Ink is more than you think”

Design of wide format applications requires a good understanding of ink capabilities and substrate options. How long will they last?

Wear and tear. Will the application be robust enough without lamination?

Of course wide format prints are used for a wide range of products. Sources of potential damage can vary significantly between applications, for example it may be exposed to many months in outdoor locations, and will be subjected to damaging uv rays in sunlight, pollution etc.

Before ordering print, you must carefully consider what you want to accomplish and which ink set will help you get there. The cost of ink is a large consideration, but there are also the considerations of durability, adhesion, colour brightness and coverage.

There are many varieties of inks available in the digital printing arena, from solvent and eco-solvent to latex and UV ink. All inks have a few main components in common: a colorant (dye or pigment) and a carrier liquid. One of the defining qualities is the process where the colour is adhered to the material or substrate.

The goal for this article is to cover the different qualities of solvent, UV & latex ink, to help you make the best decision for your print requirements.

Solvent ink refers to the oil-based solution that holds the pigment and resin, and has the advantage of being waterproof and somewhat resistant to abrasion.

Solvent ink can print on many different uncoated banners and vinyls, allowing the pigment to bond better.

The solvent then evaporates, or is flashed off with the heaters on the printer, leaving the pigment behind.

Fading is dependent on the position of print externally varying from 6 months to 3 years.

Ink absorption allows for materials to bend without stretching or cracking of the ink.

Solvent based inks do allow for a smaller dot size when printing, providing gradients (variations) in colours when wanted. Solvent inks are best suited for printing on white or light coloured materials because ink is not as vibrant when printed on darker coloured surfaces.

Latex Inks

Latex inks are pigmented, water-based inks that use an aqueous-dispersed polymer. There are no VOCs with water-based latex inks, so no venting is necessary. The print comes out of the printer completely cured and may be laminated immediately.

They carry 3 year durability without lamination under European conditions due to African conditions, you will likely get a year or two durability dependent on the elements exposed to.

Latex inks are not as corrosive as solvent or eco-solvent inks, latex ink stretch well, and there is no need to wait for outgassing before laminating and therefore they have become very popular to use for vehicle graphics.

Latex inks are great for POS/POP, banner, vinyl, papers and films. They can print on many fabrics, even those that have not been treated.

UV Inks

UV-curable inks do not evaporate like solvent inks, and instead are “cured” when the UV light system of the printer passes overhead. Though the ink itself can be as expensive, the amount used is less, which makes it an economical choice.

UV-curable inks dry almost immediately and build up on top of the media, these print systems do not require ventilation, as they don’t emit harmful VOCs.

Printing directly onto rigid substrates is the big benefit of UV-curable ink. Some substrates may require the use of a primer to ensure that the ink adheres properly.

UV-curable inks are great for rigid boards, glass, wood, metal, POS/POP and for roll materials such as banners, vinyls and many fabrics. Outdoor durability on inks is around 3 years in South African conditions. The most popular ink currently used in South Africa is solvent and eco solvent. However there are a few suppliers focusing on UV and latex inks which are more durable and more environmentally friendly.

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