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Fully booked application specialists and a wide range of printing test inquiries mean the demonstration press at the Heidelberg Print Media Center in Wiesloch-Walldorf hardly ever stops.

“Companies can come here and, for a modest outlay, get a good idea of whether the LED process can offer benefits for their business model and requirements and make them more competitive. The reduced waiting times and lower heat transfer for producing thermosensitive PE or PP materials compared to UV lamps are attractive to label and packaging printers,” explains Martin Zibold, Product Manager Sheetfed.

Enhanced print results and shorter throughput times

At the heart of the technology from Heidelberg is the DryStar LED dryer system, developed in-house, and the development and approval of appropriate consumables. LED UV opens up new possibilities for ensuring and enhancing quality and productivity.

DryStar LED is the only LED UV system on the market that is fully integrated into the user interface of the Prinect Press Center . This high level of automation enables setup times that are virtually identical to those in conventional printing, with the big advantage that the printed sheets are dry and can be transferred directly to postpress.

“Production is easier to plan, delivery times are shorter, less space is needed for interim storage and less capital is tied up for semi-finished products – everything is faster,” says Zibold. But that’s by no means everything. For example, LED UV delivers benefits in particular for uncoated substrates, which are in ever greater demand, as the inks are cured before they can be absorbed into the substrate. This results in more saturated colors and high-contrast images.

Increased variety in applications

The benefits of LED UV are proving popular: “We’ve already installed over 1,000 printing units at customer sites,” Zibold reports. It is interesting to note that a growing number of users come from the label and luxury packaging sector. Some 50 printing units with the Heidelberg LED UV system are already being used at in-mold label manufacturers. However, folding carton printers are also harnessing the benefits for printing nonabsorbent materials.

“Nothing is too complex for us, whether it’s lightweight paper for the pharmaceutical industry or cold foil applications in the label and packaging sector. Customers benefit from our more than 10 years of experience in LED applications. Opaque white, Pantone, gold and silver are now also available as low-migration inks at affordable prices,” comments Zibold.

Further growth

Ink manufacturers and Heidelberg are continuously enhancing inks and coatings to further optimize their application, cost-effectiveness, price, recycling, de-inkability and sustainability. Heidelberg is also focusing on the efficiency, investment costs and areas of application of the DryStar LED system so it can push forward its dry sheet concept.

“LED technology and the associated application technology are set to continue their dynamic development and show significant growth in the years ahead,” says Zibold confidently.

What lies ahead for LED inks?

European Printing Inks Association (EuPIA) guidelines relating to LED inks are currently transforming the market in Europe in particular. Substances suspected of being harmful to health must be replaced, which is generating high demand for these alternatives. Moreover, many are produced in China, which makes it more costly for ink manufacturers to purchase the necessary items – all the more since the Chinese now also recognize the importance of environmentally friendly production processes.

Despite these changes on the market, LED still has advantages over conventional production. As a full-service provider, Heidelberg ensures in-house monitoring and testing of all modifications to formulations, which means Saphira products still deliver consistently high quality.

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