The benefits of adopting UV LED technology for ink curing are extensive for screen printing companies. LED UV ink curing technology provides a sustainable and environmentally friendly screen printing method that reduces costs and protects employees. In the past decade, Empire Screen Printing has led the industry with UV LED ink curing technology. While many printers have adopted UV inks, they have been reluctant to adopt LED curing technology due to several challenges. This includes the lack of readily available products from lamp manufacturers and the high costs involved in purchasing new machines or retrofitting old machines.
However, screen printers must overcome this reluctance and invest in LED exposure units, because UV LED technology is ultimately better for their business, their employees, and the planet than older ink curing methods such as UV curing with mercury lamps. Not only is the ROI ultimately beneficial to screen printing companies from a cost perspective, but it also helps companies mitigate health risks and meet consumer demand for sustainable and environmentally friendly processes.
Switch to sustainable screen printing processes
Screen printers consume the most energy when running mercury lamps and the cooling systems for their presses. Mercury lamps produce high temperatures by emitting infrared energy. This heat can damage the lamp housing and substrates if not managed properly, requiring significant effort and expense on behalf of screen printers.
Switching to LED-based technology for UV curing results in a process that is 98% more energy efficient. LED lights do not require a large power input, as they can be plugged into standard wall outlets. In stark contrast to mercury lamps, LEDs also emit little or no heat, requiring less elaborate cooling systems than mercury-based technology.
Mercury lamps remain on throughout the production day because it takes time for these systems to heat up and cool down. However, there is no need for the LEDs to remain on while not in use, as they instantly turn on and off. Unlike mercury lamps, LEDs do not emit ozone, so screen printers reduce energy consumption by eliminating the ventilation systems needed to filter out ozone.
In addition to lowering energy costs, switching to sustainable screen printing processes will help companies meet evolving consumer demands. Today’s consumers are often looking for products that are made using sustainable materials and processes. This is evidenced by a recent study by the IBM Institute for Business Value, which found that 3 out of 5 consumers reported that at least half of their recent purchases included sustainable products.
Adopt an environmentally friendly approach
Another motivation for screen printing companies to adopt the LED-based curing process is the fact that it is more environmentally friendly than the mercury-based approach. Several factors determine the use of LEDs as a more environmentally friendly approach to ink handling than mercury lamps. Significantly, the overall reduction in energy consumption resulting from the adoption of an LED-based curing process reduces harmful emissions caused by many energy production processes.
Ozone – known to harm people, plant life and the wider ecosystem – is caused by the use of mercury lamps but not by LED lamps. Along with exhaust from vehicles and other gas-powered equipment, the Environmental Protection Agency currently lists print shops as a common source of volatile organic compounds, i.e., compounds that lead to ozone. However, a shift towards LED-based processing would significantly reduce the ozone emissions that come from print shops in general, effectively decoupling the industry from industries like oil and gas that are widely seen as causing serious damage. to the global environment.
In addition to eliminating the emission of pollutants such as ozone and volatile organic compounds, LED lamps do not need to be replaced as often as mercury lamps. Mercury lamps can be used between 1,000 and 2,000 hours and must remain lit throughout the workday, so they usually need to be replaced every 8 to 12 months. In contrast, LED lights, with their ability to shut down quickly when not in use, can last more than a decade without needing to be replaced. Ultimately, this longer life greatly reduces the amount of waste generated as a by-product of the ink handling process.
Cost effective treatment process
Many screen printing companies may be reluctant to adopt LED UV curing technology because of the upfront costs. However, when viewed holistically, investing in UV LED curing technology will reduce costs over time. This is due to lower energy expenditure, elimination of common regulatory costs involved in the use and disposal of mercury lamps, and significant savings in maintenance costs.
An investment in LEDs will only take three years to pay itself in full: A study by Specialist Printing Worldwide found that while retro-fit LEDs can cost up to $535,000, switching to LEDs would save companies about $187,000 a year. Here, one of the main areas where costs are cut is energy savings. For example, Empire Screening, a large screen printing company, spends approximately $650 on energy to power its LED lights. By comparison, most companies of similar size will spend up to $35,000 annually to operate mercury lamps.
LED technology has improved over the years, which has led to an increase in the production of LED UV curing lamps. LEDs can now output UV energy with a wavelength of 395 nanometers and an intensity of 12 watts to 16 watts. These options provide faster production speeds than the lower wattage lamps of years past, lowering costs by allowing more products to be manufactured more quickly.
Protect employees during the processing process
One of the biggest motivations for screen printing companies to switch to LED-based curing process is to create a healthier work environment and protect workers. If the mercury handling process is not well ventilated, it releases irritants into the workplace that can cause respiratory problems for workers. By contrast, LEDs eliminate ozone and generate minimal heat, eliminating the need for HVAC equipment, and allowing air to be recycled without endangering personnel.
Screen printing companies looking to reduce energy consumption and costs while protecting their employees and the environment will find an ideal solution in UV LED curing technology. As a pioneer in applying this technology to the printing process, Empire Screen Printing has made this technology available to everyone rather than keeping it proprietary. Empire Screen Printing has done so in hopes of transforming the industry towards a safer and more sustainable future for both people and the planet.