By Olivia Cahoon
Part 2 of 2
Manufacturers looking for a cost-effective and cohesive method of decorating thermoformed materials consider digital printing technologies. UV ink sets are designed to stretch properly during the thermoforming process while retaining durability against weathering and handling. Select inks are compatible with OEM presses as well as other printer manufacturers.
Available Ink Sets
Released in June 2017, Afford Inks offers the 838 series of UV-curable pigmented inks for thermoforming. The inks print on most plastic, vinyl, treated metals, and treated glass while offering scratch resistance, chemical resistance, flexibility, and elasticity. According to Pedro J. Martinez, CEO, Afford Inks, it features high elongation and excellent adhesion.
Agfa Graphics continually develops new ink sets designed for general purpose for both indoor and outdoor application requirements.
“Our goal is to provide ink sets that have very good adhesion on plastics, increased flexibility, high durability/scratch resistance, low odor with a good color gamut, and opacity while utilizing Agfa’s thin ink technology ensuring the lowest level of ink consumption,” says Deborah Hutcheson, director marketing, Agfa.
Agfa’s ink sets are compatible with all Agfa Anapurna and Jeti engines, including flatbed, roll-to-roll, and hybrid engines for entry-, mid-, and high-volume production. Specifically, the Anuvia 1551 or Anapurna 1501 product lines are used for thermoforming.
EFI VUTEk GS-TF thermoforming ink offers extreme elongation for draw depth in addition to superb water and moisture resistance. It exhibits superior elongation characteristics for deep draw thermoforming while maintaining opacity on various plastics, including PETG, acrylic, polycarbonate, polystyrene, and PVC. The chemistry of the ink allows for elevated color strength, ideal for backlit applications.
The ink set is specifically engineered for thermoforming when paired with the EFI VUTEk GS Pro-TF series digital inkjet printers. Available in two- or 3.2-meter widths, the press allows for faster and more efficienct production of custom formed signs, packaging, point of purchase displays, vending panels, and other thermoforming applications by imaging direct to substrate.
Fujifilm North America Corporation released the Uvijet KV ink in 2015. It is GREENGUARD Gold certified and elongates up to 1,000 percent, which is designed to be greater than most digital thermoforming inks. Fujifilm Uvijet KV also works with all main substrates such as polystyrene, PETG, polycarbonate, acrylic, PVC, and ABS.
“Fujifilm Uvijet KV ink maintains high quality, vivid colors, and excellent performance like the rest of our ink lines,” shares Ramona Serafino, associate product marketing manager, graphic systems division, Fujifilm. According to her, the ink also exhibits superior adhesion to rigid plastic substrates, good scratch resistance, no cracking or flaking, good color strength, and forms between 302 to 392 degrees Fahrenheit.
Uvijet KV is compatible with Fujifilm Acuity Select, Acuity Select X2, Acuity Select HS, and Acuity Select HS X2 printers.
The Mimaki USA, Inc. LUS-350 is a UV-curable thermoforming ink with a 350 percent potential increase in size per drop. This offers a solution for digitally printing thermoforming projects. Additionally, LUS-350 offers a white and clear ink for new application potential.
LUS-350 is ideal for printing onto substrates such as PETG, acrylic, polycarbonate, polystyrene, and PVC. It is resistant to scratching or dimpling. When heated, it transforms into a pliable state with up to 350 percent elongation. “When cooled, it returns to a hard, durable surface in the shape of the thermoforming mold,” says Michael Maxwell, senior manager, Mimaki. It also offers a fine finish for applications such as automotive components, molded signs, and prototypes.
LUS-350 is compatible with the Mimaki UJF-7151 plus press, released in 2015.
Released in 2013, the Polymeric Group TF-Series is a range of functional clear inks specifically designed for thermoforming applications. “We customize the chemistry as required to meet the end user requirements and application process,” says Terry Amerine, VP, sales and marketing, Polymeric.
The Polymeric TF-Series is a functional topcoat that can overprint all digital ink types including UV, LED, and latex inks.
Roland DGA Corporation released ECO-UV S ink in 2009. It is a high-quality, fast-drying ink that offers durability and stretch up to 220 percent. ECO-UV S inks conform around curves, bends, and corners without cracking.
“They are ideal for curing at all available print speeds and deliver high color density and wide gamut,” shares Jay Roberts, product manager, UV printers, Roland. The inks also adhere to a range of coated and uncoated media. ECO-UV S inks are available in CMYK and white.
ECO-UV S inks are compatible with Roland’s VersaUV LEJ-640 hybrid printer as well as the VersaUV LEC-330 and LEC-540 roll-to-roll printer/cutters. Roberts adds, “powerfully efficient and ozone-free LED lamps cure fast and last up to ten times longer than conventional UV curing lamps.”
Sun Chemical’s Crystal UVG ink is designed to balance the requirements to give the best possible performance in a broad range of thermoforming applications. It is available through OEM partners.
Released in 2012, the T-ink from swissQprint is available for thermoforming. It is compatible with the Nyala 3 LED press, released in 2018. The Nyala 3 works with thermoforming inks as well as swissQprint’s standard ink sets SQS, KX1, SX1 and the G-ink, which is developed for printing on untreated metals and glass.
“The large bed size make running signs up to 6×10 feet possible, while also providing the ability to produce many smaller pieces at one time using step and repeat with our pin registration system,” says Mike Kyritsi, U.S. president, swissQprint.
UV Inks Make Thermoforming Possible
A variety of UV ink sets and digital presses are available for thermoforming in industrial environments. Before selecting a solution, manufacturers should consider substrate compatibility as well as durability based on the end use.
Oct2019, Industrial Print Magazine