Air Motion Systems manufactures LED UV curing systems for polymerizing printing inks, coatings and adhesives, among other applications. Here you can learn the benefits this technology brings to printing, converting and other industries; a bit about its history and how it works; and answers to some frequently asked questions regarding LED UV curing.

THE BASICS AND BENEFITS OF LED UV CURING:

While some might try to downplay the flexibility or range of LED UV curing, this technology has been honed and advanced in recent years by Air Motion Systems, which is regarded as the world's leading developer and manufacturer of LED UV curing solutions. Its patented systems are unmatched by competitors, and considered the best available on the market today. 

And when it comes to the printing industry - the place one will most frequently find these systems in use - AMS offers vetted solutions to offset, digital and flexographic printers who are ready to move away from hot, messy and toxic conventional drying methods, or environmentally regulated conventional UV curing methods, to enjoy the many improvements enabled by LED UV curing. 

Adding LED UV systems to presses brings game-changing benefits to the table; the following are some of the most prominent:

  • inks cure instantly, so there is no need for drying time or powder;
  • printers can expand substrate offerings to include plastics and other materials that don't absorb inks;
  • heat-sensitive substrates can be printed on safely, with quality results;
  • LED UV lamps last significantly longer (10x) than traditional UV lamps (AMS's can provide 30,000+ hours of curing, when operated at the proper power capacity, before they begin to degrade); 
  • heat, ozone and mercury are eliminated from press rooms, making them safer and improving overall environmental impact; 
  • UV inks are free of solvents, so LED UV curing eliminates the release of VOCs (volatile organic compounds) and avoids the environmental issues caused by them;
  • the energy costs and heat-related hazards of heatset drying can be bypassed;
  • value-added coatings can be used efficiently and effectively;
  • high-end printing effects, like drip-off (a.k.a. "strike through"), can now be obtained by LED UV curing, and further developments in this arena that will broaden creative application and potentials are coming fast.

These are just a few of the benefits that come with UV LED-based curing, and depending on the type and size of the press (be it offset, digital or flexo) in question, there are other major advantages printers will immediately appreciate.

THE HISTORY OF LED UV CURING:

Ultraviolet (UV)-enabled curing processes have existed for decades: They were introduced in the 1960s, and as explained by Wikipedia, UV-based curing is "a low temperature process, a high speed process, and a solvent-less process – cure is by polymerization rather than by evaporation."

In layman's terms: curing is different than drying, and when it comes to inks, adhesives and coatings, it is an instant (or near instant) process that doesn't involve matter changing from a liquid to a fixed-in-place solid by evaporation (of water or solvents) or by absorption.

Traditional UV curing employs mercury arc lamps to create ultraviolet light, which causes inks, adhesives and coatings specific to the process to undergo a chemical reaction (called polymerization) that converts them from a liquid to a solid when exposed to it. Ideally, they become securely stuck to the substrate onto which they were printed - a.k.a., they are securely cured, with adequate depth of cure (they aren't tacky or sticky).

And though mercury arc lamps are widely deployed as UV curing solutions - they work well, and have been around a long time, so people are familiar with how they function -  they have their downsides: they produce ozone and require exhaust systems to maintain air quality; they use a lot of energy and create a lot of heat; and they involve the use of mercury, which has a long-term environmental impact and is facing ever-increasing monitoring due to this fact, like the European Union’s recent Restriction on Hazardous Substances II (RoHS II) regulation, which bans the use of heavy metals including lead, mercury and cadmium.

LED UV curing is a relatively new process that many printers and converters are still learning about - but, in short, it provides solutions to the issues most commonly encountered with heat-set drying and traditional UV curing, from those of quality to those of environmental impact.

Air Motion Systems pioneered LED UV curing by introducing the world's first truly scalable, high-power LED-based UV curing system in 2009: the XP Series LED UV System.

Built on a new generation of upgradeable UV LEDs, collimating optics and advanced cooling technology, AMS's patented system ushered in a new era of printing and industrial curing. 

LED UV curing can accomplish the same results as traditional UV curing - and much more. Printers can use heat-sensitive substrates they wouldn't have considered; unique and artistic effects can be achieved; and there are major environmental benefits to switching to LED UV-based curing.

ABOUT AMS'S LED UV SYSTEMS:

Air Motion Systems currently manufactures turn-key, patent-protected LED UV systems. Its flagship model is the LED-UV™ XP (Extendable Profile) Series, which offers the highest curing intensities and greatest working range available on the market today, among many other revolutionary advantages.

This system is considered the best LED UV option in the world, and defies the common misconception that the LED lamp must be positioned extremely close to the substrate in order to obtain a quality cure; this ability is enabled by a technology called Peak Optics, which produces ideal collimation of UV light at varying distances, rather than "flooding" the substrate surface with it and losing intensity when placed further from the media source.

AMS also manufactures the XD (Extendable Direct Energy) Series, which provides a fast, affordable option for integrating LED UV curing into machines of all sizes, including low-pile and medium-speed presses.

Know that Air Motion Systems custom builds each LED UV system to perfectly fit the press it will be installed on, and can build modules as small as 75mm wide (3") for narrow flexo web presses, or as large as 3.6m wide (142") for large offset presses, depending on customer needs.

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