As photopolymer plate formulators, manufacturers and suppliers, we often get inquiries on emerging technologies and their impact on flexographic printing plate development. Sustainability, printed electronics and 3D Printing are just a few “buzzwords” we hear a lot about, but UV LED technology may be the most “emerged” technology that we come across today. I’d like to spend a few minutes discussing how we, from the plate development and supply perspective, see this technology playing out.
While the most common application of UV LED in flexographic printing today is often seen as the on press or print application area, the use of UV LED for curing flexographic plates has been around for longer than one may think. The use of UV LEDs has been most successfully applied via Esko in its Inline technology that combines plate ablation systems with UV LED curing technology. In this case, the plate can be ablated and cured on the same unit. While the combination brought about an advancement in equipment consolidation, along with solid print performance that was sustained over a period of years, a separate back exposure step was still required and the additional curing step resulted in a productivity bottleneck in this technology.