By Dianna Brodine, managing editor, UV+EB Technology

In October, nearly 30,000 visitors converged in Dallas, Texas, for PRINTING United. The event was hosted by Specialty Graphic Imaging Association (SGIA) and replaced the former SGIA Expo. With more than 700,000 square feet and 600+ exhibitors, the tradeshow built on SGIA Expo’s foundation of apparel, graphics/wide-format and industrial printing application technologies and added the commercial and package printing segments.

Scattered throughout the event floor, three amphitheaters provided educational sessions for attendees without requiring that they leave the exhibit space. Additional classroom sessions – more than 100 in total – took place within educational tracks for the graphics, apparel, functional/industrial, in-plant, commercial and packaging communities. And, in a nod to the ways these various print markets interact, a 4,000-square-foot PRINTING United Experience Zone simulated home, retail, restaurant and outdoor environments by showcasing a wide variety of printed applications.

“The vision for PRINTING United has been two years in the making,” said Mark J. Subers, president, PRINTING United. “Seeing it all come together was surreal. We worked hard to provide this industry across all segments with solutions and resources they need to make their businesses successful. For some, that means expanding their capabilities within their traditional industries; for others it’s collaborating and converging with adjacent segments and markets.”

UV LED featured across the show floor

Jennifer Heathcote, a technical and commercial consulting advisor for UV curing, walked the show floor throughout the three-day event, speaking to exhibitors and attendees alike to get a feel for the technologies featured at PRINTING United.

“From a UV curing perspective, the show was roughly divided into thirds – digital inkjet printing, screen printing and commercial printing,” said Heathcote. “On the digital inkjet printing side, more than 90% of platforms exhibiting UV technology are using LED. There still are a few companies exclusively using arc lamps – HP being one of them – but in all the wide format and single-pass digital inkjet markets where UV technology is used for signs, banners and product decoration, the vast majority of new models being released feature UV LED curing.”

Heathcote said the screen printing equipment industry still contains a heavy concentration of mercury arc lamps, but many vendors now are promoting LED as well. Graphic screen printing is an industry segment that is more slowly expanding into LED when compared to digital inkjet – although many bottle, container and personal care decorating OEMs – like OMSO – already are heavy into LED. “But, if you go into the privately held, small- and medium-sized screen printing shops, most of what they’re still using is mercury – because it’s installed technology that gets the job done,” she said. “While these printers will consider UV LED for new purchases, they aren’t rushing to upgrade existing equipment.”

On the commercial side, the sheet offset market is seeing strong interest and a rapidly increasing adoption rate in LED. In fact, the sheetfed offset growth rate in UV LED when compared to mercury is the highest of the three categories, including both new machine purchases and retrofits. The sheetfed offset press exhibited by RMGT was demonstrating its use of UV LED curing technology to an attentive audience throughout the show.

“I thought the event attendance was great,” Heathcote concluded. “There was a lot of traffic, and it was good to see that UV LED now is considered a viable curing technology across all three categories. All vendors had some LED offering, whether they were ink suppliers, coating suppliers or equipment suppliers. Everyone is promoting the technology – and now that UV LED curing has gained mainstream acceptance, focus is shifting to innovative application development which leverages all the benefits LED offers.”

Technology introductions at PRINTING United

UV LED technology was featured on equipment across all segments at PRINTING United. Sakurai conducted demonstrations on its new Maestro MS-102AX cylinder screen press, equipped with a Natgraph UV dryer, stacker and new LQM 105 in-line hot foil stamper. The ScreenFoil LQM 105 can be combined with any size or vintage Sakurai screen press and allows dieless foil application for business cards, packaging, labels, automotive, appliance and plastic card applications, among others. David Rose, vice president of Sakurai USA, Inc., said “The use of the screen printing press to deposit the image in registration allows the heated foil to be applied in any size or image configuration. No dies – just print the image you want foiled, UV cure and then pass through the foil applicator.” The press received significant attention from those in the foil decorating arena.

Mimaki introduced a new approach to 3D printing with the 3DUJ-553 UV LED printing solution. According to the company, this is the world’s first 3D printer capable of achieving over 10 million colors while producing ultra-fine details. The Mimaki 3DUJ-553 printer is ideal for appearance modeling, visual prototyping, and photorealistic 3D output, using a full-color UV LED-cure method that enables unprecedented 3D modeling, yielding vibrant colors and high definition imaging. The system allows a large 20″ x 20″ x 12″ (500 x 500 x 300mm) build area and allows users to mix clear and CMYK inks to achieve transparent color effects.

Inkcups featured the award-winning Helix® Hi-Fi – “the world’s first and only photorealistic rotary printing machine,” according to the company’s website. The Helix® Hi-Fi allows users to digitally print finer skin-tones and smoother gradients that are less grainy and more high-resolution on glassware and plastic substrates. This machine offers one-off printing, meaning printing one to 200 easily can be done, eliminating the need for minimum order quantities.The Helix® Hi-Fi photorealistic rotary printing machine achieves its fine detail due to the addition of two colors. Completing the 6-color design, the Helix Hi-Fi can print in CMYKLcLmW+Varnish (Lc = Light cyan and Lm= Light magenta). Working together, these colors can produce vibrant colors. Currently, the Helix® Hi-Fi photorealistic rotary printing machine is able to utilize the DL UV LED ink series.

For the high-volume, production-level superwide printing market, EFI™ introduced the VUTEk® 32h LED hybrid inkjet printer with UltraDrop™ technology. The versatile 3.2-meter hybrid flatbed/roll-fed printer is suitable for materials up to 2 inches thick. The EFI LED technology meets the growing demand for higher quality with quicker turnaround times while extending the range of supported substrates, including lower cost and added-value specialty media. It also satisfies customer requests for a greener print solution with low VOCs, lower power consumption, and less waste and consumables. Resolutions of true 600 or 1000 dpi are available, utilizing eight colors plus white and multi-layer printing in a single pass. Optional clear ink can be utilized for spot, flood and unique applications, and the printer can produce up to 60 4 ftx8 ft boards per hour.

MGI and Konica Minolta debuted the new JETvarnish 3D One digital embellishment press, an expansion of MGI’s JETvarnish 3D Series of print enhancement technologies. Aimed at market entry for commercial and in-plant printers, the system offers 2D/3D spot coating and dimensional textures, along with an onboard Image Editor and Job Cost Calculator software programs. The patented varnish formula allows both flat 2D Spot UV highlighting and sculptured 3D raised special effects on a wide range of substrate media (such as paper, synthetics and plastics). Sheet sizes range up to 14×29″ and the 2D/3D effects reach 116 microns in a single pass. Curing is provided by LED lamps.

“MGI and Konica Minolta had a truly inspirational experience at the inaugural PRINTING United exposition,” said Jack Noonan, MGI marketing manager. “The sense of energy and optimism at the show about the future growth of our industry was astonishing. The concept of a ‘big tent event’ to house all segments of the marketplace proved to be a visionary concept for all participants.”

PRINTING United 2020

Ford Bowers, president and CEO of SGIA, summarized the 2019 experience: “Many commented on how revitalizing it was to see such a full, and comprehensive, event. We were most thrilled about all the buying taking place on the show floor. This is the best testament that our industry, indeed, is thriving. We just needed the right model, and we are confident that we have produced that with PRINTING United.”

PRINTING United 2020 will be held October 21 to 23 in Atlanta, Georgia. The event will expand into a total of one million square feet, and more than two-thirds of the 2020 show floor already has been reserved. For more information, visit