First and before getting into all the media and substrates you can print with UV-curable inks, we should consider the fact that UV-curable ink printing offers a variety of advantages and benefits:
- Instant drying, achieved by curing
- Great print quality
- Light fastness
- Good adhesion on many substrates
- Printing without volatile organic compounds (VOCs)
With all these advantages over other types of inks, even if they more costly than the rest of the inks; many people choose to print with UV-curable inks.
When you do UV-curable printing you can choose from a wide range of substrates both for industrial or graphic arts uses. Be sure to take note that even if a UV-curing printer is capable of printing onto most surfaces, this does not mean the ink will necessarily adhere for posterity.
To ensure long lasting UV-cured prints, you should first use pre-treatment on the surface you want to print. Sure you can take any piece of wood and print it using UV-curable inks, but this does not mean the ink will adhere properly to it or that this print will last.
In order to be able to print onto non-traditional materials or media, be sure to take into consideration the maximum printhead height of your printer to avoid head strikes and damaging the printheads.
There are many substrates you can personalize with your UV-curing printer, you can also scan textures and create custom prints, even place you logo or monogram onto different objects.
Another application for UV-curable inks is décor; many materials can be digitally printed for customized effects, colors, or simulation of the texture of a specific material. Let’s say you want to use a marble floor and buying the actual marble is out of the question. You can opt for scanning a marble texture and digitally printing it onto a ceramic tile using a UV-curing printer.
You can also print any texture with a ceramic tile printer, which is more recommendable since it is specifically designed to print onto tiles; but the advantage of using a UV-curing printer is that the color range is larger than that of a ceramic printer that is very limited. One more advantage of using a UV-curing printer is that you can create a raised-relief effect by using multiple layers of ink.
While on the décor subject, you are also able to print onto many sorts of stones such as limestone, marble, pumice, etc. Printing on this type of material can also be used for signage, to create an antique look.
An uncommon application is also glass, there are specialized printers for glass but to create unique pieces instead of batches results expensive with this type of technology; this is where UV-curing printing comes in.
Many things can be printed using UV-curing technology, keep in mind anything you print is not mean to last forever but UV-curable ink applied correctly or with the help of a coating can last a long time. With UV-curable inks you can choose the level of glossiness or dullness depending on what you want to achieve, some UV-curing printers come with an additional ink channel for varnish and/or white ink. This makes it possible to produce more innovative designs.
If you want to get ingenious, you can print onto regular objects and transform them into a creative piece of work.
Last but not least, you can see the most unexpected application for UV: water; yes that is right, you can print on top of water using UV-curable inks. We were able to see this at drupe 2012 in Dusseldorf, Germany in the booth of Sun Innovations. You can see a glass container filed with water and the UV-cured print atop, as well as a close-up where you see the ink being torn and the water below. Yes, I know what’s the use of printing on top of water, but accept it who doesn’t want to see this!