Compassion and Innovation: Digital printing industry responds to COVID-19

UV printers—customization for a new era

Smaller direct-to-garment (DTG) printers allow even inexperienced users to quickly and affordably produce custom apparel.

Smaller direct-to-garment (DTG) printers allow even inexperienced users to quickly and affordably produce custom apparel.

Like many segments of the digital printing industry, ultraviolet (UV) printing was going strong in the early part of 2020. With COVID-19, technology manufacturers took a step back to evaluate what had changed.

“The sign industry paradigm suddenly shifted to: we need this now,” said Jay Roberts, Roland DGA’s product manager for UV products. “End-users quickly began generating large amounts of signage for closures, new business practices such as take-out only, and crowd management. These signs were vital to keeping companies in touch with their clients throughout the crisis and into the phases of reopening.”

A trend that has remained consistent in the UV market throughout 2020 is the demand for higher quality printing.

“Viewing distances are closer these days, and marketing graphics often include photographs. Both of these factors require high-quality printing to ensure graphics are clear and effective,” said Roberts.

He has observed industries from retail to real estate are demanding more sophisticated signage and graphics. Restaurants are also upgrading their signage to include high-quality images of their food for socially distant viewing.

Manufacturers are responding with high-volume, high-quality equipment, which can print directly onto larger media boards with higher height clearance. They are also offering colour management software solutions and tools to help print shops easily manage colour across production devices.

While Roberts notes the personalization trend has slowed with a lack of in-person events, the customization of gifts has not. Specialized benchtop flatbed UV printers meet this demand, offering versatility and high-quality printing on a wide variety of objects. Some even allow UV direct printing on popular vacuum-insulated, stainless-steel drinkware and other accessories.

Other trends continue, including print-for-pay applications, as well as label production and packaging prototyping. Manufacturers are offering wide-format UV print solutions that can produce one-off and short-run labels, packaging prototypes, gloss/matte finishes, realistic textures, and 3D embossed effects.

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For 2021, some manufacturers are adding products that will help simplify colour management along with improved UV inks.
“By staying attuned to customers’ needs, businesses can continue to introduce innovative ways to improve output and simplify production,” said Roberts.

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