When it comes to curing in the printing industry, UV (ultraviolet) and EB (electron beam) are two popular methods that offer unique advantages. Understanding the benefits of both UV and EB curing can help you make an informed decision about which method is best suited for your specific needs.
In this article, we’ll outline the benefits of each method and their respective considerations.
What is UV printing?
UV printing is a printing method that uses special UV curing ink to print onto a variety of substrates. The ink is placed on the substrate by the printer before being instantly dried, or cured, by an ultraviolet light. Originally invented to apply nail varnish in a quick and convenient manner, UV printing and curing has become a popular choice in many commercial applications, but especially in narrow web printing & converting.
What are the advantages of UV curing?
- Speed and efficiency: The UV curing process can be completed in seconds, facilitating shorter production times and higher levels of productivity.
- Suitable for heat-sensitive substrates: UV curing is a relatively low-temperature process that doesn’t generate significant heat, making it suitable for heat-sensitive materials, especially when chill rolls are used to manage heat.
- Environmentally friendly: LED UV curing does not emit Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) which are damaging to human health and the environment, so it’s ideal for businesses seeking sustainable printing
- Compact and convenient: UV curing technology can be easily integrated into most modern flexo, Digital & Hybrid presses to provide more efficient ink drying methods than older infrared or hot air drying equipment.
Recent advancements in LED UV technology have further reduced operating temperatures, emissions, and concerns regarding ink migration in food packaging, enhancing the wider appeal of UV printing.
However, UV curing does have limitations. UV light has limited penetration and may not be suitable for curing thick coatings. Additionally, some absorbent substrates may not be compatible with UV curing, especially in some food prime packaging applications.
What is EB curing?
Electron beam curing is a process that utilises high-energy electron beams to instantly cure or harden coatings, inks, and adhesives. The electrons penetrate the material, creating a chemical reaction that results in rapid curing without the need for heat or solvents.
EB curing has earned significant interest in the printing industry in recent years due to its unique capabilities:
- Deep penetration: Unlike UV curing, EB curing offers deep penetration so it can cure a wider range of materials, which is particularly useful for specialised food packaging.
- Consumer safety: EB inks are regarded as safer for food packaging applications, reducing the risk to consumers and safeguarding food products against spoilage.
However, it's important to note that EB curing requires significant power and can be hazardous, so robust proper protective equipment and training is necessary to protect workers. Also, EB curing equipment is much larger and more expensive than UV systems and cannot be easily integrated into conventional printing equipment. Most applications require a special EB module.
Find out more
To learn more about how different printing technologies can benefit your business, please get in touch with Focus Label today on 01949 836223 or message us here.