And is UV LED the “hot” print technology right now?
BPIC: What have been some of the most intriguing technologies and products introduced into the marketplace in the past year?
Marco Boer, I.T. Strategies: The eco-solvent from Epson and latex ink technologies from HP have greatly expanded outdoor, high-print-quality applications like vehicle graphics, smaller-than-billboard outdoor signage, etc. They’ve opened up outdoor print applications to many print-for-pay shops and done so for a low investment risk.
Peter Mayhew, LightWords Ltd: It was good to see Mimaki come to market with a latex solution this year. However, HP is a tough act to follow and they dominate the technology with an already impressive installed base of product. But, we’re sure that will not concern Mimaki – expect to see a JV-400LX at a PSP near you.
Tim Greene, InfoTrends: This is always a great question and a hard one to answer in most years. But for me, this year, the most interesting thing has to be the Memjet-based printers that were unveiled at Drupa. These are water-based inkjet printers that can print superfast, so if they come to market as planned this represents a totally new paradigm from a technology and productivity standpoint. There are a lot of “ifs,” but with partners like Océ and Fuji-Xerox, it’s certainly an indication of great potential.
BPIC: And is UV LED the “hot” print technology right now?
Dan Marx, SGIA: I’m not sure I would call UV LED “hot,” but I’d definitely say it’s where UV curing for inkjet applications is going. More than five years ago, I authored an article indicating, “UV LED is coming,” and I heard from some scoffers. Now it’s arrived, and I don’t hear any scoffing in the industry. As UV LED becomes standard equipment in many UV inkjet devices, I expect most traditional lamps to go by the wayside. Energy savings and lamp life are both strong selling points.
Greene: It is real hot – but it’s between that and latex as to which is “hotter.”
Boer: LED curing ultimately will dominate the UV-ink-curing industry, just like LED lighting will dominate the lighting industry before the end of the decade. Its energy efficiency and ultimate cost/power ratio (once we reach economies of scale) will be superior to other methods. But two things need to come together before we’re there: a lower cost of LED lamps, and inkjet inks that are optimized to cure at lower wavelengths. If LED lamps were strictly developed for UV-curing of inks, it would be decades before we achieved suitable economies of scale, but as beneficiaries of the general lighting industry, the UV-curable printing technology will ride its coattails to growth.
Mayhew: It’s certainly interesting to see LED UV curing mature as a technology. There are some clear benefits in terms of reliability, speed of curing, and reduced heat damage. But there are also some lingering issues with ink curing. As demand increases, we expect ink manufacturers to overcome these problems.
This is Day 3 of our Industry Roundtable Q&A. For the Day 2 Q&A, click here.
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