Extend the Benefits of UV Printing by Using the Right Plates

A big change in the offset printing world over the last decade or so has been the rise of UV. As UV becomes more popular with commercial printers, thanks to new, low-energy UV technologies, here at Kodak we’ve been developing new offset plates that can extend the benefits of UV for printers.   

UV printing offers several advantages over conventional offset printing, such as fewer emissions of VOC’s, fast-drying inks, the ability to print on additional substrates, vibrant colors and high gloss levels. Low-energy UV delivers all these benefits and more with a smaller, less expensive system using less energy.

Brief Overview of UV Printing

UV curable inks were introduced as an alternative to solvent-based products to provide improved print quality and higher speed to a dry print. Conventional heat and air drying works by solvent evaporation, but in UV curing, there is little or no solvent. Instead, the inks comprise liquid reactive components that can be hardened rapidly through the application of UV light. Because there is little or no solvent to evaporate, there is no volume lost from the wet coating, resulting in higher ink densities and higher gloss on the print. In addition, there are no environmental pollutants from any organic solvents. 

Conventional UV lamps consume a lot of power, take up a lot of space, generate a lot of heat, and produce ozone, limiting application to print shops where the value of the print product would pay for the equipment and cost of running the UV. With new low-energy UV systems, such as LED-UV, H-UV, HR-UV, and LEC-UV, equipment and running costs are reduced, and old presses can be more easily modified with the smaller equipment. These less expensive, smaller systems are allowing commercial printers to use UV and take advantage of faster turnarounds, less maintenance through use of less anti-setoff powder, a wider range of substrates, and higher print quality.

New Technology Means More New Technology

Switching to a UV system requires a complete review of all current components that go through the press, and some changes will be necessary. Not only will a printer be changing their inks, they must also look at compatibility with press chemicals, blankets, substrates, and more. In particular, UV can be challenging for printing plates. The good news is that Kodak’s plate scientists and engineers are very familiar with UV technology, and we have developed new, innovative plate technology specifically for UV print applications, including low-energy UV.

New plate technologies are necessary because in a UV system, the blanket washes and plate cleaners that are required to clean the special UV-curable inks also happen to be aggressive against the coating of printing plates. Historically, Kodak provided plates that could be baked to withstand the aggressive chemicals used with UV, but baking uses a lot of energy and produces excess heat. 

Kodak’s newest plates, such as KODAK ELECTRA MAX Thermal Plates, along with our popular TRILLIAN SP Plates, deliver superior solvent resistance without baking and are therefore ideal for UV applications. Also, they require less developer in prepress than previous generation plates, further increasing their environmental benefits. KODAK SONORA Process Free Plates reduce even more environmental impact by eliminating the energy, water, and chemical waste from plate processing. SONORA Plates are suitable for short-run UV print applications, up to 10,000 impressions with SONORA XP Plates and 30,000 impressions with SONORA UV Plates.

What’s in store for the future? We are looking forward to many new innovations around offset print, whether they come from the press manufacturers, other industry suppliers, or printers themselves. And, of course, as the inventor of thermal CTP and the first to introduce a successful process free plate technology, Kodak will be leading the way with new technologies as well.