To discuss whether UV printing is right for your custom apparel business, we want to talk about what UV is and is it right for your business.
What is UV printing?
Oftentimes you’ll hear it referred to as UV LED flatbed printing. Mainly focusing on small to mid-format. Anywhere from 12×11 up to 48×30. I think a lot of people associate UV printers with the really large printers, and we’ve seen some at shows which are 4×8 feet and take up the whole building.
What does it mean to UV print something?
When you use UV printing you are using inks that are reactive to UV light. Those UV lights actually cure the inks, setting the inks on the substrate. We’re so used to a DTG printer that when a shirt comes out of the machine we don’t want to touch it, because it’s still wet. But with UV, it’s dry. Secondarily, it’s generally going on to items we historically wouldn’t do, like textiles – plastics, metals, woods.
UV printing is a combination of light and ink that reacts to it, so that it dries immediately.
Not just dries, it actually sets, there’s an actual reaction as well. Similar to DTG, we heat press the shirt, that’s not just drying the ink. It’s actually making a chemical reaction occur that sets the ink as well.
If you’re already an apparel decorator and you’re doing any kind of printing – sublimation, screenprinting, DTG – you have to do something after it comes out of the machine in order to set the ink. You have to throw it onto a drier or heat press.
When we first started delving into this, you didn’t want to touch it, because we’re so used to there having to be another step. With UV printing, it’s done when it comes out of the machine. That doesn’t mean there aren’t things you need to do ahead of time. There are certain substrates that aren’t receptive to the inks that you do need to treat. There are primers you can use that will make the surfaces more receptive to the ink.