Toasty Warm and Dry
Radiant energy and added air circulation are making infrared drying systems efficient options for many converters.
by Joy English
Today's forecast: sunny and breezy, with highs in the 80s. With weather like this, perfecting a tan is quick and easy. But with this same type of radiant energy, packaged in a different form, a tan is not all that can be accomplished quickly. For the package printing industry, infrared (IR) energy serves many converters' drying needs, especially when combined with convection. Doug Misercola, president of DRI (Port Salerno, Fla.), says, "Basically, infrared is electromagnetic energy that has been around since the beginning of time. The sun is radiant energy. Periodically, manufacturers like myself come up with different ways to focus IR energy, and with unique elements to make it more efficient for today's high speed converting." Using radiant energy with the option of combining it with air, the IR dryer is one energy source that is finding its place in the package printing industry.
In package printing, most applications require a drying cycle. Matt Litzler, president of C.A. Litzler (Cleveland), describes this process. "Heat transfer is the application of energy into a product. Mass transfer is the removal of a solvent (or water) … Effective drying needs both heat transfer and mass transfer." Each drying system has its own way of accomplishing this.
Willie Fuchs, president of Fuchs-De Vries, Inc. (Mundelein, Ill.), explains that the IR drying system transfers heat through radiation, rather than by convection. "Convection heat energy raises the temperature of the surrounding air, and then this hot air heats the materials. This dual heating process is less efficient. IR energy passes through the air, similar to light energy flowing from the sun. Only minor energy losses are sustained during its travel."
With so much energy packed into a small space, the IR dryer is one source that is great for preheating. Litzler says, "Infrared is great for putting a tremendous amount of energy into a small space. [It] can be used as a way to increase speeds with preheating."