UV LED printers equal cost savings. If you’ve had a chance to witness these devices in action, at first glance they carry similarities between basic UV. However, after careful research and study, important features not found in other devices highlight a robust, efficient, and high-quality technology ideal for the graphic arts.
The top three benefits of purchasing or upgrading to a UV LED device are environmental sustainability, media versatility, and increased productivity.
“UV LED devices are more environmentally friendly than conventional UV technologies because they don’t emit ozone or harmful UV-B or UV-C radiation. Also, they operate at much lower temperatures and are more energy efficient,” shares Hirsohi Ono, group product manager, Roland DGA Corporation.
The cooling LED lamps used to cure prints are engineered to provide little to no power up or down time, which also equates to energy savings. Additionally, the physical makeup of the lamps allows for a longer life. As most vendors cite, their lamps feature longevity ratings of about 10,000 hours.
Based on tests EFI has run on its new GS3250LX UV LED printer, the lamps offer a longevity of 10,000 hours—but these tests are still ongoing.
LED lamps are energy efficient and because of the operation technique—with low temperatures—certain substrates are printed that were never possible before. Heat-sensitive thin media, such as shrink films or poly wraps, are printed without curling or warping with LED curing.
“The beta sites currently hosting the EFI VUTEk GS3250LX say they’ve run poly banner, some corrugated, enviro boards, and thinner styrene. Additionally, these mediums are traditionally purchased purely by weight—lighter materials provide more square footage at a lesser price, which equals cost savings,” explains Ken Hanulec, VP, marketing, EFI.
Media versatility and environmental sustainability lead to increased productivity. As Fran Gardino, business development manager, Mimaki USA, Inc., points out, the fact that the lamps take little time to power off mean they more productive, as users don’t need to wait for a printer to turn on. Also, with the range of media now possible on these printers, productivity rises—more jobs, more ways to make money.
Thinking about upgrading or adding but worried about cost? Traditionally, UV LED devices are more expensive than their UV counterparts—all vendors admit this. However, they stress the importance of recognizing the overall cost savings. Although it is difficult to step back and see the bigger picture, the proof is there.
“It is a slightly higher purchase outright, but a greater return on investment in the long run. It’s similar to purchasing a hybrid vehicle, it may be more money for the purchase, but less fuel is used. This leads to big savings,” explains Hanulec.
Features that translate to cost savings overtime include longer lasing lamps, meaning less replacement. Also, heating systems aren’t as pricey with a UV LED printer. “The design of an LED printer tends to be much simpler. For example, LED printers do not require a high-voltage power source or complex heat management system. They are also much more energy efficient and come with extremely durable lamps, which can last up to 10,000 hours. This means that businesses can operate the printer for several years without incurring replacements costs,” adds Ono.
Consider also, staying a step ahead of the competition. UV LED has been on the horizon for the last two years. The research and investment of this technology is testament to its success. In the last year many new devices have cropped up and more are expected in the near future. If you can implement this technology before the competition, think of how you will thrive.
Buy or Not to Buy
As always, a decision to purchase any device should be based on the needs and capabilities of a shop. It is no secret that UV LED is less efficient than its counterparts—meaning if you need productivity for a sign viewed at a distance, this type of printer may not be ideal.
However, those looking to output high-quality items in niche spaces, UV LED is a fit. “Shops should consider the speed of the printer as well as its capabilities. For example, some devices may print at a slower pace, but offer extremely high-quality product output, plus the ability to print white and spot varnish. These unique capabilities produce prints that command premium prices in the marketplace,” shares Ono.
Items such as laptop cases, smartphone protective shields, pens, pencils, high-quality window displays for cosmetics, quality packaging prototypes, and more all fit into that premium price marketplace.
If space is an issue, have no fear, devices you may already own can be switched over. For example, EFI’s VUTEk GS3200 is field upgradable to the GS3250LX. Hanulec says the entire worldwide EFI sales and distribution team was educated on the benefits and nuances of upgrading between the two systems. At press time, several upgrades were in talks for Summer.