Become an Expert Before Buying UV Printing Equipment

Avoid making unwise decisions and costly mistakes when acquiring UV printing equipment

In this article, we’ll cover what you need to know about acquiring UV printing equipment and the questions you need to ask beforehand.

The scary thing is, you “don’t know what you don’t know!” This could lead to making unwise decisions and costly mistakes. The UV print process is relatively new. It’s really only settled into the marketplace in the last seven to 10 years — that’s not a long time. Many problems have been solved, and systems have improved, but technology is advancing and changing at a rapid pace. This means some brands and models have been discontinued or disappeared altogether, leaving owners out in the cold. So, let’s cover some major buying points you want to know before making the big purchase.

Ink adhesion

Because UV prints directly to the substrate — and can thus print to almost anything — you cannot assume the ink will stick and be durable. Test the substrate before moving forward with a standard cross-hatch adhesion test. Use the brand of printer that you are considering for this test. Some brands have more than one type of ink. For example, Mimaki has eight different types of ink suited for different products. Some are flexible and can bend, while some are ridged for better adhesion. Ask the company you are working with to help you with testing. If they don’t have running equipment or are unwilling, this may be a red flag.

Consumable costs for UV printing

Print heads

Some brands have consumable print heads, while others have life cycle print heads. When cared for well, they can last up to 10 years. You’ll usually find this in the top brands. Those models may sound pricey, but when you consider buying heads every 8 to 12 months for machines that can have as many as eight heads, your investment on consumables can quickly add up.


One of the biggest holes you can step in is not fully understanding ink cost. This cost can be well hidden. Smaller ink cartridges sound less costly but not when you compare. Models that have bulk ink systems are almost always cheaper to operate and, in some cases, thousands of dollars less when comparing equal volumes.

  • Pro tip: Ink costs are widely available on the internet. Most use the unit “cc,” but “ml” is the same volume. Take the total cost of the package, and divide the number of cc or ml to get the per cc or ml cost. Now find out how much total volume ink comes with that brand and multiply cc or ml cost. Do the same for the brand you are comparing it with, and it will reveal the true cost of ink. We did a five-year ownership term study on a well-known brand, and it saved us over $50,000.

Never buy a knockoff

You hear quite a few horror stories when you have been doing this for a long time and have worked many trade shows. I have a customer that bought a knockoff that disappeared from the market after a few years and left him and his business dead in the water — and he still owed $18,000 on his machine.

Technical support

Know before you go! Every company you ask will say they have service. This is maybe the biggest issue that leaves buyers disappointed and upset. Even big names can fall short, so don’t assume that the big name means great support.

Be careful with dealerships that sell many different brands and types of equipment — they cannot be experts at everything. Seek out the specialist companies that focus on one brand and do it great. This information can be obtained through user forums, special UV Facebook groups, and social media platforms.

Looking ahead

Let me leave you with a positive note. Much of what I have shared may scare you out of the UV printing market. Please replace fear with knowledge. The UV printing market is one of the fastest-growing segments in the print industry. The opportunities are unlimited, and the direction you can take your company and the products you can create will reward you with great profits from uncrowded markets.

Feel free to reach out to me for help with any questions or concerns you may have. Happy printing!

Learn more: Applications Big and Small: UV Printing for Various Formats

Bill Lydick

Bill Lydick

PDS Equipment

Bill Lydick is the president of PDS Equipment. He has 57 years of experience within the printing equipment industry.

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