Energy curable inks and coatings are one of the brightest areas for the inks and graphic arts markets. Eileen Weber, RadTech North America president and product manager, Section 1 & 4, Red Spot Paint and Varnish Co., Inc., discusses the latest developments in UV and EB curing.
: Please describe the goals and mission of RadTech?
Weber: RadTech is a non-profit trade association dedicated to the technical, educational and market advancement of safe, energy saving, efficient, UV+EB (ultraviolet and electron beam) technology. To accomplish these goals we have very active volunteer member committees to help guide our educational and environmental, health and safety efforts.
CW: How did the energy curing industry fare during the past year?
Weber: It is remarkable that our technology has shown steady, consistent growth since the 1970s, and last year was no exception. The rapid development of new materials, methods and applications continues to drive growth in our technology. Our latest biennial forecast from last year showed 13 specific end-use markets for UV+EB projected to grow over five percent per year over the next two years, including barrier and conductive films, metal coatings and automotive interior coatings.
CW: Are you seeing growth in the paint and coatings side of the industry? If so in what specific markets (wood, electronics, etc.).
Weber: Wood applications are the second largest use of UV+EB in North America, with the annual growth of clear finishes of about eight percent according to our latest figures. UV is widely used in flooring with other coatings markets including cabinets, decorative paneling, and plastics. We are also very excited that RadTech is teaming up with the Ford Motor Company to conduct an extensive study to evaluate the long-term performance of UV curable clearcoats designed for exterior and interior automotive applications. While UV is well established in a number of automotive parts applications, this study promises to inform our future development of materials.
CW: Raw materials are a major concern this year. How is the UV industry being impacted by raw material cost and availability?
Weber: Raw material costs and availability concerns go beyond UV+EB technology and are impacting many sectors of the coatings industry. Suppliers are working closely with their customers to ensure timely supply and fair pricing.
CW: Packaging inks are a focus for regulations, and ink manufacturers and brand owners alike are emphasizing low migration inks. How is the energy curing working with customers to meet these needs?
Weber: Both UV and EB technologies have been used extensively in food packaging for many years, with projected strong growth rates over the next few years. Low odor and low migration materials have been developed by nearly all major suppliers—with each company developing its own set of metrics. In general, UV+EB is safe to use for non-direct food contact applications, and several years ago RadTech received an FDA clearance for a Food Contact Notification (FCN 772) covering a range of materials.
CW: When talking about paint and coatings, what specific benefits does radcure offer over traditional coatings?
Weber: Due to the mechanism of UV+EB—the in-situ curing of materials without the need for drying racks or heat ovens—the technology offers a range of benefits including potentially significantly reduced emissions of VOCs, HAPs and CO2 as compared with legacy technologies.
Without the need for air drying or ovens, the cure is super fast, offering immediate pack and ship, superior control of curing, less floor space needed and a generally safer work environment.
CW: Is radcure making inroads into any new markets?
Weber: RadTech just held our most recent spring conference in Redondo Beach, and we decided to call the event “Big Ideas,” as there is so much work in progress for the technology. Presentations at the event included developments in UV+EB in a wide range of applications including alternatives to electroplated chrome (PVD), resealable adhesives, composites, and energy storage (batteries) and conversion (solar cells). UV additive manufacturing was also featured at the event with significant work being done with applications as diverse as car parts, athletic shoes and dental devices discussed at the event. In addition, RadTech has a new “RadLaunch” initiative to encourage start-ups and new ideas for our technology—the development of new materials along with the rapid adoption of UV LEDs, 3D printing, and ink jet are accelerating work in our space.
Our 2019 RadLaunch start-up class includes unique and wonderful efforts including the development new materials for electronic displays, enhancing Canadian hardwood with electron beams, microfabrication for IoT and wearable devices, and fast curing sealants and adhesives for automotive applications.