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Tough enough: UV Innovation

Jan 1, 2009 12:00 AM


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While conventional lithography is the industry standard, ultraviolet (UV) printing widens the scope to more challenging substrates and demanding applications. On a press fitted for UV, the lamps cure the specially formulated inks and coatings immediately upon exposure. This not only helps eliminate dot gain but increases scuff resistance and enables multiple effects to be applied inline, often in one pass. Additionally, the 100% solid process is VOC-free.

We spoke with several printers who are employing UV technology to help them stand out from the crowd. Their stories demonstrate the efficiency, flexibility and potential of this printing method.

Bells and whistles

“UV printing certainly has opened up some great opportunities for us and for the end-user customers,” says Robert Gay, president of 20-year-old, full-service printing firm The Mallard Press Inc. (Lombard, IL).

The Mallard Press recently completed a project for a marketing group that touched several of the printer's pain points. Quick turn, special effects, difficult substrates and budget constraints were just a few of the challenges to producing this time-sensitive marketing campaign. “We essentially needed to convince our customer that we could succeed in all of these areas, or else the project was going to go away,” says Gay.

The customer's point of purchase (POP) display project called for small quantities with high impact. “The customer was thinking of adding LED lights and moving parts to the display to get the attention they didn't think that they could get from traditional printing,” Gay explains. “After reviewing the cost associated with the blinking lights and moving characters, the project was on its way to being scrapped.”

The Mallard Press presented a sample from a previous job to them, which was printed in UV 4-color process on holographic material. The client liked the idea and retooled the POP design around printing UV on the rainbow foil.

“The UV process essentially brought print back to being the primary focus of the project,” says Gay.

The project consisted of printing on custom-mounted rainbow holographic foil and rigid vinyl. “When you print on holographic foil, you're never exactly sure of what you're going to get,” says Gay. “With our KBA Genius 52UV, we were able to produce a press proof on the holographic foil easily.”

The 20-inch Genius 52 UV waterless offset press, manufactured by KBA's (Williston, VT, and Dallas) subsidiary, Metronic, prints four colors standard (five optional) and runs at a maximum 8,000 sph. It has a small footprint and features an extended delivery for handling film, plastic and board.

The printer's client approved the design and included holographic foil in multiple parts of the final campaign. The Mallard Press created a 3D effect by diecutting and mounting images that were printed on plastic, also using the KBA UV press. “With UV printing, we were able to meet and exceed the customer's expectations. And, more importantly, the customer was able to go to market with the promotional materials and generate positive results from a campaign that almost never got off the ground,” says Gay.

See www.mallardpress.com and www.kba-usa.com.

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Advanced problem solving

JohnsByrne Co. (Niles, IL), a $60 million printer founded in 1959, recently completed a UV project that marked a milestone for the company. The translucent lug-on for a Maybelline POP display was printed and finished completely in-house.

The firm installed a Komori (Rolling Meadows, IL) Lithrone LS 840 40-inch press in the summer of 2007. Additionally, two new folder-gluers produce up to 100,000 pieces/hr., two new Bobst diecutters feature blanking capabilities, and a Bobst Vision Foil press offers much improved production flexibility and throughput. JohnsByrne has been printing UV for 14 years and Doug Still, director of marketing services, estimates 60% of the company's work is UV.

“Being an early adopter in any technology has its challenges,” Still explains. “Our first thought was that UV would make printing on alternative substrates as easy as flipping a light switch. We quickly learned that you must study your inks, coatings and substrate to insure they are compatible and all the criteria are being met for post operations. As we developed our internal processes, we learned how to qualify a substrate and develop solutions to insure success.”

For this POP project, JohnsByrne offered its client several options. “The complexity of the design elements added to the challenge of production,” Still explains. “Through substrate research and press testing, we concluded that four hits of opaque white printed first on clear, 40-pt. PETG [plastic] would deliver the best results.” Adding to the challenge, the piece needed to be hot foil stamped and foil overprinted. The client provided a particular shade of gold foil to match. “This foil color had been discontinued by the supplier, so we simulated the foil color by stamping silver and overprinting a PMS red,” says Still.

The job was printed 8-up on the Komori press, using UV ink formulations from JohnsByrne's in-plant ink laboratory. The piece was printed with two hits of opaque white, then hot foil stamped. The sheets were then returned to the pressroom for 8/0 printing including two more hits of opaque white, PMS orange, 4-color process, PMS 375 green plus overall gloss UV coating — with Nordson interstation curing along the way and at the end of the press.

The piece then traveled back through the finishing department for final diecut, inspection and pack-out. “UV printing is the only way to get proper ink adhesion on the substrate,” says Still. “All these processes needed to be accomplished without scratching the plastic sheets. Another challenge was the gauge of the plastic. Forty point is pushing the maximum thickness for the Komori 840. Both the Komori Lithrone and the on-board Nordson UV curing technology provided a stellar performance.”

See www.johnsbyrne.com and www.komori.com. Also, check out Nordson's (Westlake, OH) UV systems at www.nordson.com/Businesses/UVGraphicArts.

Goodbye to ‘mush’

A UV-equipped press offers many technical advantages. But at Geographics Inc. (Atlanta), no benefit is more important than customer satisfaction.

Virtually every job at the all-Heidelberg (Kennesaw, GA) shop is color critical. “Our customers typically are trying to sell something from a printed image in a catalog,” explains Ron Lanio, vice president, sales. “On most projects, the customer will participate in color approval; it's that important to their business.”

One customer's expectations for its sales literature went beyond outstanding color reproduction. “They have a strong commitment to sustainable production,” Lanio explains. “They decided to shift sales literature to uncoated, Forest Stewardship Council certified, 100% post-consumer waste paper.”

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The company, a carpet manufacturer, is a new Geographics' client. Previously the company printed its literature conventionally. “The images looked like mush,” says Ray Weidele, plant manager. “With conventional offset inks, they fought a losing battle of excessive dot gain and weak, washed-out color. We recommended the work be converted to UV inks.”

In the fall of 2007, Geographics installed an 8-color Heidelberg Speedmaster XL 105 press with UV coater, full interstation UV, Prepress Interface and a Prinect Image Control scanning spectrophotometer.

The press replaced a 6-color press with what Weidele calls “add-on” UV: two or three decks and the final curing station. “With our new press, we can run all eight units UV if necessary,” he says. “It's a remarkable piece of equipment.”

Geographics achieved excellent results printing the carpet literature on the XL 105. “UV kept the ink on top of the sheet and stopped the dot gain,” explains Bill Turner, print superintendent. “There's no ink dryback, either. What you see at the press is the final appearance. The client also appreciated that 100% solid UV inks eliminate the release of VOCs.”

Carpet samples and Fuji FinalProofs are kept near the press console for side-by-side comparison with the printed output. Both Geographics and the customer are pleased. “The UV process is so stable and predictable that press approvals are straightforward,” reports Turner. “The superior rub resistance of the UV inks keeps the work looking great through lots of presentations.”

Geographics — a combined 400,000-sq.-ft., 160-employee operation with sheetfed, web and digital capabilities as well as a thriving fulfillment operation, GeoDirect — was among the first in Georgia to achieve FSC certification. Geographics has won PIAG's “Top Notch Award” five times in seven years. In international competition, three of the printer's 2008 Premier Print “Benny” entries earned the highest honor in their categories.

See www.geographicsinc.com and www.us.heidelberg.com.

Top boxes

McLean Packaging (Moorestown, NJ) was founded in 1961 as a set-up box company based in Philadelphia. Now designing and manufacturing a combination of retail packaging products, the company has grown significantly. Employing 150 people, it generates revenue of $50 million from three locations, including a converted 100,000-sq.-ft. warehouse in Moorestown that opened in September 2007.

This facility produces paperboard folding cartons and does work for many famous brands including L'Oreal Paris. McLean relies on a new Roland 700 Ultima press to get the bulk of its jobs done. The custom-built 10-color press was chosen for a number of reasons. “manroland (Westmont, IL) had the most experience with UV printing and plastics and foil, and understood what to do with first-down flexo ink coverage,” says GM Jeff Besnick.

The McLean team recently beat a tight deadline for L'Oreal's Drakkar Noir full-set boxes with UV.

“It appeared to be a quick 3-color job on mylar with embossing,” says Rob Watts, printing and prepress manager. “When we reviewed the project, it was apparent the 80% coverage of the ‘basket weave’ embossing was too much surface for quality, consistent embossing.”

Watts and the prepress department developed an image pattern closely resembling L'Oreal's original art concept, made sample plates, printed a sample sheet and recommended using a dimensional UV coating when submitting it for approval. The two-piece set box, approximately 14 × 9 × 3 inches, was printed on 80-lb. 0.5-mil mylar. From start to finish, the 50,000 premium packaging run was accomplished in only two weeks.

McLean previously outsourced its UV work, but now the firm enjoys the benefits of keeping the work in-house. The shop images its own BASF coating plates, mixes its own Keystone inks and prints 80-lb. litho, mylar laminate, SBS, PVC, APET and “everything in between,” according to Besnick. “We configured the manroland press so we can double coat on the back end. This way, we can run a variety of substrates.”

See www.mcleanpackaging.com and www.manroland.us.com.

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Something wonderful

When POM Wonderful's in-house agency wanted a special piece to showcase its products, they worked with Continental Colorcraft (Monterey Park, CA). Little did either party know that the POM Wonderful press kit would win Continental Colorcraft a 2008 Sappi “International Printer of the Year” award.

Continental Colorcraft was one of nine winners in a field of 6,000 entries from around the world.

The POM Wonderful Press Kit that Continental Colorcraft produced included two brochures that fit into diecut pockets within a custom case. POM Wonderful is the largest producer of pomegranates in the United States. POM's in-house agency wanted to produce a unique piece that highlighted the history of pomegranates in art, as well as a booklet of pomegranate recipes.

Continental Colorcraft ran the job 6/6 on a 40-inch Akiyama (Cerritos, CA) Bestech 640 press, and printed the entire project using stochastic screening. A satin aqueous coating was applied to the sheets, then spot UV coatings were added to punch up the graphics.

The brochures were printed on Sappi's Text, 64-lb. McCoy Matte Cover and 100-lb. McCoy Matte Cover. The custom case was printed on 24 pt. Tango C2S and 100-lb. McCoy Matte Cover.

To create a custom book, two diecut pockets — one on each side — were produced to house the two brochures. When closed, the case looks like a casebound book.

“This project became a success because we worked so closely with the client from beginning to end to produce a complex project and make it something special,” says Jay Sheffield, Continental Colorcraft sales rep. “Tamra Paulsen-Mosher, print production manager for POM Wonderful, collaborated with us to turn a good design into a great printed package. We collaborated to select the right papers, inks and colors, plus the stochastic screening. Tamra and I worked together daily for six months on this project. Without that cooperative effort, we couldn't have produced this extraordinary piece.”

In fact, Sheffield says the collaboration process often included trial and error. “We ran various color swatches and a number of images on a sheet, ran a press proof and then made final selections. Fortunately POM allocated an appropriate budget that allowed time for press proofs and the ability to research different processes. The press tests were worth the investment because they were offset by the efficiencies we enjoyed during the press run. All print jobs should be handled with the same type of organization.”

See www.continentalcolorcraft.com and www.akiyama.com.

Double-down efficiency

Southwestern Printing (Oklahoma City) specializes in high quality printing, including annual reports, books and publications for regional and national accounts. In 2006, the company installed an 8-color Mitsubishi (Lincolnshire, IL) Diamond 3000R convertible perfector equipped with dual coaters. The 40-inch press, known as the Double Diamond, features 10 total units, including a tower coater after the fourth printing unit (before the sheet-reversing unit) and one after the eighth printing unit.

“We print lots of four-color, full-bleed artwork,” said Robert Allee, president and CEO. “Clients are adamant about the reproduction being just right. Two job categories in particular that we can really open up or develop more effectively are publications and presentation folders. The Double Diamond excels at signature work, 16-page magazines and catalogs printed four-over-four on 70-lb. to 80-lb. book weights.”

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Southwestern began in 1947 as a banking supply company that was looking to add commercial printing to its menu of services. The firm acquired the Trave-Taylor Printing Co. in the 1950s and immediately set into motion what would become a tradition of innovation. Recently, the company has enjoyed an annual growth rate of 20 percent, which Allee attributes to strong customer support and acquisitions.

Southwestern's plant houses full-service prepress and bindery departments to complement the well-equipped pressroom. Allee doubled the digital platemaking capacity in prepress and purchased new high-speed folders and stitchers for the bindery “just to keep up with the 8-color press.”

Since the Double Diamond installation, Southwestern has added another Mitsubishi press for a total of three. “We've been busy,” says Don Miles, production manager. “We do quite a bit of spot UV [on the Double Diamond 3000R perfector] with a blanket coater.” Miles runs jobs such as annual reports and folded brochures 4/4, two-sided with spot UV on both sides.

“To double down you need two coaters, so I can put UV in one coating unit and aqueous in another,” says Miles. He notes the efficiency of this process, with quick drying and multiple inline effects. “We run UV inks with UV coating, and then when it drops, we're done.”

Southwestern Stationery chose a high-efficiency dryer package from Grafix LLC incorporating hot air knives, interdeck UV curing system and infrared dryer lamps. Air/water-cooled UV lamps are placed between printing units two and three, although press operators can move the lamps between other units as well. The press is outfitted with stub unit dryers before and after both chamber/anilox coaters.

“To me, the secret to trouble-free aqueous coating has always been to remove the moisture so the sheet is as dry as possible before you lay down the aqueous and then dry the sheet again,” Miles explains. “If the surface of the sheet is tacky coming off the delivery, you know immediately that the ink wasn't completely dry before the coating was applied. It will break up. The drying package on this press has tons of heat and blower capacity to drive the moisture out of the sheet.” The advantages are aesthetic as well as practical. “When you put coating down on a completely dry sheet, you also don't get dryback,” he said. “You get much more gloss.”

Southwestern runs off 9,000 or 10,000 publication covers an hour, which is equivalent to 20,000 iph because they are printed on both sides. “The covers are neat, because we'll run 4/4, aqueous coat the inside and UV coat the outside — in one pass,” says Miles. “So it's high gloss on the outside and semigloss on the inside. And it sure speeds the process up.”

See www.southwesternok.com and www.mlpusa.com.

Plan ahead

Even with the slowdown in the economy, UV continues to hold its own in an increasingly difficult market. “Printers are looking for more opportunities to get into niche markets, and UV offers unique opportunities,” says Bill Bonallo, vice president, sheetfed division, IST-America (Bolingbrook, IL). “In addition, there are more UV-equipped presses out there, resulting in printers adding UV to become more competitive in their markets. In fact, press manufacturers say that 50% of their new-press quotes include UV, and at least two press manufacturers equip every press that comes into the United States ready to accept UV systems.”

Bonallo asserts the importance of understanding how UV inks react on press. “Printers expect that hybrid is hybrid, pure UV inks are pure UV and all rollers, blankets and wash-up solutions will work in harmony together. Unfortunately that is not always the case.” He offers some insights for printers thinking about adding UV capabilities.

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“Test, test, test,” Bonallo insists. “And do that testing in the lab. All of the ink, plate, blanket and roller manufacturers are willing to conduct lab tests to determine the compatibility of all of the components. Printers should not assume that all hybrid UV systems will play well together. Do not turn your press into an experiment. That is very costly in terms of lost time, spoilage and, in many cases, damaged rollers.

“Secondly, be forward thinking. Look beyond the work you are doing today to what would be possible in the future. For example, UV works extremely well on nonporous substrates such as plastics and foils. Decide where you want to take UV in the future before you add a system. No one has ever complained that they had too many UV lamps, for example, but they do complain if the UV system isn't robust enough to handle work down the line.”

Bonallo maintains that a potential buyer should talk to other UV printers. “Lamp life, the ability to cure at press-rated speeds, heat management to the substrate, critical press components, system uptime, service/parts response and overall system run hours are all things to consider.”

UV seminars and events offer a great way to keep up-to-date on the technology. The fourth UV Days event, sponsored by IST METZ, will be held June 15-18, 2009, in Nuertingen, Germany. The event features seminars and an exhibition with industry. The daily program will take place in English and German, and attendance is free. See www.ist-uv.com.

Unique substrates

KBA North America has teamed with pressure-sensitive film maker FLEXcon Co. (Spencer, MA) to offer three new substrates for the KBA Rapida 106 41-inch sheetfed press: silver metalized polyester, perforated one-way vision synthetic laminate, and phosphorescent (glow-in-the-dark) plastic.

“We collaborated with KBA to insure that our preprimed substrates provide reproducible, high quality, results on KBA's Rapida 106 press,” says Laura Ostrout, technical service representative, FLEXcon. “These pressure-sensitive adhesive backed products can be further customized to suit the needs of the end-use application. Each substrate is engineered to meet the lay-flat properties required for sheetfed converting.”

“When people ask me what they can print on [the Rapida 106], I always say, ‘Everything,’” says Chris Travis, director of technology, KBA North America. “The 106 has the widest range of substrates — it can go from 40 lb. all the way up to 48 pt. stock — plastics, foils, see-through, wood, metal. There's all sorts of stuff that's being put through the press, now, as long as it's within a given thickness range. In particular, with FLEXcon, the majority of them are nonporous substrates that rely on UV to make them print with the best results.”

Applications such as dive-through varnish can be applied to the FLEXcon substrates. Travis notes, “A lot of the time, especially with the FLEXcon substrates, the substrate itself is the effect. The glow in the dark is so bright it could light a room up. The fact is that, typically, people would print glow-in-the-dark inks. But now that we're using a glow-in-the-dark substrate, it has a much better effect.”

See www.kba-usa.com and www.flexcon.com.

Print UV returns to Vegas

Following last year's inaugural event, Print UV will return to the Wynn Resort in Las Vegas March 8-10, 2009. The technology conference is dedicated to printers serious about growing, differentiating and profiting with UV.

The conference program will give attendees an opportunity to learn about and discuss the latest trends, best practices and innovations within the UV market.

For more information or to register online, visit www.printuv.com.

Ciba closes MetalFX business

The Ciba Coating Effects Segment Leadership Team has closed the MetalFX business, citing a mismatch with the company's core business.

The Ciba MFX business officially closed on December 19, 2008, with plans to provide telephone support for the product until December 2009. Ciba has extended thanks to its customers, resellers, partners and suppliers. See www.metal-fx.com for details.

Ryobi produced this UV emboss with four-color UV inks followed by a spot dull varnish. An interdeck lamp cures the image, which is then flood gloss UV coated. An embossed effect is created when the varnish reacts with the high-gloss UV coating. This effect can be produced on any Ryobi 520, 750 or 920 series press with a minimum of five units and a coater. UV also will be available on Ryobi's new 40-inch press, the 1050, which will be available in the United States later this year. The 1050 accommodates stock from 0.04mm to 0.6mm, with 1mm stock capability as an option. It offers a variety of delivery configurations and CIP4/JDF control.

Ryobi teamed with Toyo Ink to develop an LED-UV system for a drupa 2008 concept demonstration on the 525GX, a 14 × 20-inch press. Rather than conventional UV lamps, the system incorporates LEDs said to reduce power consumption by 70 percent. Components include an LED-UV IR system from Matsushita Electric Works and special Toyo ink. (As with conventional UV inks, the ink is VOC-free.) The LED-UV 525GX is slated for availability in the U.S. in 2009; Ryobi announced plans to extend the system to its 750 press in the future. The company also announced a holographic coating and foiling capability for the 750 press. See www.ryobi.xpedx.com.