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Jun 30, 2022

How to Choose Between Water-Based and LED Curable Inkjet Inks

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Water-based inks and LED curable inks are high-quality inkjet inks leading the digital print industry today. Both produce fast, efficient, and affordable results while being environmentally friendly. They are compatible with various applications and enhance print production capabilities.

Understanding the distinct differences and benefits that each ink provides can help you identify which inkjet technology could best fit your business and printing needs.

Why Choose Water-Based Inks for Digital Printing

Water-based inks are made with water to carry the color pigments or dyes to the substrate rather than other carrier solutions like petroleum-based chemistry. Drying time for aqueous inks is relatively longer compared to other inks.

This inkjet ink may have advantages for Fast Moving Consumer Goods (FMCG) packaging applications, including food packaging, because of the lower chemical complexity.

Water-Based Pros Water-Based Cons
Prints on many porous substrates Not suitable for some non-porous materials.*
Environmentally friendly Longer drying time
Low VOCs May require drying system to improve drying or permanence
Regulatory compliance Formulas not suitable for long-term outdoor exposure
Lower capital expense for equipment Not resistant to alkaline exposure
Low cost of Ink Downtime – Ink may dry in nozzles
Easier cleanup Less vibrant colors
Compatibility with many printers Susceptible to fading
Soft “hand” Application on some substrates may be difficult due to water content
Low maintenance May require a primer
Low health risk May require lamination
Better versatility and ease of use

Explore our Water-Based Inks >>

The Water-Based Exception for Printing on Non-porous Materials

Two flexible bags of coffeeUntil recently, printing on non-porous materials was all but impossible. Innovations with non-dispersion inkjet inks, like Kao Collins LUNAJET ink, make it possible.

LUNAJET is the best option for industrial printers of food and pharmaceutical packaging. This eco-friendly, aqueous ink is designed for digital printing on plastic flexible film packaging and other non-porous substrates. Low-migration LUNAJET delivers even and efficient coverage, drying with minimal heat.

Why Choose LED Curable Inks for Digital Printing

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LED curable inks offer greater color consistency and instant curing. Curing with LED lamps creates a deep ink-to-substrate bond that resists peeling, cracking, and environmental conditions. No pretreatment or coatings are required for LED curable inks. From a safety aspect, LED bulbs do not contain mercury.

The versatility of LED curable ink attracts many users. It simply adheres to many substrates, offering print service providers new opportunities. The range of possible substrates includes flexible films, shrink sleeves, direct-to-shape printing of bottles and cans, fabric, leather, and more. These eco-friendly inks do not release VOCs.

Explore our LED Curable Inks >>

LED Curable Pros LED Curable Cons
Prints on many non-porous materials Inks not easily interchangeable in equipment
Durable – Resists scratching, abrasion, and rubbing Not suitable for most absorbent materials
Flexible – Resists cracking on flexible materials Higher initial costs for equipment
Wide color gamut CMYK+ Cost of ink (compared to cartridge technologies)
High Contrast Regulatory and safety considerations
Resistant to water, chemicals, and solvents Difficult to clean up cured ink
Withstand outdoor conditions May irritate the skin if not fully cured
Uptime: Doesn’t dry in print nozzles
Low VOCs
Rapid curing (drying)
Create special printing effects
Superior color consistency
Low risk of ink migration
No ventilation required

Download:  Benefits of LED Curable Ink For Cardboard

 

How LED Curable and Aqueous Inks Stack Up for Different Substrates

LED Curable Digital Ink Water-Based Digital Ink*
Substrate Advantage Disadvantage Advantage Disadvantage
Plastic
  • Flexible
  • Durable
  • Adhesion
  • Low ink consumption
  • Cost
  • Cost
  • May require a primer
Fabric
  • Vibrant color
  • Flexible
  • Fade-resistant
  • Compatible with many fabrics
  • Best for textiles with non-skin contact
  • Cost
  • A good “hand” or soft feel
  • Rich color
  • Cost
  • Fading
Paper Labels
  • Poor curing
  • Poor adhesion
  • Cost
  • Good adhesion
  • Good color with dye solutions
  • Fading
  • May require laminating
Plastic Labels
  • Brilliant color
  • Withstands environmental elements
  • Higher initial costs for equipment
  • Cost
  • Good color with dye solutions
  • May require a primer
Uncoated Cardboard
  • Poor curing
  • Poor adhesion
  • Cost
  • Good adhesion
  • Dye solutions have good penetration
  • Fading
  • Less resistant to environment without lamination
Uncoated Paper
  • Poor curing
  • Poor adhesion
  • Cost
  • Good adhesion
  • Dye solutions have good penetration
  • Color quality
  • Less resistant to environment
  • Fading
Coated Cardboard
  • Brilliant color
  • Withstands environmental elements
  • Produces special effects
  • Higher initial costs for equipment
  • Eco-friendly
  • Adhesion
Leather
  • Flexible
  • Brilliant color
  • Adhesion
  • Produces special effects
  • Higher initial costs for equipment
  • Cost
  • Color quality
  • Durability
  • Fading
  • Color quality
Aluminum
  • Withstands outdoor conditions
  • Flexible
  • Resist scratching
  • Higher initial costs for equipment
  • Cost
  • May require a primer
  • Fading
Glass
  • Resists scratching
  • Higher initial costs for equipment
  • Eco-friendly
  • May require a primer
  • Fading
Flexible Film Packaging
  • Resists scratching
  • Wide color gamut CMYK+
  • Low risk of ink migration
  • Higher initial costs for equipment
  • Eco-friendly
  • Adhesion
  • Color
  • May require a primer
Shrink Sleeve
  • Resists scratching
  • Wide color gamut CMYK+
  • Low risk of ink migration
  • Adhesion
  • High Contrast
  • Higher initial costs for equipment
  • Cost
  • Adhesion
  • Color
Laminate Flooring
  • Resists scratching
  • Wide color gamut CMYK+
  • Low risk of ink migration
  • Adhesion
  • High Contrast
  • Higher initial costs for equipment
  • Cost
  • Color quality
  • Fading

 

*Water-based LUNAJET, unlike conventional water-based inks, can print on porous and non-porous materials without a primer. 

 

Contact Kao Collins to discuss LED-curable and water-based inks.

 

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