In order to produce consistent materials for UV inkjet printing, Avery Dennison had to first understand how the ink reacted with various substrates. A better understanding of the technology helps printers and suppliers alike with consistent quality as opposed to striated images.
“The nature of inkjet printing, with drops of ink being jetted onto a moving substrate, is very different from the flexo world, where the plate makes contact,” explains Diane Ewanko, business development manager at Avery Dennison. “Then we needed to understand how our current products worked and where there were gaps, and what in particular did we need to work on to address these needs.”
According to Ewanko, Avery Dennison improved its inkjet offerings following the development of a Print Evaluation Program. By taking this initiative, the adhesives and substrates supplier was better able to comprehensively cover a series of colors, images, inks and more. Technical experts would also measure variables like ink adhesion, line quality and image quality with a range of diagnostic tests.
Polyester and vinyl materials in Avery Dennison’s Durables Portfolio performed well, but the company needed to design prime paper and film products to accommodate inkjet printing.
“Within the last two years, we have launched new UV inkjet films and papers, and they will have the designation after the facestock,” says Ewanko. “If a product has UV inkjet after the facestock prescription, you know that that’s one that we launched specifically to address some of the gaps in the marketplace.”
Many of the technological advances for UV inkjet printing have occurred within the last five years. Previously, Avery Dennison would learn from converters that certain substrates did not perform like they needed to. For example, a core semi-gloss product might have a grainy image, or a certain BOPP might not provide the right ink adhesion. In addition, Avery Dennison learned that providing corona treatment for these substrates deteriorated image quality.
Today, Avery Dennison is working with top OEMs in the UV inkjet market to validate its material offerings. These partnerships have led to optimized semi-gloss papers and top-coated films, among other products. The goal is educating converters on the possibilities that currently exist.
The company’s website also includes sections devoted to digital, which includes UV and water-based inkjet technologies. Avery Dennison also provides customers with recommended portfolios that are segmented by OEM press manufacturer. “We have a portfolio for Domino, EFI Jetrion, Durst Tau 330, the Mark Andy Digital Series, and we will be expanding that to others as time goes on,” says Ewanko.
In addition to partnerships, Avery Dennison’s R&D team has worked to develop solutions that meet the market’s needs. “Historically, going back four years or so when things were just starting to get exciting with inkjet, we didn’t know how our materials would perform,” says Ewanko. “Fast forward to today, and we’re in a much better position than we were 4-6 years ago. We have a whole team of people–R&D and PhDs–developing an understanding of the surface characteristics of a good product. Going forward, you’re only going to see more advancements added to our portfolios and a lot of big things to come.”
Avery Dennison’s growth is intended to meet the increased demands from customers. With more label converters taking advantage of short runs and quick turnaround times, there is a greater need for UV inkjet materials.
“This is a market that’s only going to grow moving forward,” adds Ewanko. “The 1200 x 1200 dpi image resolution is something that previously was only available with toner-based technology in the digital world. With new printheads and smaller ink drop sizes, we have to evaluate our materials because these improvements and enhancements are ultimately going to increase the range of standard materials that are going to be printable with inkjet. It’s all about better and faster. The speed is around 200 fpm–and I know water-based is faster–but that was unheard of four years ago. You were lucky if you could crack 50 fpm.”
The eXact service program and, more recently, Ready Width are designed to get materials to customers in the quickest manner possible. According to Avery Dennison, the majority of UV inkjet presses being utilized by its customers are 13” wide. Ready Width and eXact allow Avery Dennison to bundle its digital offerings, and more than 90% of the company’s products are covered under these service programs.