UV Printing Technology Continues to Expand Capabilities for European Print Shops

Unlike other sectors, print bucked the trend of difficulty and demonstrated longevity and flexibility over the past few years. With economic uncertainty very much in the present, the sector stands in good stead thanks to its adaptability and quick shifts in direction which helped the industry grow at an impressive pace.

A great example is the growing popularity of UV digital printing, which is fast becoming an essential tool to support popular items created by sign makers, graphic providers, advertising agencies, designers, and retailers, to name just a few.


What is UV printing?

UV digital printing has been a revolution in the print industry. Specially formulated UV ink cures (or dries) instantly when a low-temperature UV lamp passes over it. This curing process means that it can be applied to virtually any surface with fantastic results. It’s quick, simple to master and removes the set-up costs and times you’d have with screen or pad printing from days gone by, making it a real game changer in the personalisation and customisation markets.

UV print adds exciting and sophisticated textured special effects to the finish. From bottles and pens to smartphone cases and USB sticks, UV printers offer white and clear ink (matt and gloss varnish) that work with the standard CMYK colour gamut to create vibrant colours and outstanding gloss, matt, textured and 3D effects on any number of objects.

The simplicity, speed, and cost-effectiveness of UV digital printing has even proven to be an excellent and profitable addition to businesses already offering screen and pad printing to their customers.


How is the UV printing market evolving over time?

In order to better understand the evolution of the UV printing market over time, Roland DG conducts an annual survey amongst 140+ printing shops across the UK, Germany, France, Italy, and Spain. Below are some of the key trends and findings from the latest survey:


Plastics, Metals and Wood remain the most popular materials to print on overall

Across all five countries as a whole, the most popular material used for UV printing last year was Plastic, with 68% of those polled reporting using it. This was followed closely by Metals (64%), PVC (60%), and Wood (58%).

The same four materials also came out on top overall in Roland DG’s survey last year (Plastic - 75%, Wood - 64%, PVC - 62%, and Metal - 54%). However, interestingly, this year’s results suggest a small drop in the popularity of Plastic (-7%) and Wood (-6%) printing, while Metal (+10%) appears to have gained in popularity over the last 12 months.

Unsurprisingly, these materials are also among the most frequently used, with almost a quarter (24%) of all respondents saying they print on both plastic and PVC at least once a week, 18% print on metals once a week, and 26% print on Wood at least once a month.


Acrylic proving popular in England, Germany, and Spain

When the data is broken down by individual country, Acrylic is also proving very popular, with print shops in England (53%), Germany (64%) and Spain (91%), reporting using it at least once. Conversely, in Italy, Glass (57%) and Synthetic Leather (47%) are the most popular materials outside of the established top four (Plastic, Wood, PVC, and Metal), while in France it’s Tile (56%) and MDF (56%).


Other materials still rarely used, suggesting UV printing is yet to reach its full potential

Of the 20 materials listed in the study1, the least commonly used for UV printing were Concrete and Silicon. Less than 3% of all respondents claimed to have printed anything on Concrete within the last year, while just 5% have done so on Silicon . While print materials used are naturally dependent on customer orders received over the course of the year, these findings indicate UV printing is yet to fully realise its potential as a technology.

Year-on-year material usage varies significantly by country

When asked which materials they have been using more or less of compared to the previous year, respondents painted a mixed picture that varied significantly by country.

In England, around 14% of respondents reported more use of Acrylic, Metal, Plastic, PVC, Polycarbonate and Wood, while 10% claimed there had been a drop in demand for both MDF and Glass.

In Germany, respondents noted greater use of PVC (42%) and Plastic (33%), but 17% also reported drops in demand for Ceramics, Glass, Polycarbonate and Wood.

In Italy, the biggest rises were reported in Plastic and PVC, where 21% of respondents claimed they had used more than the previous year. However, roughly the same percentage of respondents said they had used less of the same two materials, showing individual businesses have had very different experiences over the course of the last 12 months.

In Spain, Acrylic, Metal and Plastic were reportedly the materials that saw the greatest rise in usage, while Glass and Tile saw the biggest drop.

Looking ahead to 2022 and beyond, printers in all countries expect to see a rise in demand for Plastic , while those in Italy and England also expect a rise in PVC and Wood. Spanish printers expect their biggest rise to come in demand for Acrylic. Notably, no country expects a particularly big drop in any specific material over the next 12 months.


When it comes to UV printing materials, the sky is the limit

Roland DG’s annual survey also asks print shops about the most unusual materials they’ve printed on using their UV devices and the answers are always very eye opening! This year proved no different, with respondents highlighting all manner of interesting materials, ranging from shoe insoles, grease proof paper and apples, to tennis balls, Lego ™, and even bubble wrap . In short, when it comes to UV printing, the only limit is your imagination.

1Full list of materials was Acrylic. Canvas, Ceramics, Concrete, Cork, Glass, Leather, Faux Leather / Leatherette, MDF, Polypropylene, Metals, Plastic, PVC, Silicone, Slate, Tiles, TPU, Polycarbonate, and Wood