We take it for granted that the 'advance' is better than whatever was available before. We rarely stop to ask the question, "What are we progressing toward?" Or perhaps even ask the better question, "What should we be progressing toward?"
In the case of ink drying technology for water-based and solvent inks, the answer is speed, affordability, and quality. If they could create a product that advances in two of these directions, without lowering the standards on the third, then they've done well for the industry. If they can make something that will advance in all three directions, then they've got a real winner. And this is exactly what happened when Adphos Company introduced NIR (Near Infrared) drying systems to the mailing and print industry.
The older infrared systems used a combination of heat and forced air to dry water-based and solvent inks. The energy it took to power an ink dryer significantly added to the overall cost of a mailing. It also had certain speed limitations.
But Near Infrared dryers have improved on power consumption and speed limitations. Near infrared technology doesn't only use heat to dry the ink. Aside from the heat, it uses certain wavelengths of infrared energy, specifically created to be absorbed by the ink. It's also much easier to focus it, so the energy is spent only on drying ink and not on just warming the entire mail piece. This alone reduces energy consumption (making it cheaper) and makes it more exact in its application (providing better quality and reliability).
These are great advances, and obviously give better quality at an affordable price. But the real question is whether or not the NIR method for drying ink actually increases productivity. The answer is "Yes!" With near infrared technology, depending on the ink and substrate you're using you can dry ink 30% - 50% faster than with regular infrared technologies.
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