Plug and play LED UV enabled systems could be of interest to Indian dailies

UV systems

There are already about 12 to 15 newspaper organizations that have installed UV for printing full saturation color on high brightness or glazed newsprint on their presses. Used for full page advertising on the outer pages of main sections and inserts, there are about 40 to 50 systems in place. Systems from Prime, IST and GEW dominate the newspaper UV installations across the country, although some large newspapers have also tried to fabricate and assemble their own systems by sourcing lamps, power supplies, reflectors, large air purifier and cooling system components.

Recent sales of UV systems that come to mind include the sale of several IST systems to Bennett Coleman for their double-width manroland presses in the Sahihabad plant and the sale of three Prime systems for Lokmat in Maharashtra. Lokmat has installed one of the new Prime UV systems on an NBG Offset press in Pune where apart from its own Marathi daily, it will also be printing The Hindustan Times in English for the HT Media Group.

The price of UV systems and UV inks is nevertheless inhibiting the growth of UV in the newspapers. For large circulation dailies published from multiple centers, even the cost of glazed newsprint is a factor to be considered when the advertising premium for glossy output is not really rising. Though locally assembled UV systems can work and are less expensive, even amongst the imported UV systems there is a considerable range of prices. However, if a newspaper is looking for high performance and reliability, it should not underestimate the technology inputs and complexity of the best systems.

There is a high level of expectation for LED UV systems but their application in daily newspapers may take more time simply because of the higher costs of LED UV inks, which cannot yet be easily justified by the premium that glossy color pages bring. While the Indian language newspapers are still growing in circulation, their ad rates are still at a discount compared to the large English national dailies and yield per page has become the mantra for all dailies in a very competitive environment.

Nevertheless, the lower energy costs and longer lamp life of LED UV curing systems are of interest as the expectation of ink prices becoming lower. One possibility, of course, is to buy systems that offer plug-and-play change from conventional UV to LED UV curing simply by changing the lamp within the same power supply, reflector and cooling assembly. IST Metz offers such an option as do GEW and the Greater Noida based UV Graphic Technologies, which is well known for its retrofits. Another upgrade path that cannot be ruled out are multi-wave UV systems that can adapt their radiation to cure a wide range of fit-to-purpose UV inks.

2023 promises an interesting ride for print in India

Indian Printer and Publisher founded in 1979 is the oldest B2B trade publication in the multi-platform and multi-channel IPPGroup. While the print and packaging industries have been resilient in the past 33 months since the pandemic lockdown of 25 March 2020, the commercial printing and newspaper industries have yet to recover their pre-Covid trajectory.

The fragmented commercial printing industry faces substantial challenges as does the newspaper industry. While digital short-run printing and the signage industry seem to be recovering a bit faster, ultimately their growth will also be moderated by the progress of the overall economy. On the other hand book printing exports are doing well but they too face several supply-chain and logistics challenges.

The price of publication papers including newsprint has been high in the past year while availability is diminished by several mills shutting down their publication paper and newsprint machines in the past four years. Indian paper mills are also exporting many types of paper and have raised prices for Indian printers. To some extent, this has helped in the recovery of the digital printing industry with its on-demand short-run and low-wastage paradigm.

Ultimately digital print and other digital channels will help print grow in a country where we are still far behind in our paper and print consumption and where digital is a leapfrog technology that will only increase the demand for print in the foreseeable future. For instance, there is no alternative to a rise in textbook consumption but this segment will only reach normality in the next financial year beginning on 1 April 2023.

Thus while the new normal is a moving target and many commercial printers look to diversification, we believe that our target audiences may shift and change. Like them, we will also have to adapt with agility to keep up with their business and technical information needs.

Our 2023 media kit is ready, and it is the right time to take stock and reconnect with your potential markets and customers. Print is the glue for the growth of liberal education, new industry, and an emerging economy. We seek your participation in what promises to be an interesting ride.

– Naresh Khanna

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