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Curing the LED Way

The topic of UV curing these days tends to focus on UV LEDs, with the main manufacturers of curing systems all having brought new products to market in the last few years.

There are many advantages of UV LED curing technology in terms of capabilities, economics and environmental benefits, however, initial costs are still relatively high, and traditional UV curing looks set to dominate the market for some time to come as far as flexo printing is concerned.

'LED curing technology has advanced significantly in recent years and now offers enough power and capability to support flexographic printing applications.'
Stacy Hoge, Phoseon Technology

Having said that, the curing technology created a real buzz at Label­expo in Brussels last year, and showed the rapid adoption of UV LED curing. Stacy Hoge of Phoseon Technology said, 'More than 80 UV LED  curing lamps were installed on equipment at the 2013 show, up from 10 instances during the 2011 show for an eight fold increase. Curing uses ranged from pinning to full cure and many of the machines were 100% UV LED based.'

The technology could also be seen in action on a Gallus press at the 2013 show. The cooperation between Phoseon, Gallus and Siegw­erk had already been demonstrated on a flexo press at the 2009 Labelexpo show where a Gallus press with a UV LED lamp was exhibited. However, the lamps used then were far less powerful than the current ones, which resulted in a number of production restrictions. At 16 W/cm², the radiated power of the Phoseon lamps now available is twice as high, which ensures their efficient use in a wide range of applications.

The Phoseon FirePower water­-cooled products offer intense UV output, which enables end users to print at maximum speeds. These products utilise the company's patented SLM technology to provide intense UV output, while using a fraction of the power required with traditional UV arc lamps.

Stacy Hoge said, 'LED curing technology has advanced significantly in recent years and now offers enough power and capability to support flexographic printing applications. The flexo industry continues to challenge and drive the ink formulation/chemical material suppliers with UV LED wavelength optimised materials. At the same time, UV LED curing units have become more efficient in delivering higher energy to the media thus driving not only environmentally clean, energy efficient solutions, but also increased throughput and process flexibility.'