Advantages and Disadvantages of UV Inks
UV inks are rising in popularity for several reasons. Water-based inks are cumbersome to dry and solvent-based inks require removal of part of the solvent, after transfer, which is challenging to dispose of with environmental regulations. Both water-based inks and solvent-based inks require a drying process which takes time and also reduces the efficacy of the ink as ink costs in volume and around 40% of the ink base is lost in drying or curing.
UV inks do not dry in the air. They have no evaporative properties and do not need them. Like liquid plastic, they react only to the exposure to UV radiation, causing the liquid to solidify. This means that about 100% of the ink volume is used, reducing the cost of printing significantly. Additionally, because the ink doesn’t dry until it is cured, the printing cells can be left with ink on them, even over the weekend, without the need for cleanup and with no dried-on ink.
UV inks offer many benefits such as being more environmentally friendly than solvent-based inks, good opacity, light-fastness, resistance to smearing, sharp contrast, and a nice gloss. The UV inks, again because of the lack of evaporative agents, will maintain consistency throughout the whole press run, never getting thick or sticky.
Even water-based inks often use chemical catalyst components that require harsh cleaners to remove, when cleaning the printing equipment. Cleaning must be done on a regular basis to prevent the plugging of the printing cells, leading to high costs over time. Thus UV inks save time, money, and environmental waste by greatly reducing the need for cleaning.
But there are disadvantages to UV inks as well. UV inks do not dry without curing, as mentioned above, and thus if they are spilled, it is a challenge to clean them up. And if a worker steps in the ink, it will track from room to room until it is worn off the shoe. Even though waste, cleaning, and man-hour costs are less with UV inks, the initial startup costs are higher because of the need for UV curing equipment. And a variety of anilox roles are needed to adjust print color. Finally, press operators need to be mindful to avoid contact with their skin because UV inks can cause irritation and, in some people, allergic reactions.
That being said, UV inks are still rising in use and will likely continue. They are overall safer, better for the environment, and are more cost-efficient (after the initial changeover expense) than water-based and solvent-based inks. And with all the advantages offered by UV inks, many printers of various types would benefit from making the change to UV inks.