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An Overview of UV Direct Printing

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UV direct printing has become a popular method of sign fabrication, particularly for displays needing to achieve ADA compliance.

There are a number of benefits to this method, including the ability to add second-surface graphics and logos to signage with ease.

As long as a sign shop has the necessary equipment, they can produce attractive, durable signage with such features for their clients. And those clients will undoubtedly be pleased with the results…

For those who are unfamiliar with this technique, what it entails, and how it compares to other methods, a brief overview of UV direct printing will shed some light on why it’s become such a popular choice among sign fabricators.

What Is UV Direct Printing?

Simply put, UV direct printing is a type of digital printing that uses UV light to quickly cure ink directly on a material surface, or substrate. This is why it’s also referred to as direct-to-substrate printing.

A Quick History Lesson…

Something you may find interesting is that such UV light applications were originally developed for quickly drying gel nail polish.

However, other industries realized the potential of such technology and quickly adapted it for their own purposes, such as sign fabrication and other printing applications.

How Does It Work?

As the name suggests, UV light plays a major role in how this method works in terms of sign fabrication.

To utilize this technique, a sign fabricator needs a direct-to-substrate UV inkjet printer. This piece of equipment operates by creating a chemical reaction caused by intense UV light.

The printhead contains a UV light source on each end. As ink is distributed on the material substrate via jet, the UV light source follows the ink, instantly curing it and causing it to stick to the substrate.

If a flat substrate is used, the printing possibilities are virtually endless. The use of the UV direct printing technique results in instant hardness and an unrivaled finished feeling.

What Tools and Materials Are Needed?

As with any method of sign fabrication, several tools and materials are needed to perform UV direct printing. However, the most crucial pieces are as follows:

As previously mentioned, a direct-to-substrate UV inkjet printer is required to produce signs using this method. There are a number of printers on the market that fit the bill; however, as with any type of equipment, they vary in terms of price and quality. Those looking to invest in such equipment should be prepared to spend more on a high-quality direct-to-substrate UV inkjet printer. If the right brand and model is chosen, the end result will be crisp, easily legible text and vibrant images on nearly any material imaginable.

Plus, a good printer will be able to produce signage in a quick and efficient manner, allowing sign shops to fulfill large orders with impressive turnaround rates.

Of course, ink is also needed to actually print the text and images on the material substrate. Those who purchase a direct-to-substrate UV inkjet printer will need to be careful in selecting the right ink for their equipment.

Additionally, sign fabricators must consider the capabilities of their equipment in terms of ink. It’s worth noting that some flatbed printers on the market are unable to print with white ink, which can prove problematic if a client places a signage order requesting white text or graphics.

One of the major benefits of UV direct printing is that nearly any material can be used to produce signage. Acrylic, laminate, aluminum, PVC—all of these materials and more can have text and images printed on them using this printing method.

However, sign shops also need to factor in the cost of such materials if they opt to advertise their new printing option.

Most sign shops already have a design program they use to create the layout for their signage. For UV direct printing purposes, it’s important to ensure the program is compatible with the direct-to-substrate UV inkjet printer as well.

If so, feeding the design into the printer becomes a quick and easy process, speeding up fabrication even more and allowing sign shops to meet their project deadlines without issue.

What Are the Benefits?

UV direct printing offers a number of benefits to both sign fabricators and clients, which is why it has grown in popularity over the years.

The following list highlights just some of the advantages of this method:

  1. Quick drying time and sharper finish

Since the use of UV light cures ink instantly, signs dry much faster. Additionally, there’s no wet ink that can spread out and cause flaws. As a result, signs are printed with much finer detail.

  1. Scratch resistance and greater durability

Signs printed on using a direct-to-substrate UV inkjet printer are easier to handle, transport, and install without risking any damage to the print job itself. Further, signs appear “like new” for longer, not displaying the same wear and tear that occurs with other techniques.

  1. Fast production time

As mentioned, the ink-curing process is much faster utilizing this method. However, it’s also worth noting that the printer itself allows for speedy production times, so sign fabricators can produce larger quantities of signs in the same time period.

  1. Lower cost

Disregarding the cost of purchasing the equipment required for UV direct printing, the use of this method is actually less expensive than others. Since the technique involves printing directly on the material substrate, additional materials such as top laminate or glass coverings aren’t required. This saves fabricators more money in the long run.

  1. Less harm to the environment

As more and more sign shops discover the benefits of becoming environmentally friendly, it should be noted that the curing process involved with UV direct printing is less harmful than some other methods. When signage is fabricated using this technique, fewer VOCs are produced, along with less odor and heat.


UV direct printing is an excellent way to produce signage, especially ADA signs that clients want to last without frequent repair or replacement.

Sign fabricators who tire of printing text and images on vinyl decals or labels will likely find this method to be a much better option for everyone involved.

However, given the equipment, tools, and training needed to perform UV direct printing, sign shops that don’t already possess such capabilities should consider outsourcing to a third party to ensure quality without having to make such a large investment.

Filed Under: Design and Customization

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