A year ago, in your round-up from the latest in latte printer, we discussed how recent introductions have, at least to some extent, been designed to help move work from analog technologies like offset to digital wide-format, specifically for stuff like posters, POP/POS displays, and stuff like that. In the past year, there’s been a smaller amount of a focus on shifting work from a technology to another, and much more of merely one on creating unique print applications who had never before been possible. Printing on atypical rigid substrates and three-dimensional objects is one of the raison d’être for today’s flatbeds, and manufacturers’ product portfolios run the gamut from small table- or benchtop units built to print on such things as golf balls and smartphone cases, up to massive behemoths through which anybody can run large sheets of wood, corrugated board, and other such materials, even objects like footballs.
Flatbed units are also in the process of blurring the fishing line between commercial and industrial printing. (Industrial printing is printing that is certainly done within a manufacturing process, including the control labels around the front of your appliance like a dishwasher, a vehicle dashboard, the gradations and measurement units on syringes or any other medical items, and other sorts of printing that differ from the usual “print for pay” applications.)
A lot of the flatbed units currently available use UV (ultraviolet) cured inks, it being the ink technology containing made such versatility possible. (Trivia question: what is the one substrate that UV inks-thus far-can’t print on? Teflon. It makes sense when you consider it….) The most up-to-date trend in UV inks is indeed-called cold-curing UV, or UV inks that cure under exposure to LED lamps rather than the traditional mercury vapor lamps. It’s not much of a new technology, although the costs from it are coming down. LEDs run much cooler than mercury vapor, making them a lot better for thin plastic substrates. LEDs can also be said to be energy-efficient which suggests saving money. EFI specifically has become a highly active proponent of LED UV and contains announced its intention to completely support the technology in most its UV offerings.
We have been also visiting a greater proliferation of hybrid units, flatbed printers that will also work as roll-to-roll devices for printing on flexible materials. Where once hybrids were regarded as “jacks of most trades, masters of none,” they already have improved to the stage where they are now respectedly seen as methods of giving shops the flexibility to take on numerous types of print projects. (Keep in mind, though, that the same UV inks is probably not appropriate for all materials because of the respective dyne quantities of ink and surface. Some surfaces could also require pre- or post-treatment to have UV ink to adhere.)
Earlier this current year on the International Sign Association (ISA) Sign Expo, HP launched several new flatbeds in their Scitex line. The 64-inch HP Scitex FB550 and 120-inch FB750 hit the sign and display sweet spots
HP Scitex 11000 Industrial Press is definitely the follow-up to the HP Scitex 10000 platform launched 2 yrs ago, whilst the HP Scitex 15500 Corrugated Press is for short-run corrugated packaging and the like, helpful for prototyping, related POP graphics, and personalized/customized/short-run corrugated applications.
HP has also recently announced the Scitex 17000, intended for short- and medium-run corrugated printing. It also features the HP Scitex Corrugated Grip, a media handling system built to facilitate printing on warped corrugated boards.
For HP, the prevailing trend is toward more automation and improving productivity, which is not merely a subject of speed, but also to getting materials on / off press as fast as possible and improving automation.
“The focus is very steps to make digital production more productive, and we’re attempting to push the break-even point so customers can move printing from analog to digital,” said Isaac Meged, Worldwide Marketing Manager for HP Scitex Industrial Presses. “This is amongst the reasons we developed the 17000 press. It’s not just the printing speed, the production workflow is an extremely important element. Clients are requesting automation both about the prepress side as well as the finishing side.”
“We also have noticed in general a trend toward lower-cost flatbed printers, especially low-end,” added Joan Pe´rez Pericot, Marketing Director for HP’s Large-Format Sign and Display Division. “Smaller customers would like to jump into rigid, along with the marketplace is polarizing in between the high-end presses doing a lot more volume as well as the smaller devices that happen to be doing very short runs.”
Mind Your Throat, Please
Roland DGA has long offered its tabletop VersaUV LEF-12 and LEF-20 UV flatbeds plus the VersaUV LEJ-640 hybrid printer. Earlier this year, Roland launched its first big flatbed, the 64-inch VersaUV LEJ-640FT flatbed UV printer. This new flatbed carries a “throat” (yes, that’s a true term) big enough that materials approximately six inches thick might be fed from the printer. In the Sign Expo, website visitors to the booth could witness the business running footballs through the printer.
“Print service providers are searching for ways to differentiate and expand their businesses-opportunities that flatbed printers certainly provide,” said Jay Roberts, Roland DGA’s Product Manager, phone case printer. “Roland’s new VersaUV LEJ-640FT expands this capability further with its unique six-inch printing clearance. The LEJ-640FT, in addition to smaller benchtop flatbeds for example Roland’s LEF series printers, start another field of printing possibilities for PSPs. Now, the question isn’t a whole lot ‘What could you print on?’ but alternatively ‘What can’t you print on?’ We’re constantly surprised by the creativity of those using our technology to create stunning images on substrates and objects that couldn’t be printed on previously.”
Joanie Loves Tchotchkes
Mimaki’s JFX Series UV LED flatbed printers (comprising the 51-inch JFX200 along with the 82.7-inch JFX 500) are targeted for such applications as backlit displays, signs and posters, interior décor, and glass and metal decorative panels, to list but a few. Mimaki even offers small tabletop UJF Series UV LED printers for the tchotchke-printing market: smartphone covers, pens, lenticular panels, membrane switch panels, wine bottles, and several other novelty and specialty print objects.
“Customers are trying to find feature-rich, high-quality versatility that lets them replace labor- and waste-intensive processes and print direct-to-substrate, while adding value with higher margin applications such as personalized products and package prototyping,” said Ken VanHorn, Director, Marketing and Business Development, Mimaki USA.
Océ Could You See
The latest models in Canon Solutions America’s (CSA) Océ Arizona 6100 Series-launched a year ago-will be the six-color (CMYKLcLm) Océ Arizona 6160 XTS and seven-color (CMYKLcLm white) Océ Arizona 6170 XTS. Like many of its brethren, the Arizonas are designed for printing on a wide range of rigid media applications, multi-layer and double-sided prints, and big prints tiled over multiple boards. Additionally, they support edge-to-edge printing. These new printers are purpose-manufactured to be board printers; they are doing not include a roll option.
The newest Arizona printers take CSA right into a new space, said Randy Paar, Marketing Manager of Display Graphics for CSA. “We’ve been popular from the mid-volume area, which takes us to the high-end from the mid-volume, or even the low end of your high-volume,” he was quoted saying. “It’s taken us into new markets and new business. They either come with an Arizona or even a similar product now and they are growing their business and are seeking a more economical printer to incorporate a little bit of capacity but in addition not tie up their high-volume press.”
At its fastest, the brand new machines can print a maximum of 33 boards 1 hour. “We had a fascinating customer event where we passed out stopwatches to any or all the visitors,” said Paar. “We printed several boards, and had all of them time them. Sure enough, we were directly on the amount of money.”
While I mentioned earlier within this story, EFI has been dedicating itself to LED curing technology for the UV lines, specially the company’s latest product, the EFI H1625 LED, a mid-level production printer that also functions as being a flatbed or a rollfed.
“One of the largest opportunities in rigid substrate/flatbed printing will come in the opportunity transition analog work to digital with higher-volume equipment,” said Ken Hanulec, V . P ., Marketing, Inkjet Solutions, at EFI. “So, beyond developing imaging systems that approach offset quality, EFI has brought a progressive stance from the material handling essential for a true analog-to-digital transition in higher-volume print with semi- and full-automation feed and delivery systems for our VUTEk HS100 Pro hybrid inkjet press. Firms that get into high-volume digital require the most ROI from automated materials handling. Those are the companies from the screen or offset print space who want to replace some of their analog ability to digital, plus they could only do that if they are hitting maximum throughput on a digital production line.”
Last June marked the ten-year anniversary of EFI’s acquisition of VUTEk, and while tin or aluminum may be the traditional 10th anniversary gift, for EFI it’s apparently equipment manufacturing companies. On July 1, because this story was being finalized, EFI announced it had acquired Matan Digital Printers, an Israel-based manufacturer of grand-format (aka superwide) hybrid UV printers. Offered in 3m and 5m widths, Matan’s flatbed and hybrid product portfolio is ideal for outdoor and indoor applications. The Matan Barak 8QW was picked as a Wide Format Imaging magazine 2015 Product of the season.
The Jig is Up
Mutoh has several options in the tabletop and wide-format proper categories. The 19-inch ValueJet 426UF UV LED tabletop printer is designed to print on various materials, especially 3D objects, around 2.75 inches thick. The 64-inch ValueJet 1626UH can be a hybrid UV LED printer which comes in CMYK plus White and Varnish, whilst the 64-inch ValueJet 1617H hybrid uses, in lieu of UV, Mutoh’s Multi-Purpose ink, a type of eco-solvent ink derived largely from plant-based materials and made to be an eco friendly ink option.
“The market for flatbed and hybrid printing remains strong and because of so many applications coming over to the top it isn’t surprising to discover sales of these machines increase,” said David Conrad, Director of advertising, for Mutoh America, Inc. “Additional application opportunities for printing on just about any substrate as much as almost three inches thick on our desktop version make the chance to purchase one of these machines very appealing to many markets including awards and engraving, trophy shops, industrial printers and specialty shops that supply many different items that could be personalized with digital printing. Search for thicker print capabilities, faster speeds, and much more custom jig choices to drive demand and unlock a lot more unique applications for this technology.”
Durst offers various flatbeds in the Rho group of UV machines. The newest introduction was the t-shirt printer, which handle media up to 8 feet wide. The Rho P10 series is geared towards high-end applications for example backlit displays for windows or light boxes, particularly for luxury goods, outdoor and indoor signage, POP and POS displays, and small to medium-sized packaging.
“In addition to the most obvious speed and productivity, flexibility and sturdiness are what printers need,” said Christopher Guyett, sales and marketing coordinator for Durst Image Technology. “They need flexibility when it comes to having the ability to quickly switch between materials and jobs to deal with lead times, and they need robust design and manufacturing to generate with a 24/7 schedule. Customers and PSPs are looking to produce every possible application or product 03dexqpky their flatbeds, so they require the flexibility to deal with complex client projects which come in with little notice, and require a quick turnaround.”
It appears fitting to round out this roundup using the latest model from Inca Digital, the business whose Inca Eagle 44 kicked off of the flatbed wide-format market back in 2001. The Onset series debuted in 2007, and earlier this season Inca introduced the Onset R40LT, a 3.14m (123.6-inch) by 1.6m (63-inch) flatbed that is available in either four-, five, or six-color configurations. It can handle substrates as much as 2 ” thick.
Make sure to check out these and also other models at Graph Expo as well as November’s SGIA Expo in Atlanta.
It seems fitting to round out this roundup with all the latest model from Inca Digital, the organization whose Inca Eagle 44 kicked away from the flatbed wide-format market way back in 2001. The Onset series debuted in 2007, and earlier this coming year Inca introduced the Onset R40LT, a 3.14m (123.6-inch) by 1.6m (63-inch) flatbed that can be found in either four-, five, or six-color configurations. It might handle substrates around 2 ” thick. Inca Digital wide-format printers can be found through Fujifilm, its global distribution partner.
The Return from the Jeti
Also at the ISA Sign Expo last spring, Agfa Graphics introduced the flatbed Jeti Mira as well as the hybrid Jeti Tauro. The former is really a true 2.7-meter (105 inches) flatbed, even though the latter is actually a 2.5-meter hybrid. These newest models complement Agfa’s extensive Anapurna brand of flatbeds and hybrids.
“We discover that some print providers prefer dedicated flatbed printing systems while others take pleasure in the flexibility of any hybrid device, so that we carry both technologies,” said Larry D’Amico, Vice-President Digital Imaging, Agfa Graphics. “We offer roll-to-roll options on many of our true flatbed equipment so a different is available with many of our printers. Currently, I see a mixture of both dedicated and hybrid devices being purchased and that i check this out trend continuing. Everyone’s application and product mix differs so it is essential to determine what you primarily want to do with this equipment and choose the technology that meets this anticipated blend of work.”