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Industry Roundtable Day 6: Will UV LED Become the Dominant UV Technology?

14 days of critical information to prepare your shop for the year ahead.

Big Picture

Which technologies are on the upswing – and which are on the downswing? What markets and applications look to be hot next year? How much of a role will sustainability play in your company? Which profit centers should you invest in?

Get answers to these questions and many more, from six of the wide-format marketplace’s most informed analysts and consultants. Over the next couple of weeks, The Big Picture will post critical questions with invaluable answers from our panel – all designed to help you ensure that your company charts its best course for a prosperous year ahead.

Each day leading up to the SGIA Expo in Orlando, we’ll feature a round of questions and answers from our panel participants. For this year’s edition of our annual Industry Roundtable, our participants include:

• Lori Anderson, president and CEO, International Sign Association (ISA, www.signs.org);

• Marco Boer, vice president, I.T. Strategies (www.it-strategies.com);

• Tim Greene, director, wide format consulting service, InfoTrends (www.infotrends.com);

• Dan Marx, vice president, markets & technologies, Specialty Graphic Imaging Association (SGIA, www.sgia.org);

• Peter Mayhew, director, LightWords Ltd. (www.lightwords.co.uk); and

• John Zarwan, managing partner, J Zarwan Partners (www.johnzarwan.com).

Q. UV LED seems to be making its own push. Will UV LED become the dominant UV technology?

Mayhew: Over time yes, it’s inevitable. However, it’s going to take time for LED UV ink technology to reach a level of performance and acceptance in the broad range of applications required to achieve this goal. The broad curing capability of the UV arc source is not going away; rather it’s likely to evolve and compete.

Zarwan: Hard to say if or when UV LED will become dominant, but we’ll continue to see growth as manufacturers offer devices with the technology. To the extent that the advantages, product quality, productivity, and cost are better than traditional UV technology, they will succeed.

Marx: Yes. In the next 10 years, nearly all traditional mercury UV lamps will be replaced with LED units. Those that remain will be for highly specialized applications.

Boer: LED-curing has very compelling benefits for all involved, from energy consumption and operator intervention reduction to the ability to print on a broader range of substrates without causing heat from the curing lamp to deform them. Unfortunately, though, we still haven’t reached critical mass where the LED-lamp acquisition cost and the new generation of inks (with different curing wave-lengths) are attractively priced and widely available. We can model all we like in terms of lifetime savings of LED-curing lamps, but when faced with a purchase decision that’s often still 15 to 25 percent higher than a comparable arc-lamp curing system, many print providers make a decision based upon immediate cash outlay. This creates the chicken-and-egg conundrum: Does a shop wait for purchase volumes of LED-curing printers to increase and, hence, see a reduction in pricing? Or do lamp/printer manufacturers decrease prices in advance in order to create the benefit of growing economies of scale?

Greene: I certainly believe it will, but it will take a while. Manufacturers are using interesting techniques combined with LED curing to provide lower running costs and more importantly, compatibility with a wider range of substrates. 

Miss Day 5 of our Industry Roundtable? Click here for our experts' take on: The expansion of the latex printing market.

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