UV LED Technology on the Horizon for Wide Web Applications

Ideal for laminating adhesives, coatings and inks

UV LED curing technology presents numerous opportunities for wide web applications. Although most applications on the market today are in digital inkjet, screen, narrow web flexographic and sheet-fed offset printing, and structural bonding, Phoseon Technology sees growing interest in UV LED for wide web applications.

UV LED laminating adhesives is an area of focus for Phoseon. The benefits of UV LED laminating include an immediate cure and a long pot life — also known as working life, or the period that chemicals remain usable when mixed. In addition, using laminating adhesives, as opposed to solvent-less adhesives, enables the laminated web to be slit, converted and filled immediately after the laminator with no controlled environment post-cure processing time requirements.

The wide web market currently uses traditional UV curing systems for protective varnish, silicone release and functional coatings, but businesses are starting to invest time and resources into developing UV LED solutions for their coating applications.

“Companies have started to integrate UV LED curing into their wide web coating lines because of the benefits and growing level of interest in the use of UV LED sources within this application space,” says Jennifer Heathcote, director of business development at Phoseon Technology. “While it is likely some applications may not yet be viable for LED today, there are several coating lines that are successfully being converted, and this trend is expected to grow in the coming years.”

In addition, wide web UV applications that were never achievable with conventional arc or microwave systems due to the large degree of heat transfer, are becoming possible with LED, thus expanding the total UV curing market.

Most of the UV LED formulation work over the past 10 years has been in the areas of inks, adhesives and over-protective varnishes. Many coatings companies are just now starting to evaluate UV LED curing systems for use in curing b-stage, functional, and hard coat chemistry.

“The fact that UV LED coating formulations are garnering attention suggests the latest improvements in the technology are making it increasingly viable — technically and economically — for use in wide web coatings applications,” Heathcote says. “UV equipment suppliers have achieved success in designing and producing UV LED curing systems in short head lengths, and these designs are rapidly being extended to longer lengths.”

Heathcote says that while there are upfront costs to begin using, or switching to, UV LED curing for wide web printing, companies often quickly recoup their investment. UV LED curing systems have no moving or consumable parts, virtually eliminating downtime for maintenance and repairs.

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