UV Printing Applications: Using This Method for Custom ADA Signage and More
As a sign shop owner, you know there are countless tools and processes you could be taking advantage of to create signage in-house. After all, technology is constantly evolving, making it even easier to provide your clients with the high-quality displays they need quickly. But if you can’t invest in new equipment like a UV direct printer, then you probably aren’t familiar with all the possible UV printing applications, including ADA signage.
If that’s the case, you could be missing out on a huge opportunity!
The topic of UV printing applications has become popular in recent years for a reason. Manufacturers have started to see the potential of using this method to fabricate a wide assortment of products. Though traditional printing methods are still used, there’s no doubt that UV printing is the future, especially as new equipment and patents are introduced. By learning more about it, you can determine whether this process is worth investing in.
So, let’s get started!
What Is UV Printing?
UV printing is a form of digital printing. As the name suggests, the process involves using ultraviolet (UV) light. With this method, the ink dries or cures on the material substrate instantly as it passes through the printer. Multiple layers of ink can also build on one another for a 3D effect.
Initially, the UV printing process was developed to dry gel nail polish quickly when performing manicures. However, it has since been implemented far beyond the nail salon industry. As it stands, UV printing applications are virtually limitless, with various industries coming up with new ones all the time.
How Does the UV Printing Process Work?
If you’re not knowledgeable about UV printing, it may seem a little complicated. But regular UV printing is nearly identical to traditional printing. In fact, the only differences are what ink is used and how the ink dries.
To utilize this process, a fabricator needs a UV direct printer, which is equipped with the following:
- A printhead that contains a UV light source on each end
- Special inks that are formulated to cure quickly when exposed to UV light
Once a material substrate is put into the UV direct printer, the machine operates by creating a chemical reaction caused by the intense UV light. The printhead with the UV light source follows the ink as it’s sprayed out of the jet and distributed on the material. As mentioned previously, the ink dries instantly under the UV light, so the material emerges dry and ready for next steps.
The latest iteration of UV printing is a combination of UV printing and 3D printing. By layering the ink and building on it, tactile text and graphics can be created using a single machine.
What Are the Benefits of UV Printing?
As you may have guessed, there are many benefits of using the UV direct printing process. That’s why UV printing applications keep increasing in number.
Here are just a few examples of what you can look forward to when you apply this method:
- Since the ink is dried instantly, it doesn’t have a chance to spread out. As a result, the printed text or graphics come out in much sharper detail.
- UV printing has a faster production time, as you don’t have to wait for the ink to dry.
- Displays and other products printed using this process are more damage resistant, so you can save on protective coverings.
- Because the process is so quick, there’s less interaction with the chemicals of the substrate. This means that even sensitive materials such as papyrus can be used.
- UV printing is a greener alternative to traditional printing, as there are no solvent-based inks that evaporate and release VOCs (volatile organic compounds) into the air.
It’s worth noting there are even more advantages to using UV printing, especially when it comes to ADA signage fabrication. But we’ll touch on those later.
What Materials Can You Use with UV Printing?
Given the versatility of UV printing, it should come as no surprise to learn that you can use a variety of materials with this process. In fact, this method allows you to print on even more surfaces than traditional printing. The possibilities are truly endless!
Here are some materials you can use:
Ultimately, if a material substrate is flat, it can be printed on using this process, which is why UV printing applications are so numerous.
What UV Printing Applications Exist Today?
As noted above, UV printing applications are wide ranging. That’s why the process is becoming so popular. What started as a method for drying polish has extended far beyond nail salons. And it’s not just sign fabricators who are using it to their advantage but manufacturers of various other products, including…
- Clothing, such as t-shirts and jackets
- Packaging, such as product labels and boxes
- Stationery, such as writing utensils and envelopes
- Toys, such as blocks and miniature cars
- Sports equipment, such as hockey pucks and baseball bats
- Home décor, such as wall art and pillowcases
- Promotional items, such as key chains and water bottles
Some experts suggest that as UV printing develops, manufacturers will be able to print text and graphics on even larger items with unique shapes. Already, UV printing is being used to print on distinct items such as guitar cases. Down the road, it may not be uncommon to see a car that has been customized using this process (though it’s already been used to create vehicle wraps)!
Why Is Custom ADA Signage One of the Most Impressive UV Printing Applications?
Though there are many UV printing applications to date, one of the most impressive is custom ADA signage. As you know, producing custom ADA signage is tough. The fact that it can be made quicker, easier, and more cost-effective by using UV printing is something that all sign professionals should take note of.
UV printing has become an industry standard because of its simplicity and efficiency. Despite there being several methods available for making signage that satisfies all the regulations under the Americans with Disabilities Act, UV printing (especially the latest iteration) is considered by many experts to be the best.
Here are some of the specific advantages of using UV printing to fabricate ADA signage:
- Easier processes than ever before
Many other techniques for developing ADA signage require several pieces of equipment. However, UV printing allows you to do more with less, which simplifies the whole process significantly. Specialty printers from Direct Color Systems and MUTOH can even create ADA-compliant braille. These printers employ an additive rather than a subtractive process, layering the ink to form raised dots.
The signs you print this way can also match signs you already have that were created with different techniques. This means you can have a cohesive set of signs without having to figure out the methods of printing for each one.
- A major time saver
Because UV printing for ADA signage is so easy, it also saves a great deal of time. With direct-to-substrate UV printing, fabricators can create a 6×8 sign, complete with braille lettering, in less than four minutes. Even if you decide to add a raised pictogram, it’s just 30 seconds added to your total printing time. This means that even large sign orders can be completed much faster, ensuring clients are happy with the turnaround time.
- Greater flexibility with materials
With other methods of sign printing, you must make sure all the materials you are using align with the printing method. However, with UV printing, you can typically use materials you already have, regardless of what they are, and the printer will adjust to ensure the result fits all ADA regulations. For example, if you are printing on a glossy metal or shiny brushed-aluminum acrylic that might not work in its current format, the printer can also add a matte color to ensure it complies with ADA regulations. As a result, fabricators can provide clients with a wider variety of sign options.
- Increased durability and damage resistance
UV printing allows text and graphics to be printed directly on a material substrate, which means that the finished product will be more resistant to damage. Further, the ink used in UV printing is less prone to fading. This is especially important, as ADA signage that is in poor condition can lead to noncompliance issues for a client.
When it comes down to it, sign shop owners who are still relying on the old methods of printing should take the time to learn about UV printing applications. Doing so will provide some insight into how this process is evolving and shed light on how the fabrication of custom ADA signage can be improved. There is a lot to gain by utilizing this process for sign manufacturing purposes.
Even if you’re interested in UV printing but lack the space or resources to invest in the necessary equipment, you can explore how a partnership with Erie Custom Signs will allow you to reap the benefits of this process without shouldering the expense. Contact us today to get more information or to request a quote for a client’s custom ADA sign order.