Despite the many benefits of UV flexo technology, industry insiders are hesitant to treat it as the package printing cure-all.
by Jessica Millward, Associate Editor
THE BIG BUZZ surrounding UV flexo printing has abated slightly over the last year or two. The process' benefits improved print resolution, less makeready time and waste, better adhesion to film substrateshave been well publicized. But with developments in water-based flexo, suppliers and converters alike have begun to wonder exactly what share of the package print pie UV flexo merits.
So what to make of UV flexo's mantra of rivaling offset? From its first appearance on the industry scene, UV flexo's advocates have positioned the process as the next big thing, ready to take on printing's big boys: offset, rotary letterpress, even short-run gravure.
"UV flexo is definitely going to continue to make headway in the label market, because converters know the advantages are real," affirms Mike Polkinghorne, VP, Propheteer International. Indeed, for narrow-web applications, he explains, the "15-20 minutes of set-up time" required for Propheteer's UV flexo presses can't be ignored.
Gallus Sales Manager Bob Yates agrees: "Growth in our UV flexo sales has outweighed growth in letterpress/screen combos." He has witnessed more converters using UV for flexible packaging, especially for coffee bags and pouches, "basically any formerly wide-web application that's gone narrow."
A tangled (wide) web
Where things get complicated is, of course, in the wide-web arena. Reports on the quantity and quality of wide-web usage vary. Several years ago, Windmöeller & Hoelscher initiated an R&D program for wide-web UV flexo, inviting all major ink and lamp suppliers to test their products on a W&H CI press. Success was limited, and tests showed high costs and severe ink and lamp limitations. Senior VP Hans Deamer finds the problems faced then still exist today. He mentions "there are still problems with opacity, especially whitegetting a good, dense white down is difficult."