The rise of LED UV printing – where will it lead?
What an ever changing world we exist in! Every day the acceleration of print technology is creating unprecedented advances in innovation and applications. Scarily it may only been about 20 years since we were tied to the limitations of printing with plates or screens, but we are now seeing a massive blossoming of the LED UV printing market. The technology means the nature of applications is rapidly expanding with almost limitless possibilities. The only limit now is on the ideas created.
We are surrounded by it – personalisation. From the adverts we view to the online searches we make, nearly every aspect of our lives is becoming tailored to our preferences. This trait is permeating and weaving into so much more of our environments as we come to expect it more and more. The rise of personalisation from Birthday cards to bespoke gifts means that the continued rise of digital printing will only exacerbate this with shorter and shorter print runs becoming increasingly popular. Equally we want to create customised pieces where items can come in a particular colour or you can do practical customisation such as creating sequentially numbered labels. So we now see ourselves entering into the realms of yet more bespoke and niche printing, with everything from customised musical instruments through to strangely beautiful personalised coffins!
Revolutionising the old
Traditionally, inkjet textile printing is still one of the fastest growing segments; doubling its value since 2013. With estimates at the tail end of 2018 highlighting that the worldwide market for textile printing had risen to $1.88 billion in 2018*. This dramatic, rapid evolution is showing no signs of abating as more printers and customers embrace what this technology can deliver. Offerings are broadening across the fashion, signage and the home décor sectors with some insights suggesting that the market could even grow to a value of $4.90 billion by 2023*. The typical sectors such as clothing, household, display and signage are likely to continue to dominate. However broadening of the sector is seeing technical uses and accessory applications becoming much more prevalent in other sectors such as automotive, medical and sports.
Making the most of the medium
While the automotive sector may be suffering they are also innovating in their application of LED UV printing. Some prestige manufacturers now have in-house large format printers which they can use to create bespoke interior finishes and printed trims on plastic, metal and leather for the discerning customer. This love of printing on leather has more recently become much more accessible and increasingly popular. Combined with custom printing, it is seen as a way of creating a more personalised style with designs printed directly onto the leather in bold, high definition colours. Digital printing means there is the ability to do very small runs of a design as there are no screens to prepare.
Creating to the need
Some indications are that the textiles industry are more and more moving to a lean and Just in Time (JIT) manufacturing processes where holding fabric stocks will become a legacy. On-site printers, particularly those that can print a pattern directly onto the fabric are making it possible to print a fabric on the same day that it will be cut. This is also enabling businesses to go from the design stage to a finished fabric in weeks or even days if they have an on-site printer. The advantage of which is that textile industries are now able to very rapidly respond to current trends and even change their prints or colours mid-season.
The UV LED printing process is lending itself to creating many diverse applications as it broadens the extent and variety of media that can be used with. The potential to creating new revenue streams is significant and now even extends to how a GUI is developed. Some of the latest printers have the ability to introduce layers of ink to create unusual 3D effect textures, adding a completely new dimension to projects. No longer will art prints or reproductions need to be smooth and flat in nature, as this layer approach can replicate the intricacies of an artist’s brush stroke or enhance the texture of an image to create additional depth. In fact this creates another level of unique personalisation which could be adjusted for every piece enabling customers to have a truly totally original and bespoke piece.
It truly is an exciting time in the application of UV LED printing with manufacturers and printers constantly looking at new ways to evolve. The future is therefore likely to be dynamic, potentially a little unpredictable but realistically a time for significant innovation.