We all know that inkjet is growing at an unprecedented rate and is penetrating new markets and applications, but what's next? Besides being able to run faster, what does the future of inkjet look like? At Collins, we believe that the future of energy curable inkjet is electron beam (EB) and we're pioneering the work needed to bring it to market.
In short, EB curing occurs by a similar polymerization process as UV and LED curing, but without the requirement of photoinitiators. Collins embarked on this project after seeing that the prices of beam curing units were approaching those of high-end LED curing units. “Those familiar with older ebeam systems remember massive, hulking machines that took an enormous amount of floor space,” added John Salkeld, PCT’s Marketing Manager. “By incorporating ebeam lamps manufactured by our Swiss parent company COMET, we’ve been able to reduce the footprint of our ebeam systems dramatically, making them more affordable and more applicable for inkjet single pass applications.”
Without photoinitiators, the inks are safer, less costly, more stable, more reliable, and nearly odorless. The EB process also offers a more complete cure than UV/LED and does so without generating as much heat as other curing technologies. This opens the door for printing on very thin films and foils. E-beam provides advantages for companies wanting to print low migration labels, packaging for food applications, and other consumer products.
Over the past couple of years, Collins has been formulating and validating e-beam inkjet inks to provide a niche solution to the industrial printing industry that current UV/LED curable inkjet inks do not offer. Concerns regarding material variability, potential migration, print integrity, complete and consistent cure are obsolete with EB technology. After working closely with e-beam equipment manufacturer, PCT, to conduct multiple printing trials, we've experienced all of this first hand. The results have been exceptional. Collins is able to formulate inks that are far superior to anything previously available to the market with other technologies. Because of this, Collins has made the investment to purchase an e-beam curing unit that will be mounted to a web transport, in house, for ink development and testing. We anticipate having this system up and running by the end of September. Collins believes it will be the first inkjet ink company to have such a set up, and encourages customers to take advantage of the opportunity to explore the possibilities of e-beam curing.
“It has been a real joy to partner with Collins Inkjet on this project,” noted PCT Engineered Systems Project Manager Don Allebach. “The enthusiasm and energy that they have contributed to the development of electron beam (ebeam)-friendly digital ink formulations has been astounding. We all share an outlook that ebeam-cured inkjet printing systems are going to be a very big deal in the not-too-distant future.”