10 February 2014 Analogue Printing Technologies

On the right wavelength

Ultra violet technology is available to litho printers in many guises. Is it the next big thing and does it really use huge amounts of energy? Yes and no.

Europe’s printers, including some at last in the UK, are taking to energy curing with Komori’s H-UV well out in front. After Japan, France is the main market for the machines that use a doped UV lamp and matched inks to deliver instantly dry and ready to handle sheet, regardless of the substrate printed on.

With Komori’s success spreading into Belgium and the Netherlands, where there is an eight-colour perfecting H-UV in use, German manufacturers are taking notice. At Drupa Heidelberg demonstrated what it calls LE-UV and has begun installations in Switzerland and has users in Germany; KBA has customers for its HR-UV technology which uses LED lamps rather than a tuned UV lamp, but is essence the same: less energy consumption, none of the paraphernalia associated with standard UV like extraction hoods to remove ozone, and instantly dry sheets to pass to finishing or back through the press.

The eco aspect is that a single-lamp curing system requires far less power than a standard UV system and less energy than a hot air/IR combination dryer. Commercial printers, in the UK at least, have tended to select presses with an extra unit to lay down an aqueous seal which is dried to allow sheets to be finished, even if not fully dry. For this reason Heidelberg and KBA have tempered any enthusiasm with reference to the reality of much higher ink prices, and limited demand in this country for same day turnarounds.

However, the conventional print and seal does not work on the increasingly popular uncoated papers, which must therefore be left to dry fully before finishing. With UV curing this is no longer a problem. Printers can print on uncoateds and are able also to print on synthetic materials, if they feel confident enough. This is because there is no almost no heat generation in new generation UV or LED UV, so temperature sensitive non absorbent materials can be printed.

The technology also delivers a brighter result, thanks to the use of higher pigment ink. The quality has convinced some of the major French perfume houses to insist that their work is printed only on H-UV presses. Without the application of an aqueous coating, the feel of the paper is not hidden beneath the seal.

In Japan UV is fast becoming the dominant litho process, Komori has more than 150 presses running with H-UV, Ryobi reckons that 80% of recent sales are presses with LED UV, Sakurai has customers running with LED UV. David Ryan has taken a UK customer to see one of these. “Jobs booked by 10am are delivered by 4pm,” he says. “There is only so much you can do with a litho press. LED is the saviour of conventional litho, allowing it to compete.”

There are factors in the Japanese market which make it ideal for UV: lack of space restricts the ability to operate presses with extended delivery systems; the demand is for very high quality print with no signs of scuffing or marking and no evidence of spray powder; print runs can be well below 1,000 copies; and crucially Japanese companies have had to find ways to cut energy consumption following the earthquake which put the Fukushima nuclear power plant out of action.

This does not explain the increasing popularity in Europe or North America. In the latter area, adding UV is a way to expand the range of services a printer has to offer, hence companies like AMS, Baldwin and Benford from the UK have produced retrofit systems to upgrade existing presses. In Europe, Komori has had success in France, into Benelux and Scandinavia.

Ryobi has an installation in Switzerland where a five-colour press has replaced an SM74-5 in an otherwise all Heidelberg house. It is printing catalogues for watch companies with no spray powder. “Because of that it is a very clean machine,” says Apex Digital Graphics sales director Neil Handforth. “It has been in operation for 18 months and it remains in showroom condition.” This aspect will have an impact on reducing maintenance costs as powder can find its way almost anywhere.

Heidelberg has notched sales of B3 presses in Switzerland where they compete against digital printing says sheetfed sales manager Matt Rockley. This makes sense, he says. “I think that LE-UV is suited to lower volumes where a printer is producing fewer than 8-10 million impressions a year. There’s also a retro fit opportunity to fit to an SM74 operating on day shifts or to revive B3 in print on demand.”

However, Heidelberg has also sold LE-UV on much larger presses, including both CX102 and XL106 models. Müller Ditzen in Bremerhaven in northern Germany installed a five-colour plus coater CX102 in October, the first in the region. “We can now offer our customers a broad range of surface finishing options such as high gloss, drip off and matt coatings and even a combination of matt/gloss effects in a single pass. The sheets are dry when they reach the delivery, which means we can process them straight away," explains CEO Ronald Huber. "This opens up a whole new range of applications - and that applies to the substrates we can use, too. The LE UV offset press gives us even greater flexibility and ensures we can provide our customers with previously unimaginable results - taking in everything from commercial to PVC foil printing on absorbent and non absorbent materials and even on uncoated paper."

Energy savings compared to IR and hot air drying are 60% he says, making the curing technology an environmentally friendly option as well.
But it is the versatility that explains the appeal of the technology and the interest that is being shown by UK printers. Komori has sold three H-UV presses in the UK. Platinum Press in Harrogate will be the second with an LS294 arriving this week to replace a seven-year-old press. Managing director Mark Plummer says: “We are short run, fast turnaround printers with a lot of customers wanting to use uncoated papers, and they do not dry as quickly as coated papers. We believe we will get 50% more production from this press than our seven-year-old machine. And there is going to be big savings in terms of energy, there’s no need to drive or clean an anilox roller. We will be making savings from the energy alone.”

One of the obstacles to more rapid adoption has been the cost and supply of the consumables. Inks are considerably more expensive and Toyo has been the only provider until recently. Huber Group, Flint, INX and Heidelberg are now able to supply inks suitable for the new generation UVs, Toyo will be producing ink in Europe from the Arets factory in Belgium that it bought last year.

Apex too is getting strong interest and like Sakurai is close to a UK order says Handforth. Apex will have a demonstration machine in its Hemel Hempstead show room this year. “The fact that other ink manufacturers are coming on board is breeding confidence,” he explains. “We have been through a deep recession over the last four or five years and there are a lot of printers who might have made a purchase but haven’t done so, so there is a latent demand. People are starting to look to invest, but they don’t wan to replace like for like. And those four or five years match the period where LED has developed. We are confident that LED has come of age.”

For Steve Turner, sheetfed sales director at Komori UK, the same argument applies. “People are moving away from the long perfecter even if makeready times are not much different from a straight press. Print runs are becoming shorter, there are no ceramic jackets to handle to prevent marking on the reverse of the sheet and you achieve super high quality with H-UV.”

The cost of the technology remains an issue. Certainly the LED systems are considerably more than a standard UV system. However there are advantages. In six years of use, Ryobi has never had to replace a failed diode, says Handforth. Prices should fall as use rises, and not just from the printing industry. Yolé Developpement, a French research organisation, predicts the market for LED UV will grow five fold between 2012 and 2017, a rate at which cost will fall as take up increases. The energy levels have risen considerably. The first Ryobis were restricted to four-colour printing on a limited range of materials. Today there is no such restriction.

The tuned UV lamps, so called because there is an element of iron added to the tube before it is sealed to produce light in the desired narrow band spectrum, do suffer from reduced life compared to standard UV lamps and care must be taken that the wave length does not move from that needed to trigger the photo initiators in the ink. The ink requires more careful handling, shutters on ducts may be required and if there are windows adjacent to the press, a film to filter out the UV component of day light will be needed. Ink pumping is also ruled out at present, though Technotrans and others are working on solutions.

However, the big drawback to the technology is the cost and whether the investment will ever pay for itself. Heidelberg will be staging a seminar on LE-UV during the Vision 2020 open house held at the end of March. It intends to lay the cards openly on the table, Rockley says, pointing out the costs as well as the benefits. The saving in energy for example will not cover the increased costs of the ink, and while conceding the benefits in printing uncoated papers, he wonders how much of this work is printed. “If someone is printing a lot of uncoated material, the balance might change especially if a customer is willing to pay for fast delivery. But is a customer willing to pat for that,” he says. And there is the alternative of standard UV which will provide the same range of benefits, albeit with the installation issues associated with extraction hoods and without the energy saving gain.

For Rockley the UK is such a price sensitive market that printers will not be able to carry the additional costs and compete against an XL75 fitted with Inpress and full automation. “Printers are printing on the XL75, coating, and putting the sheet back already,” he says. “We are trying to be totally honest.”

Andrew Pang, managing director of KBA UK, also wonders whether a printer committing himself to new generation UV is making the right long term decision: “Does accelerated drying suit your business, or is it another of the trends that comes and goes?

“People can achieve added value through different coating effects on a standard press. Our HR-UV just dries sheets faster than before. It is not going to change finishing processes that can provide the added value. We believe that a five-colour press with coater is as versatile a machine as a printer would want. It will still be viable in seven years and will be able to address more markets than UV printing.”

There is no doubt however that there is huge interest in new generation UV technologies, particularly after articles in Print Business in September. “Ninety-five percent of our inquiries are about it,” says Turner. “The benefits are incredible. Here is a process that can dramatically change the way people print their products.”

More ways to future proof your business

There are other options for the commercial printer looking to find security for the years ahead. For some the investment will in digital technology, for others in wide format. However there are still viable choices in the traditional litho arena, not only by adopting new generation UV technologies.

The latest offset presses include closed loop colour control so that a properly calibrated and maintained press can be trusted to stay within the colour set; asynchronous plate changing means that all plates can be lifted and new ones loaded in little more than a minute; with an extra set of print units, it is possible to run non stop as KBA demonstrated at Drupa, as a number of Goss customers do in the US and as book printers using Timsons ZMR press can do.

There are other options on format. On the one hand printers can make savings from choosing SRA1 presses (or SRA2 for that matter) rather than B1 and B2 machines. Ryobi and Sakurai both offer 920 format machines, though the German manufacturers do not. For those sticking to A4 formats, this approach offers capital savings and lower running costs.

In the other direction there is the concept of ganging multiple jobs on a sheet, “so a VLF press can be like eight B3 presses running in tandem” according to Heidelberg UK national sales manager Paul Chamberlain.

In Germany some of the big web to print operations are doing just this with Speedmaster 162 perfecters churning out sheets with dozens of jobs to view. Nobody in the UK has taken this route. Indeed the only SM 162 is in the very traditional world of book printing.

There are more options with digital printing, not least with the arrival of B2 format digital presses. The Indigo 10000 is joined by inkjet machines from Screen, Fujifilm and from Drupa by Komori and Konica Minolta who have shared development on a B2 inkjet press. “The IS 29 will be available from the end of the year,” says Komori UK’s Steve Turner. “Digital print quality is now acceptable for most print jobs.”

Chris Matthews at Heidelberg UK agrees. “Quality in digital is now a given and is often comparable with offset in the eyes of many customers,” he says. The consequence has been that sales of B3 press have plunged, to the point that last year Heidelberg ceased production of the GTO.

However, B3 offset continues. Heidelberg has the SM52, the combined Ryobi MHI operation will still produce B3 presses and there are numerous Chinese B3 presses, most not comparable with western requirements.

The Hans Gronhi range is up to spec and has a growing user base to demonstrate this. UK distributor is the Printers Superstore where Graham Moorby says: “The number of inquiries we have been receiving lately has gone crazy.” The Chinese presses have a reputation as a solidly built press, but have levels of refinement as well. “It has features that are not available on other presses,” he says. “The print quality that sells other presses also sells ours. At Ipex you will see presses printing at high speed with good turnaround times and very high quality.”

Moorby reckons that a lot of businesses have failed to keep up with technology, preferring to sit tight during recession to the point that they are now uncompetitive. “Many are happy to run what is a life style business and are not concerned about developing for the future. But even these owners should come to Ipex to see what is available.”
Alongside the Hans Gronhi machines, TPS is showing the B2 Shinohara at Ipex, as the technically advanced five colour plus coater press. This will go to an as yet unidentified customer after the show, proof that to guarantee a company’s future the only choice that is not sensible is to do nothing at all.

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SOUND ADVICE FROM KBA

SOUND ADVICE FROM KBA

Andrew Pang, managing director of KBA UK, wonders whether a printer committing himself to new generation UV is making the right long term decision: “Does accelerated drying suit your business, or is it another of the trends that comes and goes?

“People can achieve added value through different coating effects on a standard press. Our HR-UV just dries sheets faster than before. It is not going to change finishing processes that can provide the added value.

"We believe that a five-colour press with coater is as versatile a machine as a printer would want. It will still be viable in seven years and will be able to address more markets than UV printing.”

Explore more…

KBA's world first Rapida with VariDry HR-UV

Story 1 of 6

WHAT IS IMPORTANT ABOUT LAMP CURING?

WHAT IS IMPORTANT ABOUT LAMP CURING?

The eco aspect is that a single-lamp curing system requires far less power than a standard UV system and less energy than a hot air/IR combination dryer.

Commercial printers, in the UK at least, have tended to select presses with an extra unit to lay down an aqueous seal which is dried to allow sheets to be finished, even if not fully dry.

For this reason Heidelberg and KBA have tempered any enthusiasm with reference to the reality of much higher ink prices, and limited demand in this country for same day turnarounds.

Story 2 of 6

WHAT HEIDELBERG SAYS

WHAT HEIDELBERG SAYS

Heidelberg has notched sales of B3 presses in Switzerland where they compete against digital printing says sheetfed sales manager Matt Rockley. This makes sense, he says.

“I think that LE-UV is suited to lower volumes where a printer is producing fewer than 8-10 million impressions a year. There’s also a retro fit opportunity to fit to an SM74 operating on day shifts or to revive B3 in print on demand.”

However, Heidelberg has also sold LE-UV on much larger presses, including both CX102 and XL106 models. Müller Ditzen in Bremerhaven in northern Germany installed a five-colour plus coater CX102 in October, the first in the region.


Explore more…

Heidelberg DryStar

Story 3 of 6

WHAT APEX DIGITAL GRAPHICS SAYS

WHAT APEX DIGITAL GRAPHICS SAYS

Apex is getting strong interest and like Sakurai is close to a UK order, says sales director Neil Handforth. Apex will have a demonstration machine in its Hemel Hempstead show room this year.

“The fact that other ink manufacturers are coming on board is breeding confidence,” he explains.

“We have been through a deep recession over the last four or five years and there are a lot of printers who might have made a purchase but haven’t done so, so there is a latent demand.

"People are starting to look to invest, but they don’t want to replace like for like. And those four or five years match the period where LED has developed. We are confident that LED has come of age.”

Explore more…

Ryobi LED from Apex Digital Graphics

Story 4 of 6

WHO IS INVESTING IN LED UV?

WHO IS INVESTING IN LED UV?

It is the versatility that explains the appeal of the technology and the interest that is being shown by UK printers. Komori has sold three H-UV presses in the UK. Platinum Press in Harrogate will be the second with an LS294 arriving this week to replace a seven-year-old press.

Managing director Mark Plummer says: “We are short run, fast turnaround printers with a lot of customers wanting to use uncoated papers, and they do not dry as quickly as coated papers. We believe we will get 50% more production from this press than our seven year old machine.

"And there is going to be big savings in terms of energy, there’s no need to drive or clean an anilox roller. We will be making savings from the energy alone.”

Explore more…

Platinum Print

Story 5 of 6

The Anthology

The Anthology

Think of the Print Business website as an encyclopedia. To make it easier to find what you are looking for (or indeed don’t know what exactly that is) we have deviseda way of grouping articles into sections, or anthologies.


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The New Generation UV Anthology

Story 6 of 6

Picture Gallery