by Mark Sollman, Application Manager, Mimaki Europe
Of course, there’s no one-size-fits-all winner in the UV vs solvent clash, but this review aims to help you evaluate which technology better fits the needs of your business. So here it goes.
The argument for and against solvent
Solvent printing has long been the default choice for signage graphic printers. According to Image Reports’ Widthwise 2020 Report the most installed wide-format printer in the UK was the solvent printer, representing 52.63% – a figure which has remained much the same over the last ten years.
Its massive popularity is likely due to the fact solvent printing is inexpensive, it certainly is a key factor in its widespread adoption and a feature that makes it a suitable option for short-lived applications and mass advertising campaigns.
Solvent likewise delivers excellent print quality. Penetrating media and binding with the print substrate makes solvent inks ideal for applications, such as vehicle wrapping, as it maintains the ‘stretch’ of the vinyl material it’s produced on. Colours are also especially vibrant across the spectrum due to the process, so it’s perfect for outdoor applications, such as banners and large hoardings – where passers-by get the full impact of brand’s messages, even from a distance.
Suitability for outdoor applications is ‘doubled-down’ due to solvent print’s excellent resistance to rain and sunlight, although lamination is recommended when longer durability is required. However, for indoor applications, eco-solvent is suggested to reduce VOC emissions without compromising quality and durability.
Ink configurations can include special colours such as orange, light black, light cyan, light magenta, and - depending on the printer you use, white and metallic inks may also be available and coated media is required for all applications.
With the need to ‘gas off’ and let solvents evaporate after printing, turnaround times can be a little longer. Post-processing and lamination may take at least 6 and sometimes up to 24 hours.
The argument for and against UV
Whilst solvent offers attractive pricing, UV printing is more environmentally friendly – generally requires less power consumption and emits no VOCs. So, in today’s increasing environmentally conscious society, there is a good argument for taking a closer look at UV.
Print costs are generally a little higher for UV than solvent printing. However, as the technology develops with ongoing updates in inks, cost and performance, prices are steadily decreasing.
The technology works by using an ultraviolet light unit to instantly cure UV inks onto the print substrate. The ink dot is left sitting on top of the media and dries immediately. This allows you to print on almost anything, coated or uncoated, from plastics and glass to wood and metal.
More benefits arising from the instant-curing UV ink are that it uses minimal heat and delivers quick turnaround times because the print can be handled and processed directly.
Like solvent, UV delivers outstanding print quality – even photo-quality images. UV print is usually matte, but if glossy is required, it can be created by using clear ink. This is unlike solvent printing, where the print will match the surface of the substrate – glossy on gloss media and matte on a matte substrate.
Suitable for both indoor and outdoor applications, UV offers good weatherability and high scratch resistance, and many applications do not require lamination. Specialty applications are achievable with white and clear inks, such as raised-effect prints, double-sided window graphics, transformative backlit signage, and more!
Something to look out for on all inks – including solvent and UV – is the GREENGUARD GOLD certification – ensuring the rigorous standards for low emission of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are met, and products are acceptable for use in environments such as schools and healthcare facilities without polluting the indoor air quality.
Finding the right UV or solvent printer…
So now you have a better idea of whether UV or solvent is right for your business, it’s worth checking out Mimaki’s new ‘100 Series’, two entry level roll-to-roll inkjet printers for sign graphic service providers.
Comprising of the UJV100-160 (UV model) and the JV100-160 (solvent model), the two inkjet printers achieve high quality printing and high productivity, all at minimal cost to the user.
In line with Mimaki’s tagline Expert Printing Made Easy, the series is fully equipped with features that improve usability and uses Mimaki core technologies including NCU (Nozzle Check Unit), NRS (Nozzle Recovery System), and MAPS4 (Mimaki Advanced Pass System4), and the latest addition – Mimaki’s new DAS (Dot Adjustment System) feature – as standard.