Report: Technology and Diversity Drive Growth in UV and LED Inkjet Markets

February 6, 2018


The digital printing market continues to grow and evolve at the speed of light. This is due to innovations in software and hardware technology, inks, as well as the ability to print on a wide variety of substrates. Improvements in quality and productivity are now making digital printing a cost effective and high quality alternative over traditional printing methods such as offset and flexo.

The fastest growing market segment of the printing industry is in UV and LED inkjet. There has been a significant increase in the number of inkjet equipment manufacturers who have expanded their capabilities from wide format and narrow-web printers to LED inkjet sheetfed presses that range from 12” x 18” up to  72” x 132” in sheet size.

The major advantages that are driving the UV and LED inkjet over other digital print methods is its cost, print quality, wide range of roll- and sheet-fed equipment, and its ability to print on a diverse range of substrates without requiring any pre-treatment. If we take a closer look at the range of UV inkjet-based technology in this industry, we see several key trends that separate its growth from the rest of the digital print industry, such as:

  • Improved productivity
  • Wider range of media support
  • Improved workflow
  • Product availability for a range of PSPs applications

UV inkjet technology is continuing to improve as a low cost, low-energy alternative to other digital printing methods such as solvent inkjet and laser printing methods. Based on this trend, UV and LED inkjet is well-positioned to replace the high-end solvent segment due to improved ink technology and lower costs. In addition to solvent inkjet, LED inkjet is offering customers a competitive alternative to UV offset applications where a high quality, durable image can be easily offered as a more printer-friendly, low-cost alternative.

Technology and Marketing Shifts
Two of the leading trends developing from this shift in technology is the change from one-size-fits-all brand marketing to targeted marketing where the message is designed for short run print promotions, segmented by demographics. In addition, large retail stores are looking to have print promotions produced on more sustainable, environmentally-friendly substrates where the promotion is durable enough to last several months, and can be 100% recycled, complying with corporate, sustainability mandates.

With improved technology and a wide variety of substrates to choose from, print service providers (PSPs) are looking for new products that will help them expand into additional markets and attract new customers. UV and LED inkjet technology is opening doors to new applications such as backlit displays, blockout posters, and in-store signs and banners made from low-cost synthetic paper. One of those substrates is Hop-Syn synthetic paper, a waterproof, tear resistant, white matte synthetic paper that is available in a wide variety of grades and thicknesses. At SGIA Expo, LED equipment manufacturers, EFI and swissQprint, used Hop-Syn synthetic paper to demonstrate the ease and high-quality printing of this durable substrate.


Environmentally-Friendly Substrates
Unlike die extrusion or blown film extrusion Hop-Syn synthetic paper is produced from a unique mixture of polypropylene (PP) resin and CaCO3 (calcium carbonate) into a single layered construction which helps produce a more uniform gauge control of +/- 5%. This advantage allows Hop-Syn to print at higher production speeds and at a lower temperature than conventional plastic. Based on its unique manufacturing process Hop-Syn can also be made in a wide variety gauge thicknesses (from .003 up to .035 gauge) in assorted grades that range from blockout opaque to translucent backlit. All grades offer extreme tear resistance in both directions, as well as added UV resistance properties that allow them to be used up to one year outdoors without discoloring or turning brittle.

Multiple Grades and Applications
Hop-Syn TO is a 98% opaque, white matte synthetic paper that is easily printable by LED and UV inkjet printing methods. Hop-Syn TO is made from a unique mixture of polypropylene (PP) resin, CaCO3 (calcium carbonate) and TiO2 (titanium dioxide) which gives its added brightness and a uniform finish on two sides. Its smooth matte finish allows ink to absorb into its surface, which helps prevent printed images from scuffing, scratching and cracking when exposed to direct sunlight for up to one year outdoors. Made in a .008 gauge thickness in a wide range of roll widths and sheet sizes, Hop-Syn TO is popular for printing blockout window posters, outdoor signs and banners where its extra opacity will help prevent reverse side images from showing through.

Hop-SYN BL is a white translucent polypropylene sheet designed for printing backlit transit posters in bus shelters and airports as well as in major retail stores throughout North America. Made in a wide variety of thicknesses (.008 up to .015 gauge) it offers a unique combination of features such as a smooth finish on two sides, uniform pigment dispersion, which allows PSPs to print a sharp image with a higher color resolution in comparison to backlit polyester and PETG. With added UV inhibitors and with a wide temperature range from -50F up to 220F, Hop-Syn BL is capable of withstanding extreme weather conditions without turning brittle or discoloring. The additional benefit is that when it is not backlit with fluorescent or LED light at night, the BL grade still allows printed images to glow, even in daylight.

Both Hop-Syn TO and BL synthetic paper grades are free of stearates, heavy metals, chlorine, phthalates or other cancer-causing chemicals that are damaging to the environment. The synthetic paper’s unique polypropylene and calcium carbonate composition makes Hop-Syn 100% recyclable, under recycling code #5.

Samples of LED-printed Hop-Syn synthetic paper are available upon request. For more information or a price quote, please contact Hop Industries sales department at 1-800-524-0757 Ext# 6212.