The beverage can printing industry is adapting to UV inkjet printing due to sustainability, regulations, and technological advancements. Some of the advancements include printing speed and image quality. This printing method eliminates the need for adhesive labels, which are wasteful and add weight to aluminum cans. In this article, we will review inkjet printing on aluminum beverage cans and the Adhesion promoter for aluminum beverage cans that the the UV ink bond to the cans.

Advantages of inkjet printing

The aluminum printing industry leverages direct-to-shape technology to print on beverage cans. This technology offers several advantages. These include:

  • meeting sustainability goals.
  • Reduce the cost of labels and shipping weights.
  • Custom on-demand prints,
  • Ability to print both short-run and long-run production.
  • Inventory labels, etc. are eliminated.

Science behind the aluminum can.

Aluminum is a popular material for making beverage cans. Aluminum is an excellent material to make cans due to its recyclability, ease of stacking, light weight, and excellent thermal conductivity for chilling beverages. Lastly, it provides a canvas for 360-degree labeling and protects the flavor and freshness of the beverage.

Carbonated beverages, among other contents, can corrode aluminum. The corrosion would also cause the beverages to have a metallic taste. To prevent corrosion, the manufacturing company applies a coating to the inside and outside of the cans.

The printing processes.

Many microbreweries and large companies are seeking short-term brews for a specific season or to promote events. These companies need an excellent method for decorating and labeling these cans. While adhesive labels have been in use for a long time, they are expensive and not sustainable. As a result, UV inkjet printing technology is the preferred decorating technology.

With the introduction of cylindrical inkjet machines such as the Volta Gyra®, companies can deliver the highest level of color reproduction and high-quality graphics on aluminum cans. However, it’s crucial to understand that UV inkjet ink doesn’t form a strong bond with the coating on aluminum cans. For this reason, digital printing on beverage cans requires a UV adhesion promoter. These pre-treatment options help the UV inks bond to the coating.

Pre-treatment: We thoroughly clean the aluminum cans to prepare them for printing. The pre-treatment involves removing any impurities or oils on the surface that might interfere with the printing process.

Printing: The inkjet machine prints the desired design or information directly onto the aluminum can using UV inkjet technology.

Curing: Next, we use UV light to cure the ink, instantly drying it and ensuring excellent adherence to the aluminum surface.

The Printing Machine

Cylindrical inkjet printers are best suited for printing on beverage cans. These UV printing machines use inkjet printing supplies, such as UV inks and UV adhesion promoters, to print seamless, full-color graphics. They offer the added advantages of convenience, durability, and recyclability.

The cylindrical design of inkjet printers has made the packaging of cans redundant. The aluminum can print technology not only promotes sustainability but also provides flexibility and on-demand prints with minimal material usage.

This printing innovation has transformed various sectors, including packaging, promotional products, and craft breweries, by taking creativity and functionality to the next level.

Adhesion promoter for aluminum beverage cans

To prevent corrosion, aluminum beverage cans are coated on the outside. This coating prevents UV ink from bonding to the surface of the cans. While most inks appear to bond well to this coating, exposing the cans to water, ice, humidity, or heat will cause the ink to delaminate (peel). This delamination problem is most noticeable during packaging, transportation, and storage.

To solve this problem, printers and decorators can choose pre-treatment options like the JP254 Jettable adhesion promoter or the MD3 UV adhesion promoter from Boston Industrial Solutions, Inc.

The Natron MD3 Digital Primer enhances UV inkjet ink adhesion on aluminum cans, metals, and melamine-coated containers.

This metal UV inkjet primer subtly alters stainless steel’s surface structure, allowing UV inkjet inks and UV-LED inkjet inks to form a permanent bond with these substrates.

The MD3 primer significantly improves UV ink adhesion with just a small application. It is ideal for stainless steel drinkware applications like tumblers, vacuum-insulated water bottles, and stemless wine glasses.

Key Features of the Natron MD3 UV Adhesion Promoter

  • You can use the one-component formula straight out of the can.
  • When applied, it creates a visually undetectable molecular coating on the surface.
  • It vastly improves surface finish and print quality.
  • It is non-flammable, non-corrosive, and emits a subtle, pleasant scent.

We recommend the MD3 as the perfect primer for printing aluminum beverage cans. Other applications include stainless-steel drinkware, such as tumblers, vacuum-insulated water bottles, stemless wine glasses, and many other metal drinkware items.

A small amount of MD3 primer significantly improves the UV ink adhesion. Once cured, the printed ink film will pass various tests, such as scratch, tape, and wash adhesion testing.

For machines equipped with jetting capability, we offer the JP254 UV jettable adhesion promoter. To print and dry the primer, the UV printer must have an additional printhead and UV lamp. While the JP254 is for industrial printheads, we also offer the JP992 for Xaar and Ricoh Gen5i, as well as the JP504 primer for Epson print heads. Learn more about our UV Jettable Primers and Adhesion Promoters.

Advantages of Using UV Inkjet Printing for Beverage Cans

There are various benefits to printing on aluminum beverage cans using UV digital printing machines. The following is a list of those advantages.

  1. Instant curing: UV inkjet printing ensures instant curing of the ink, promoting strong adhesion to the aluminum surface without the problem of peeling.
  2. High-quality graphics: The technology delivers high-quality graphics with precise color reproduction, making it suitable for intricate designs and logos.
  3. Flexibility: You can use UV inkjet printing to print on a variety of products, including craft beers and soft drinks. It can also print on cans of different sizes and shapes.
  4. Inkjet printing is more cost-effective than traditional offset printing, especially for short runs or custom designs.
  5. Sustainable: Direct-to-can printing reduces waste by eliminating separate labels and adhesives, thus supporting sustainability.
  6. Product differentiation: Inkjet printing allows for printing unique designs, helping products stand out in competitive markets.
  7. Improved product safety: UV inkjet printing guarantees food-safe designs while also maintaining beverage safety.
  8. Reduced lead times: Inkjet printing enables faster production, ideal for companies requiring quick turnaround times.
  9. Increased customization: Companies can create customized cans with variable data like QR codes and barcodes, aiding anti-counterfeiting efforts.
  10. Improved production efficiency: UV inkjet printing technology supports high-speed production, allowing for efficient printing of large quantities of cans.

These benefits make UV inkjet printing a preferred choice for beverage can manufacturers looking for high-quality, customizable, and sustainable packaging solutions.

The Challenges

Beverage printing with inkjet technology presents numerous advantages, but it also poses certain challenges.

  • To achieve optimal adhesion and results, it is necessary to tailor inkjet ink for aluminum.
  • Printing Speed: Inkjet printing is slower than traditional offset printing, particularly for high-volume jobs.


Beverage cans printed using inkjet technology have become the preferred choice in the craft brewing market. The benefits it offers, such as sustainability, cost-efficiency, and the capacity to generate top-notch graphics, are the key reasons for its preference. Despite facing a few challenges, the various advantages of direct-to-can printing make it an appealing choice for the beverage manufacturing industry. Boston Industrial Solutions, Inc., is at the forefront of helping companies in the aluminum cans decorate one can at a time.

Learn more about M87 UV adhesion promoter. Follow us on YouTube. If you have any question, contact us (781) 281-2558 or visit our support hub.