time and money (LED-UV modules can provide 30,000+ hours of curing)
5. Heat, ozone, and mercury are eliminated from press rooms, making them safer and improving overall environmental impact
6. UV inks are free of solvents, so LED-UV curing eliminates the release of VOCs (volatile organic compounds) and avoids the environmental issues caused by them
7. The energy costs and heat-related hazards of heatset drying can be bypassed
8. Value-added coatings can be used efficiently and effectively
9. High-end printing effects, like strike through, can be achieved, as well as further developments in this arena that are broadening creative applications and what is possible with printing.
The History of LED-UV Curing:
Ultraviolet (UV)-enabled curing processes have existed for decades: They were introduced in the 1960s. UV-based curing is a solvent-free process conducted at a low temperature with a high speed to cure using polymerization instead of evaporation.
Simply put, curing is different than drying, and when it comes to inks, adhesives and coatings, LED-UV curing is an instant (or near instant) process that does not involve matter changing from a liquid to a fixed-in-place solid by evaporation (of water or solvents) or by absorption.
Traditional UV curing employs mercury arc lamps to create ultraviolet light, which causes inks, adhesives, and coatings specific to the process to undergo a chemical reaction (called polymerization) that converts them from a liquid to a solid when exposed to it. Ideally, they become securely stuck to the substrate onto which they were printed, meaning that they are securely cured with adequate depth of cure so that they are not tacky or sticky.
Mercury arc lamps are widely deployed as UV curing solutions because they work well, and have been around a long time, so people are familiar with how they function. They have significant downsides to be aware of. They produce ozone and require exhaust systems to maintain air quality. Also, they use a lot of energy and create a lot of heat. Since they use mercury, there is a long-term environmental impact and mercury arc lamps are facing ever-increasing monitoring due to this fact, like the European Union’s recent Restriction on Hazardous Substances II (RoHS II) regulation, which bans the use of heavy metals including lead, mercury, and cadmium.
LED-UV curing is a relatively new process that many printers and converters are still learning about, but it provides solutions to the issues most commonly encountered with heat-set drying and traditional UV curing, such as quality and environmental impact.
LED-UV curing can accomplish the same results as traditional UV curing and much more. Printers can use heat-sensitive substrates they would not have considered. Unique and artistic effects can be achieved. Additionally, there are major environmental benefits to switching to LED-UV based curing.
About AMS’s LED-UV Systems:
AMS Spectral UV currently manufactures turn-key, patent-protected LED-UV systems. Its flagship models are the LED-UV™ XP (Extendable Profile) Series, the XO Series, the XD Series and The Blade Series curing systems, which offer the highest curing intensities and greatest working range available on the market today, among many other revolutionary advantages.
Their systems are considered the best LED-UV option in the world and defy the common misconception that the LED lamp must be positioned extremely close to the substrate to obtain a quality cure. This ability is enabled by a technology called Peak Optics, which produces ideal collimation of UV light at varying distances, rather than “flooding” the substrate surface with it and losing intensity when placed further from the media source.
AMS also manufactures the XD (Extendable Direct Energy) Series, which provides a fast, affordable option for integrating LED-UV curing into machines of all sizes, including low-pile and medium-speed presses, and the XO Series, which offers unique optic abilities suitable for high-stress industrial settings.
AMS custom builds each LED-UV system to perfectly fit the press it will be installed on and can build modules as small as 75mm wide (3″) for narrow flexo web presses, or as large as 3.6m wide (142″) for large offset presses, depending on customer needs.
Tucker Castleberry is committed to constantly improving to deliver superior products to our customers. If you are ready to experience the quality for yourself, give Tucker Castleberry a call!