Ink Innovation: Five Reasons Resin and Latex Ink Technology Are Changing the Game
Although resin or latex ink and printers have been around for more than a decade, they are among the print technologies that have undergone the most significant and rapid evolution in recent years. With the digital printing market expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 7% over the next ten years, it’s time to take another look at this versatile print technology.
Today’s expanded lineup of resin/latex inks and printers offers bold, rich color options, an ability to handle a wide range of media, environmentally friendly low-VOC output, and fast-drying prints. It provides production power for a wide range of applications, including wallpaper and fabrics, vehicle graphics, canvas printing, interior and exterior signage, and many others.
First, What’s In A Name?
Resin ink and latex ink are two names for similar, water-based, multi-purpose ink technologies. In fact, there isn’t any actual latex or resin in the inks. Although the various latex and resin ink technologies are similar, the actual ink formulations vary substantially from manufacturer to manufacturer, so you’ll want to research your options carefully.
Resin ink printing works by preheating the material, after which the printer deposits a droplet of optimizer on the substrate. The ink then lands inside the dot of optimizer, yielding just the right amount of dot gain. Using a high-quality optimizer is critical for controlling the level of dot gain, and therefore for controlling output quality.
1- Color Quality
In the past, resin ink colors have had a reputation for not being quite as deep and rich as those printed using eco-solvent ink, however, with today’s advanced equipment and ink formulations, some resin inks are able to achieve deep and rich colors that match the performance of eco-solvent inks.
The latest resin printers, such as the Roland DG TrueVIS AP-640, use advanced technology like variable dot control to fire different types of ink droplets, yielding unparalleled image quality. In addition, the newest ink formulations create more durable prints with greater scratch resistance than in the past.
2- Versatile print technology
Today’s resin/latex ink printers are great for production of a wide range of permanent and temporary signage, including wall, window, and floor graphics, fleet graphics, retail and office graphics, posters, banners, stickers, and labels.
In addition, resin ink’s water-based print technology meets the requirements for print products used in certain environments such as schools, healthcare facilities, and hospitals. This sustainability aspect of resin inks is also more in demand market-wide, especially for interior graphics. Some manufacturers’ formulations, such as Roland DG’s TrueVIS Resin Ink, have even achieved GREENGUARD Gold Certification, providing assurance that they meet the most stringent standards for low VOC emissions into indoor air.
3- High-volume production
Many resin/latex ink printers are designed to be high-volume production machines and some offer users lower running costs compared to other technologies. Many people appreciate the time savings from resin ink production, which does not require additional post-production steps like outgassing. Depending on the printer manufacturer, prints produced on eco-solvent or solvent printers require anywhere from 6-48 hours of outgassing time before the prints are ready for installation or finishing. Resin ink prints are ready to laminate, install or ship much more quickly.
In addition, since resin ink prints do not require any post-production steps, the printer can be loaded up with one material and left to run for hours. This makes resin ink printers ideal for printing on fabrics for walls or furniture, signage for interiors, window graphics, floor graphics, or fleet vehicle graphics.
4- Expanded media options
Over the past few years, resin/latex ink technology has evolved significantly and the range of media these inks adhere to has expanded. These days, resin ink printer manufacturers are focused on helping providers make use of a wider range of materials. Roland DG TrueVIS AP-640 users, for example, have access to over 200 ICC media profiles.
There are, of course, specialty materials designed for resin/latex printers, however, when paired with the latest hardware, resin ink is compatible with a wide variety of media types including traditional signage materials as well as fabrics, wallpapers, and uncoated papers.
5- Durable, Sustainable Prints
Due to their eco-friendly composition, resin ink prints are in demand for indoor signage and décor, particularly at schools and medical facilities. Since these prints are viewed at close range, they also tend to be higher-margin products for print shops.
In addition, the durability of resin/latex inks has improved to the point where resin prints are competitive for outdoor graphic applications, such as vehicle and fleet graphics. Some manufacturer’s latex or resin ink formulations are best used for wraps on box trucks and trailers where less conformability is required. However, some of the newest resin inks are far less prone to cracking, which makes them an outstanding choice for wrapping vehicles with their many curves and edges.
As we’ve seen, resin/latex inks and printers have come a long way. When evaluating resin ink printing technology, there are several important factors to consider:
- The need for speed. Does the printer you’re considering have the production capability and throughput that’s required for your shop? Like all production equipment, resin ink printers available in today’s market vary when it comes to production speeds. Be sure that the printer you are evaluating can produce at the speed and volume you need to maintain your shop’s productivity.
- Testing, testing. It’s important to request test prints to ensure the ink formulation and printing technology offered by a given manufacturer can produce high-quality prints for a variety of applications. Your shop may be considering adding a high-margin product like vehicle graphics or environmental graphics. If so, you’ll need an inkset and printer that can consistently produce vibrant, rich, durable prints that can conform to curves and edges.
- Built to last? For most shops, printing equipment is among their most important investments, and it is critical that the printer you select remains functional and continues to produce vibrant, detailed output over time. Be sure to inquire about the printhead technology. Some manufacturers use a thermal printhead, which can degrade over time, resulting in color variation when you need to repeat a print. Roland DG uses a piezoelectric printhead, which is a type of industrial printhead that consistently delivers vivid prints with accuracy year after year without replacing the head. So, if you need to repeat a print three or four years down the road, you will not have to worry about being able to produce the same colors.
- Service and support. Does the manufacturer you’re considering provide excellent support and a solid, trouble-free warranty? While most manufacturers offer a one-year warranty, Roland DGA backs up the TrueVIS AP-640 with a two-year warranty. Those seeking even greater peace of mind can take advantage of Roland DGA’s low-cost extended warranty options for up to five years of total coverage.
Resin/Latex Market Poised for Growth
Industry leaders are predicting that the printed graphics market will continue its current pattern of growth, and print providers need to consider options that will allow them to successfully meet the expanded demand for digitally printed output.
Resin and latex inks, with their fast-drying, durable, and sustainable formulations, are making resin ink production more popular than ever before.