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Emitting Light: UV LED Curing

As reported in the last issue, there are major initiatives taking place with suppliers working together to further the understanding of the productivity improvements UV LED curing can offer. However, opinions are still divided on whether the technology is commercially viable at the present time.

Phoseon Technology has been developing UV LED technology since 2002. Stacy Hoge, marketing communications, said, 'UV LED curing systems are ideal for label and narrow web printers, enabling end users to print high quality material at maximum speeds. UV LED curing for label printing shows measurable advantages in higher productivity, lower energy usage, reduced heat load for thinner substrates, smaller footprints and clear environmental benefits. Being a solid-state device, UV LED systems are instant on/off with no warm-up time, and as there is no ozone creation, there is no need for air ducts or ventilation. All of this combined results in savings of up to 70% on electricity.'

'UV LED curing systems are ideal for label and narrow web printers, enabling end users to print high quality material at maximum speeds.'
Stacy Hoge, Marketing Communications Manager, Phoseon Technology

The company's FirePower product line allows new applications in the narrow and wide web segments while also offering increased speed in the flexo segment.  The intense UV output (up to 20 W/cm2) paired with UV LED flexo inks have achieved record press speeds, said Ms Hoge. The low heat output of the FirePower has enabled new capabilities such as heat sensitive materials, unsupported films and thinner substrates.

Dedicated UV LED inks are required for the process and manufacturers are developing new products for this market.

In September 2013, Flint Group Narrow Web won the award for innovation at The Label Industry Global Awards for its EkoCure UV LED flexo ink technologies. It was named joint winner alongside co-supplier and development partner, Mark Andy. EkoCure inks are now globally available and include products for rotary screen whites, various coatings and adhesives, and flexo shrink whites, amongst others.

Paragon Inks in the UK has released an ultra low migration (ULM) LED range. This meets all the requirements of 10 ppb low migration, low odour and low taint. Based on high quality European grade materials, the range offers high strength, fast curing at speeds of up to 180 m/min.

The company works closely with key OEMs, co-suppliers and customers to bring the market the next generation of energy curable ink and coating systems. It sees UV LED inks and coatings as the next rung in the ladder with regards to technology, bringing the printer and converter not only cost savings but flexibility of converting both supported and unsupported applications.

Mark Andy has been a trailblazer in adopting the technology, working in partnership with Phoseon Technology to develop UV LED curing for its narrow web presses. Its ProLED technology won the FlexoTech award for innovation in 2013.