With regard to the general curing conditions for UV inks and coatings, it is most important that UV curable materials receive the correct amount of UV energy, neither too much nor too little.
The more common case of under-cure is easily recognised, as the ink and/or coating film simply remains wet or tacky, although a less obvious situation is where a coating (or another colour) is applied WoW over a dark colour (especially black), and then under exposed.
This situation may lead to the top coating layer being adequately cured, but the ink layer underneath being still soft, such that although the film may feel dry. A tape test will remove both the topcoat and under layer completely. (If this situation should occur, no amount of extra UV exposure will cure the under layer).
A more subtle set of circumstances is involved in over-cure. Particularly in the instance of fast curing clear coatings or varnishes, too much UV energy can lead to the clear coat becoming brittle.
In the post-processing of conventional lithographically printed work with UV curable coatings, inter-film adhesion is principally affected by the level of drying of the ink film, and the degree of cure of the UV coating.
UV coating will adhere well when printed wet on wet over oil inks, as the coating and ink will partially meld together. In this case, the gloss level of the coating will be much reduced compared to the WoD result that may be achieved from the same combination.
The reason? When the coating is exposed to UV light, virtually all of the coating is immediately cured, however the conventional ink first sets by phase separation, then dries by oxidation of the vegetable oils in the ink vehicle before a stable film is formed.
This stabilisation process can take several hours, while the ink sinks into the stock, or undergoes chemical reaction. The semi-rigid coating "roof" can meanwhile be stressed by movement in the ink "foundation", leading to unevenness in the UV coating film, and hence loss of gloss (this also explains why the coating is glossy over any unprinted areas of the sheet, and why the loss of gloss often takes some time to appear).
However, UV coatings will not give good adhesion to oil inks when applied on partially dried ink.
The setting process I mentioned above is based on the separation of low viscosity mineral oils from the ink vehicle, and these oils are intended to soak into the substrate, but some will invariably make their way to the surface of the print and prevent the UV coating from adhering (whether by physical separation or by incompatibility is yet to be proven).
Poor adhesion of UV coating to conventional oil ink can be proven by removing the UV coating film with adhesive tape; if the ink "foundation" is also removed along with the coating, then the ink was coated prematurely.
About two days ink-drying time is a reasonable target to avoid this kind of problem.
Rod Urquhart works at Monash University where many aspects of the industry are being studied. He is based in Australia.