In solvent inkjet technology, media needs to be heated for its pores to open and receive the ink drops.
But in UV-curing inkjet technology, media pores don’t need to be opened; ink drops are solidified on top of the media, in a chemical process called polymerization.
In simple words, the particles contained in UV-curing inks, which are called monomers, react to UV light connecting to each other, forming a layer of solidified ink on top of the media.
This ink layer is very thin. But several years ago, a few companies began to experiment with the idea that you could print several times on the same spot to create a thicker layer.
These experiments resulted in what is known as high-relief printing, which some people consider to be a type of 3D printing.
High relief printing with UV-curing ink has been known and available for at least ten years.
Russia is leading the high relief printing with UV
For reasons beyond my knowledge, the majority of printer manufacturers that are experimenting with high relief printing are either based in Russia, or their founders are Russian.
One of the brands that pioneered this type of printing was Sun Innovations (Novosibirsk, Russia) and then Maglev, from IQDemy.
BIGPRINTER, another Russian UV-curing printer manufacturer, has also exhibited applications with the high relief technique.
The BIGPRINTER BigJet UV-curing flatbed printer was producing nice high relief samples at Printtek 2017, in Turkey.
High relief printing with UV-curing ink: What are the possible applications?
90% of the applications exhibited by the handful companies experimenting with high relief printing are decorative.
Here you can see some of the samples:
At FESPA 2017, a company called Direct Color Systems featured interesting print samples with high relief effect, and one grabbed our attention: Braille printing.
As you can see in this photo, this type of printing can also help you make a product detail stand out of the otherwise flat image.
This technique opens up the possibilities to unexplored markets that might represent a new source of income for print shops and print businesses.