The continuing proliferation of inkjet printing solutions continues to grow in print markets around the world. Print providers embrace inkjet technology because it gives them an affordable way to deliver short runs of the high-quality, customized print products their customers’ desire.
As more providers embrace inkjet printing, many have been frustrated to discover that their choice of substrates is more limited – and often more expensive – than the cost of medias used in their analog printing processes.
To combat this, the major leaders in the development of inkjet printing technologies are investing in initiatives that expand the range and versatility of substrates used in inkjet printing while attempting to reduce costs.
Expanding Substrates for Growing Markets
Once a print provider makes a move to inkjet, it is essential to understand the range of substrates available to them – and how these substrates differ from the choices they have with an analog solution.
Their knowledge must start with inks.
Aqueous pigment inks offer several critical advantages to users – they are lightfast, durable, and optimized for long print head life. Because these inks are water based, they are also safer for people, products, and the environment.
During the printing process, the water in aqueous ink can be removed in two ways. Either a porous surface or coating is used to absorb the water and allow it to slowly evaporate over time without impacting the print, or the colorants need to be immobilized as soon as they hit the surface of the print substrate and dryers are then used for rapid evaporation of the water.
Currently, printers using inkjet printing solutions have access to three major categories for paper-based substrates to choose from:
Uncoated offset/bond/plain paper Because these papers are porous, they are printable with inkjet inks. However, the colors are generally not very vibrant, and the print quality not as sharp.
Inkjet treatedpaper These papers are similar to an uncoated offset paper but have been treated to boost the vibrancy of the prints by keeping the colorants/pigments close to the surface of the paper.
Inkjet coated paper An inkjet coating is generally applied to the paper by the paper mill. The inkjet coating allows for the absorption of the ink, and similar to offset coated paper it provides the paper with the intended look and feel. Film-based media is not porous, so the only option is an inkjet coated film.
Understanding Your Media Options
Inkjet treated and coated substrates are more expensive than substrates optimized for flexo or offset printing. This higher price is due to the cost of the treatments or coatings that are applied.
Paper sellers charge a premium for inkjet coated and treated papers. The cost premium for an inkjet treated paper is relatively small, in the range of 10 percent over the equivalent uncoated offset paper.
However, the cost premium for inkjet coated papers and films is much higher, ranging from 30 percent to greater than 100 percent. This higher cost premium creates a barrier for some applications. It also limits the inkjet-printed volumes required for media suppliers to bring down the cost of the materials.
A Win-Win for Print Providers
The integration of primers and coatings into the printing process will increase the volume of digital printing. That’s good news for print providers because more volume means media manufacturers will be able to more efficiently manufacture inkjet print-ready substrates – and to make them more affordable than they have been in the past.
Contact Xact Supply should you have any questions or help selecting the best option for your project. Call us at 813-237-3368 or email [email protected]