by Hiroshi Ono, Group Product Manager, Roland DGA Corp.
Traditionally, the plastics decorating market has been served by processes such as pad printing, hot stamping and screen printing technologies. And while these technologies have a place in most shops, advances in digital UV printing technology quickly are changing the landscape. This is because of the high-quality images delivered by UV printers, the advent of flexible, specialty inks and the unique ability of UV inks to adhere to virtually any surface, including plastics.
UV inkjet technology has continued to evolve from flat surface applications and is now used to decorate a variety of 3D objects as well. It can be used to print directly on plastic surfaces for customized industrial and consumer products, including mouses, thumb drives, product casings, smart phone covers, tablets and even laptop computers. With UV printing, operators can print around curves and corners to some extent and can also create highly customized printed items in short-runs profitably. There are no screens to produce, no dies to cast and no transfer processes involved.
Many UV printers come with specialty inks, including white and clear inks for a wide range of design options. White ink allows printing onto clear plastics commonly used for smart phone covers or colored objects such as thumb drives or electronics casings. Clear ink simulates varnishing and embossing effects in both matte and gloss finishes for interesting textures and a high-end look.
UV printers also can plug directly into an existing digital workflow, with support for popular design software, such as Adobe Illustrator and CorelDRAW. RIP software is widely available to automate production and ensure quality imaging. In the case of Roland’s VersaUV LEF-12, VersaWorks RIP software, which includes the Roland Color System of more than 1,000 custom spot colors and six PANTONE® spot color libraries. Variable data printing is included as well, allowing for automatic customization of items with text and graphic elements unique to each print.
Ultimately, a UV printer can become the backbone of a production environment and can generate profit for years to come.
Roland DGA Corporation, Irvine, CA, is the US-based marketing, distribution and sales arm of Roland DG Corporation of Hamamatsu, Japan. For more information on Roland’s VersaUV LEF-12 UV-LED flatbed printer, visit www.rolanddga.com/lef.