Printing Comparisons: Is UV Right For You?
If you’re familiar at all with the printing industry, you know there are a lot of technical terms used to describe printing methods and materials. While you might feel like it’s a different language, the methods used to print your graphics aren’t overly complicated. Three of the most popular print methods are screen printing, offset printing and digital UV printing, and here’s a comparison so you’ll have a better idea which one is right for you.
Although screen printing has been around for quite a while, some of the materials used have been updated. The process is similar to a stamp, where ink is transferred to the surface of metal, glass, plastics or fabric. A mesh stencil is used to transfer ink onto the surface of the material with a little bit of pressure and some time to dry and cure before the next layer. You can build layers as needed with different colors and screens, and the mesh application gives it a nice even finish. Screen printing is most popular with fabrics because the ink adheres well after it is cured and also withstands multiple washes. The downside to screen printing is the need to produce a separate screen for each graphic, so small batch jobs aren’t ideal. Time is also an issue due to set up and curing, so simple graphics in large quantities are best.
Best for magazines, brochures, and pamphlets, offset printing uses a printing cycle similar to an assembly line. Multiple printers cycle rolls of pages on that are printed one color at a time in the classic CMYK (cyan, magenta, yellow, black) colors. Instead of toner, ink is used, giving the printed pages a vibrancy in color. Offset printing is best for larger quantities because of the need to calibrate the printers together. Although offset printing is limited to one side at a time, it’s great for printing publications because the ink doesn't crack when it’s bent or folded.
Digital UV Printing
The most popular of the three, digital ultraviolet printing is a method using UV light to dry ink onto almost any material you can imagine instantly. Other types of ink take time to air dry or cure with heat, while UV dries faster than any other current printing method. Because the ink dries so quickly, it doesn’t have time to evaporate into the air, producing less VOC’s (volatile organic compounds) making it a much more earth-friendly option. This method produces vibrant colors that are durable, with a scratch and chip resistant finish. UV printing uses much more specialized equipment, but a small batch isn’t a big deal.
If you’re still unsure which printing method is best for you, be sure and seek advice from the printing company you choose. All three methods are great, but one, in particular, might be better for your project.