Energy curing technologies continue to grow in popularity in flexo, sheetfed and digital printing as well as coatings.
Energy curing technologies have been growing in popularity due to their efficacy, sustainability and usefulness in a wide range of applications. The process is often referred to as radiation curing, or “radcure,” because both ultraviolet (UV) and electron beam (EB) are radiant energy sources.
Unlike other methods of curing, exposure to light is comparably non-hazardous. Additionally, this technology is typically less expensive than conventional coatings. In the past, hesitation to utilize this technology has stemmed from yellowing or cracking. In today’s market, however, those concerns are rarely warranted.
Growth in this market has been steady over the last few years. In fact, according to Kelly Kolliopoulos, Flint Group’s global marketing director for narrow web, for the narrow web global market, UV flexographic printing is seen as the fastest growing conventional printing process, with an expected growth rate of 4% per year.
“UV flexographic inks and printing systems provide high quality and better consistency in print, with good printing speeds and press productivity,” Kolliopoulos said. “UV flexographic printing is the number one printing technology used by narrow web printers, and is used for printing pressure sensitive labels, tags and tickets and other applications that can withstand higher process temperatures.
“UV LED flexographic printing inks are in their fourth year of use in North America, and are starting to penetrate the other regions around the world,” Kolliopoulos added. “UV LED curable inks provide reliable cure at high printing speeds because of the penetration depth and intensity of the LED curing lamp. The cooler process temperature of this print technology enables the converter to expand their business into short run flexible packaging and shrink sleeves. For these and other reasons, the North American market for UV LED curing inks has quadrupled in the last three years. EB curable inks are slow to penetrate the narrow web market due to the asset intensity of this printing technology. With the availability of low migration or food compliant inks for use with either mercury or LED UV systems, there is less need for a narrow web printer to adopt EB technology.”
Jonathan Graunke, vice president of UV/EB technology for INX International Ink Co., believes that this market is seeing strong growth.
“Like years past, we are seeing solid growth across our UV/EB inks and coatings, with sheetfed UV, H-UV type, and LED being exceptionally strong. We are also seeing high growth in our UV/EB coatings offerings. The ability to sustain year-over-year growth is a testament to the benefits of UV/EB technologies,” he said.
For its part, Toyo Ink Co., Ltd. has seen sales of high reactivity UV inks for offset, which includes LED and HUV types, rise not only in Japan but also on a global scale.
“In particular, interest in low-energy curing systems was strong in the US and Europe,” said Tadashi Nakano, manager, Global Innovation Division at Toyo Ink Co., Ltd. “The market for UV inks and highly reactive UV inks continues to grow, driven by an expanding packaging market with a wider range of base substrates as well as a growing commercial printing market brought about by UV’s superior resistance and cost-saving benefits.”