Demand drives new products and refinements, as ink producers court expanded opportunities.
SunJet’s UV LED inks, marketed in its Crystal and EtiJet lines, demonstrate its ongoing attempts to anticipate and meet the evolving needs of digital print services providers. “The bar keeps being raised and we have to adapt to meet the demands of printheads that deliver higher print quality and speed to the customer,” says Saunders. “These increase the demands on ink technology as droplet sizes get smaller and printheads operate at higher frequencies.”
But as much as the market changes, Saunders says the challenges to ink suppliers remains essentially the same: “The ink has to deliver the right amount of pigment or color at low viscosity while maintaining the final film properties and performance as the equipment speed and capability increase,” he explains. “Indications are that print shops are willing to invest in products that diversify their output and offer operational flexibility and cost savings in processes that come with digital equipment.”
HP’s Tomas Martin sees advances in ink technology, and especially HP’s latex printing technology, opening up new opportunities “now that digital printing can provide odorless graphics to decorate walls in environments from retail to residential.” He attributes the interest in latex inks to how they combine the best attributes of eco-solvent and water-based inks: “You can obtain the outdoor durability, quality, and versatility on low-cost, uncoated papers that you would traditionally associate with eco-solvent inks, together with the odorless prints, low maintenance, and environmental advantages of water-based inks.”
Eyal Dusy, marketing segment manager for HP’s Scitex Industrial Solutions, sees a continued worldwide migration away from solvent inks in favor of more environmentally friendly latex and UV-curable print systems and inks. “Due to extensive environmental regulations for the handling and disposal of solvent inks in some areas, the price of solvent ink has increased, causing many PSPs to turn to UV curable or latex ink technologies.”
Dusy attributes the broadening appeal of UV-ink technology to its versatility and efficiency. “UV-curable ink can produce a wide variety of applications, allowing print service providers to expand their offerings with point-of-purchase and point-of-sale jobs for outdoors and retail environments, unlike solvent inks,” he notes.
He also points to the white-ink options HP has added for its HP Scitex FB500 and FB700 industrial printers as creating new opportunities: “These white inks allow customers to use colored or transparent substrates to produce high-value prints,” for window graphics, backlit graphics, and other applications.