At last year’s LabelExpo in Brussels, we saw live demos of at least 40 different inkjet-based label presses, the majority of them using UV-curing technology. The variety of inkjet label press solutions ranges from basic models to very sophisticated high-speed label presses, and also includes hybrid systems combining flexo printing and inkjet in roll-to-roll or roll-to-sheet configurations.
To developers of such modular label production systems, Agfa Graphics can provide a total solution that involves workflow technology for color management and versioning as well as UV inkjet ink formulations to accommodate multiple label substrates. While not always visible, the ink forms a key component of a UV inkjet label press.
Agfa Graphics’ UV inks technology is based upon our extensive chemical and pigment dispersion expertise, as well as on our know-how of all parts of inkjet systems (printheads, curing systems, software, pre-treatment, etc). Much experience also evolves from closely working together with label press manufacturers today.
Agfa Graphics’ UV inks are developed in function of the label press system configuration, including ink formulations geared to the piezo printhead, the curing system, the pre-treatment and other system parameters, in order to establish a complete match between the ink system and printhead. The resulting ink solutions deliver highly reliable jetting and excellent reproducibility. Agfa Graphics’ UV inks have the best batch-to-batch consistency and a shelf life of minimally 12 months (up to 18 months from production date). UV inks are available for all industrial piezo printheads. These include normal viscosity-range printheads, such as those from Konica Minolta, Xaar, Ricoh, Seiko and others, but we are also technology leaders in UV inks for high resolution printheads (e.g Kyocera), whereby the low viscous UV inks extend printhead lifetime as they allow the printhead to be used at a lower jetting temperature.
Agfa Graphics designs UV inks for multi-purpose label printing that uses a broad range of substrates, but also for very specific ranges of labels and/or applications. All important label stock types are covered (paper based, plastic foils, laminates, blister foils and more), and also the most common ways in which labels are used. One example is the laminate tubing application, whereby in a first step the product information is printed on the label (roll-to-roll), and in a second step the tube is formed from the labeled roll. This can happen in two separate process steps or can be combined in one production line.
To address food and pharmaceutical labels Agfa Graphics supplies low-migration UV-curable inks. The low-migration inks have proven their performance for food-safe printing in direct print applications (direct printing on the primary food packaging, either a foil or a container), which are much more demanding for food safety.
Agfa Graphics considers label printing a key target application for its UV inks and is continuously improving and extending its UV ink label offering, whereby the ink development is driven by the market needs and the technology evolution in printheads mainly, but also in curing systems (with focus on UV LED curing) and new high-speed production label systems. Agfa Graphics focuses on being the ink partner of choice for system integrators developing such digital label printing solutions because the inks are fine-tuned for superior compatibility with the latest developments in digital label printing systems, including chemistries best suited for LED curing, inter-color pinning, white ink, varnish and other specialties.
Jan de Vooght is general manager industrial inkjet inks at Agfa Graphics. He discusses ink technology needs in UV inkjet label printing in view of the upcomming InPrint (Industrial Print Show – Hannover, Germany April 8-10, 2014), which is co-located to Hannover Messe.