Optimizing Flexo Label Production: Upgrading Traditional UV with UV LED Curing
Upgrading traditional UV curing equipment on flexo presses to UV LED curing technology offers significant benefits for label and tag production and costs significantly less than a new UV LED flexo press. But it’s prudent to learn what your options are and how each will optimize your label production before selecting a UV LED curing system provider.
Benefits of UV LED Curing for Flexo Label Production
UV LED curing technology has made significant inroads into many printing processes, and now offers valuable benefits for narrow web flexo printing and overprint varnishing for labels, tags, flexible packaging and shrink sleeve packaging applications.
The top benefits include: increased production rates and quick turnaround, increased flexibility and control, improved reliability and consistent print results, reduced operating costs and safer working environment.
The small form factor, light weight and lack of major cooling and exhaust air ducting and fans make it easy to retrofit UV LED curing equipment onto existing UV flexo presses. But there are several options to consider depending on the number of press stations, specific products running on your press, average length of job runs, budget and customer demand for turnaround time.
Prove the process works with minimal budget: One option is to retrofit just one or two press stations with UV LED curing equipment initially. Ideally, you should place the UV LED units in the locations with curing bottlenecks — at stations where you typically cure thicker opaque white or dense black inks. While UV LED curing units typically cost more than traditional UV, you can install one or two UV LED units with a smaller budget before deciding to retrofit additional press stations and increase press speeds. This also gives you time to work out process and operating details, before committing more budget. It is typically not an issue to combine existing UV curing with UV LED curing on one flexo press.
Flexibility with fewer UV LED units: Another option is to purchase one or a few UV LED units that can be repositioned to different press stations as needed depending on the product being run — say a heat sensitive film — or colors being printed. Installing UV LED curing on the press stations you typically use for heat sensitive substrates could eliminate the need for chill rolls. Some UV LED curing suppliers offer modular systems which lend themselves easily to being repositioned to different press stations as needed.
The case for more UV LED curing: If you typically handle shorter run print jobs, you may want to consider installing UV LED units at every station with pigmented inks — assuming your budget allows — so you can increase production speeds and reduce changeover times between jobs. If you need to run low migration inks and varnishes for pharmaceutical or food labels, it probably makes sense to retrofit UV LED on every press station to ensure consistent and reliable curing.
Plan Now for Implementation
Given the number of flexo ink and varnish suppliers offering UV LED curable formulations and the projected annual growth rate of UV LED narrow web flexo, it’s clear UV LED curing is here to stay and taking market share from traditional medium pressure arc UV curing. Flexo label and tag printers who put off investing in UV LED curing risk falling behind their competition. By considering the retrofit options available and your specific situation now, you can plan and implement a retrofit that will optimize your flexo production rates.
To learn more about how to optimize your business for flexo label production, visit Heraeus Noblelight America’s booth (126) during the 2018 SGIA Expo.