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Need To Know

Drying Technology

As demand grows for shorter print runs, can your drying system keep up? Summer Brooks takes a look at the latest drying systems available and what they could do for productivity

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Hanging out to dry: what are the latest developments in drying technology for print?

High and dry

Whilst conventional UV curing systems have been around for some time, there are some new kids on the block when it comes to drying technology. As turnaround times become ever-tighter for most print companies, being able to keep up with jobs is vital. To do so, an efficient drying system is key. So, what’s around at the moment, is it viable and will it help productivity?

IST (UK) is part of the IST METZ Group which manufactures drying and UV curing systems and is run by joint managing directors Chris Schofield, who specialises in offset applications, and Simon Mitchell, who specialises in narrow web and digital applications.

Chris Schofield and Simon Mitchell, joint managing directors of IST (UK)


The company offers both conventional UV and LED-UV drying systems that can be retrofitted to a range of presses. LED-UV uses LEDs rather than lamps to cure inks and significantly less energy than UV lamps. However, LED technology is a costly investment – but it could save you money in the long- term.

Weighing up the cost

Schofield comments: “Ink costs [for LED] are currently higher than for UV so the relative costs of energy and inks will dictate which technology gains greatest ground in the future. A newer lower cost LED-UV system called LUE was revealed at the IST METZ UV Days at the Nürtingen plant, near Stuttgart, in May. It will be officially launched at Drupa next June.”

Ink costs [for LED] are currently higher than for UV so the relative costs of energy and inks will dictate which technology gains greatest ground in the future


The LUE system he refers to is a more economical version of the existing LEDcure or LVE system that was developed specifically for commercial printing. “LUE, the economic solution, has fewer diodes and is rated at 85W/cm compared to 135W/cm for the beefier LEDcure/LVE,” comments Schofield. “LUE provides a workable retrofit for smaller commercial presses, running at up to 12,000 sheets per hour and up to four process colours.”

Mitchell adds: “Both UV and LED-UV mean dry sheets/substrates off the end of the press and that means traditional process printing can better compete with digital presses on speed of turnaround. In addition, UV and its derivative versions provide a brilliant aesthetic finish for top quality results.”

Konigsdruck in Berlin printed the LED-UV lookbook using a new technique called LEDplus, using AMS Spectral UV’s XP Series curing technology



IST is seeing demand from all corners of the print industry for the advantages of UV, but without the high energy
costs required with traditional lamp technology.

“IST recognises the interest in LED-UV (and LE-UV or Low Energy UV) and has products available but it also recognises some fear over the inks cost and availability issues,” says Mitchell. “Its safe solution is Hot Swap which uses interchangeable cartridges in the same housing and with the same power supply. This enables customers to invest in conventional UV now with the option of converting to LED-UV later without having to replace the entire UV system.”

The Hot Swap concept from IST allows users to change between using conventional UV and LED-UV


Combining tech

Matt Price, marketing specialist at Benford UV, says that the firm is seeing its Dual UV system rising in popularity. “For commercial work with a coater we are finding that our Dual UV, a combination of conventional and LED or Eco, is popular due to the challenges there are with LED coating,” he comments. The Dual UV solution from
Benford combines the UV technologies to be interchangeable when required, allowing greater curing flexibility.

The firm has been focusing much of its research and development on LED and how to further improve its effectiveness. “But we have also spent the last six months turning our conventional UV into the most advanced available on the market,” adds Price. “When we say advanced, what [we] mean is lower power consumption and no moving parts. As this technology will still be with us for the foreseeable future, we are looking to advance it as much as we can.”

Benford UV says that deciding which is the right system is dependent upon the application. As the packaging sector continues to demonstrate growth, conventional UV is still the most popular according to Price. “There are many factors [to consider] and it’s all down to what the printer requires the UV for,” he adds. “If they have a five-colour press with no coater, do reasonably short runs, no food packaging and just want to turn jobs around fast, I would say ECO LED-UV. If they are doing the same as above but with coating, I would say ECO LED-UV interdeck and ECO-UV end of press for the coating. If they are doing long runs or packaging, I would say conventional UV, as inks and coatings are cheaper and can be food-safe.”

AMS Spectral UV is a Baldwin Technology company that manufactures high power and wide-format LED-UV curing systems for printing applications, as well as infrared (IR), hot air and conventional arc UV systems. The firm has manufacturing facilities in Wisconsin in the US and in Slough in the UK. AMS Spectral UV was formed in 2017 when Air Motion Systems combined with Baldwin Technology’s UV and IR divisions. Baldwin’s history in print goes back much further than that, beginning in 1918 with the invention of the Baldwin Press Washer which helped to minimise cleaning time of offset presses.

The LED Lookbook by AMS Spectral UV was designed to demonstrate different inks, coatings, effects and substrates that can be utilised when sheetfed litho is cured with LED-UV

 
Saving energy

Myles Le-Monte Shepherd, sales executive of UV/IR – new markets at Baldwin Technology, comments: “Of late, we have seen a sharp rise in the demand for LED-UV curing systems with the unrelenting drive for very short lead-times, energy reduction, higher quality graphics, increased gloss rates and special effects, LED-UV offers all this in a compact package.

And LED-UV remains the most popular system from the company, as Shepherd explains: “The ability for complete integration into a new machine or retrofit means that operation can be made seamless. Smart internet connectivity IoT (Internet of Things) enables pre-emptive maintenance to be carried out as the system is giving direct, constant feedback about its operational condition.

“We also see that printers are looking at ways to dramatically enhance their print quality to stay ahead of competition, and in this way, LED-UV technology really stands out. Increased productivity, lower energy costs and the ability for incredibly high gloss, matte finish and other tactile effects enable printers to assist their customers in creating truly stunning artwork.”

Photographic images printed on uncoated papers are as vibrant as those printed on coated stock would be when cured with LED-UV


He adds that innovation is being driven by both changes in the industry, and global legislation. “For our LED-UV programme, the legislation surrounding mercury content found in conventional UV lamps is making it increasingly difficult to ship and store them,” comments Shepherd. “Although they have a long life ahead of them and we still manufacture a great number of conventional UV systems, the requirement for LED-UV is definitely growing rapidly.

He continues: “Other factors such as energy efficiency and connectivity, together with the requirement for increased integration, are all key areas which have influenced our development. LED systems consume less than 30% of the energy of conventional arc UV systems. Along with our latest compact IR and hot air offerings, we are able to offer customers integrated solutions that enable the seamless uses of both technologies on one press. This adds a great deal of flexibility and performance to new and old machines alike.”

Although many printers are still running a conventional system and this works for many, moving to a more expensive LED system could save money in the long term.

Trust the experts

Shepherd says that when deciding on a drying system, printers should look to a company with experience in the types of applications and presses firms may be operating. “Change to something from a company with 50 years of experience in the application and presses, who know the pitfalls (like ink curing on blankets) and how to avoid them,” he says. “While the inks costs more, our experience shows that this cost is quickly mitigated by the increase in press utilisation, productivity and new products.”

O Factoid: UV curing technology was first introduced in the 1960s, but as the range of printable materials has increased so has the need for a low-energy alternative.  O


IST says that at the beginning of the decision-making process, printers should assess their demand for work on uncoated stocks or non-paper substrates, whether a different drying system would offer the business a differential over rivals, how critical timescale is to customers, the relative running costs of conventional versus UV options, whether higher ink prices can be offset by reduction in other costs, if there would be any energy reduction and whether the shift would improve pressroom working conditions. Once you have assessed the needs of your own business, go to the experts who can help you select the right type of drying system for your printing applications.


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