System integrator versus solution provider - UV LED curing system providers typically fall into one of two camps -- they are either a system integrator who buys the UV LED curing equipment from a third party, or a UV curing solution provider who makes a turnkey curing system using their own UV LED curing equipment. In either case, the system provider incorporates the UV LED curing equipment into a complete system with housing/mounting, power supplies/controls, light shielding, and anything else needed to mount and operate the system on your converting line.
A system integrator (and you) must rely on their UV LED supplier for new innovations in LED curing technology and risks associated with changes in form factor, power needs, controls, etc. While the system integrator may have a close relationship with one UV LED curing equipment supplier, there is the risk of finger pointing between the integrator and their UV LED supplier when something goes wrong. Using a UV curing solution provider eliminates this risk, but does “lock” you in to their UV LED technology. So be sure the company has a solid financial backing, deep research and development capabilities, and a long-term commitment to UV curing.
UV curing process expertise and capabilities - You’ll need partners who have UV curing process experience specific to converting applications and the capability to run
lab testing, and pilot line or in-plant trials
. UV curing testing, when done correctly in the lab using UV LED curing equipment just like that which will go on your production line, easily scales to pilot line and production processes. This minimizes risks during start-up and helps ensure production rates and return on investment (ROI) meet expectations. Having the capability to run testing in the system provider’s lab or using loaner UV LED curing equipment on a pilot line, yours or elsewhere, is critical to feasibility analysis and production success. Most UV LED system providers can provide a list of pilot lines, toll coaters, formulator labs, etc. where their UV LED systems are available for running tests.
A UV LED curing system provider should also be able to point you to possible chemistry formulators specific to your converting application and help you create a shortlist. Learn what experience and capabilities the system provider has to help with installation, operator training, and start-up.
After sale support – Even in the feasibility stage it’s important to think about what support you will need after the new UV LED curing process is in production. Think about whether you’ll need maintenance services, staff training, troubleshooting support, consignment spare parts, etc. If you have multiple plants across the country or even globally, make sure your partners can support all of your operations no matter the location. As your production and operations change, consider what services you will need and assess how time consuming and expensive it will be to adapt the UV curing system to your changing needs.