LED curing looks set to be the future of flexo.
With wide-ranging benefits, including faster drying, improved consistency and energy-efficiency, LED curing can help converters control costs and maintain their competitive edge in an evolving market.
Following the launch of PureTone DC®, the new dual-cure UV LED ink solution from Pulse Roll Label Products, it’s never been easier to start making the switch over to a new way of label printing. To help you with this process, we’ve answered some of the most common questions about the LED curing process.
What is LED curing?
The main difference between LED curing and traditional UV curing methods is the wavelength of light used to solidify the ink. The photoinitiators in LED-curable inks react to longer wavelengths of light, typically in a very narrow band. This means the light used is more ‘intense’, curing the ink quickly through polymerisation, rather than simply drying it.
What are the benefits of LED curing?
Put simply, LED curing is faster, more consistent, and more efficient than alternative ink curing processes. LED provides a deeper, more stable light source, improving cure quality and adhesion on most substrates.
Not only do LED bulbs need less power to run than traditional mercury UV lamps, but the technology improves adhesion and cure on most substrates. The high intensity of the light used also cures the ink much more quickly, helping to maximise your press uptime.
This speed of curing extends to lamp activation. Unlike UV lights, LED bulbs can be instantly switched on or off with no warming up/cooling down period. Not only does this offer further productivity gains, but the high-speed makeready also means that lights do not need to be left on between jobs, which will have a noticeable impact on your energy bills!
Is LED curing more eco-friendly?
LED curing lamps are widely recognised as the best option for energy-efficient curing. As well as consuming less power, these bulbs operate at cooler temperatures than conventional ones, meaning less excess energy is wasted as heat.
As a side-effect, this cooler curing allows for converting on heat-sensitive substrates, and removes the need for energy-hungry cooling systems. These factors combine to both benefit the planet and reduce spend on energy.
Lower energy use also reduces wear and tear on the bulbs themselves. In fact, most LED bulbs can last 10 times longer than UV equivalents, easily reaching 10,000 – 20,000 hours of operational life and with even longer lifespans very common. When they do finally stop working, the absence of mercury means they are much simpler to dispose of.
How do I know if LED curing is right for my business?
It’s true that new curing stations are a significant investment, and in today’s flexo landscape, some converters may be hesitant to switch over to LED curing all at once.
Thankfully, inks are available that make the transition to LED curing simple. PureTone DC is a revolutionary new dual cure UV LED ink for flexo printers developed by Pulse Roll Label Products. Its bespoke formulation means the initiators in the ink respond to both UV and LED light, meaning it can be used with both LED and traditional curing methods. This offers flexibility to converters and gives them the freedom to start introducing LED curing at a speed that’s right for them.