Can sign shops use UV-curable ink for décor applications? In this article we discuss some of the possibilities and limitations of this type of ink.
In a previous article we discussed why UV-curing technology has not taken over the garment and apparel market.
In short, most UV-curable ink formulations are not designed to be safe for skin-contact uses.
However there are other markets beyond signage for which this type of printing technology could be a viable solution.
Can solvent ink be used for décor applications?
Solvent printers produce among the best color saturation in the market, compared to other printing technologies.
For example, we have seen the vibrant colors produced by the OKI ColorPainter series at different tradeshows around the world.
Solvent ink is ideal for outdoor advertising or signage applications in general that are not meant to be installed indoors.
While solvent ink is one of the most cost-effective printing technologies, it has a main downside. Even long after being totally dry, it has a very strong smell and the volatile organic compounds (VOCs) released during and after printing, could be carcinogenic.
In some countries, the use of solvent ink for indoor applications is prohibited. And even if a country does not regulate against solvent ink, common sense would tell you this type of ink is not the best option for indoor applications.
Is UV-curable ink for decor a realistic possibility?
This is where UV-curing technology comes in. This type of ink has considerably lower levels of VOCs emissions.
This means UV-curable ink is a safer alternative that can be used for indoor applications.
Just beware that, as stated in several printer manuals and Data Safety Sheets, UV-curable ink does emit VOCs and is not a 100% safe solution.
Several years ago, printer and ink manufacturers used to advertise UV-curable ink for décor, architectural materials, and other unusual applications. However, adhesion issues have made claims more realistic.
In most cases, UV-curing technology is not capable of producing the vibrant color gamut produced by solvent ink printers.
This is one of the challenges UV-curable ink for décor applications face.
However, in terms of productivity and range of applications, UV-curable ink allows you to print directly onto rigid substrates, as opposed to solvent ink, where you have to print, and then mount onto a rigid board, which consumes time and man-hours.
Another advantage of UV-curing technology is the ability to produce a textured surface.
Several years ago, a number of brands began experimenting with printing applications consisting of several layers of ink in a specific area.
This results in a bas-relief surface, which gives UV-curing technology a whole new level of applications, especially focused on décor.
Another way to achieve texture to give décor prints an interesting twist, is by using varnish. The technique shown in the following photos is called “spot varnish”.
There are some UV-curing printers that come with additional channel(s) for varnish. So, in addition to traditional CMYK colors, they have a separate channel and printhead for varnish application.
As you can see in these examples, UV-curing technology offers a wide range of possibilities for décor applications. Just be aware that you need to make sure with your ink provider that these applications are a product that won’t bring any legal issues because of health considerations.
This is a general overview of the possibilities and limitations of using UV-curable ink for décor applications. In a further article we will discuss other details of the interior design market using this type of ink.