Last year, in your round-up in the latest in latte printer, we discussed how recent introductions have, no less than in part, been meant to help move work from analog technologies like offset to digital wide-format, particularly for such things as posters, POP/POS displays, and the like. Previously year, there’s been less of a focus on shifting work from one technology to another one, and a lot more of just one on creating unique print applications which had never before been possible. Printing on atypical rigid substrates and three-dimensional objects is among the most raison d’être for today’s flatbeds, and manufacturers’ product portfolios run the gamut from small table- or benchtop units made to print on such things as golf balls and smartphone cases, around massive behemoths in which one could run large sheets of wood, corrugated board, and other such materials, even objects like footballs.
Flatbed units may also be in the process of blurring the line between commercial and industrial printing. (Industrial printing is printing that is done as an element of a manufacturing process, for example the control labels on the front of an appliance such as a dishwasher, an automobile dashboard, the gradations and measurement units on syringes or any other medical items, and other printing that vary from the normal “print for pay” applications.)
Most of the flatbed units available today use UV (ultraviolet) cured inks, it being the ink technology which has made such versatility possible. (Trivia question: what exactly is the one substrate that UV inks-to date-can’t print on? Teflon. It makes sense when you consider it….) The newest trend in UV inks is very-called cold-curing UV, or UV inks that cure under exposure to LED lamps instead of the traditional mercury vapor lamps. It’s not a new technology, but the costs of this are coming down. LEDs run much cooler than mercury vapor, making them considerably better for thin plastic substrates. LEDs will also be reported to be energy-efficient which means saving money. EFI especially has become a highly active proponent of LED UV and possesses announced its intention to completely keep the technology in every its UV offerings.
We are also going to a greater proliferation of hybrid units, flatbed printers that will also serve as roll-to-roll devices for printing on flexible materials. Where once hybrids were regarded as “jacks of trades, masters of none,” they may have improved to the point where they are now respectedly seen as methods for giving shops the versatility to use on numerous types of print projects. (Take into account, though, that this same UV inks is probably not suited to all materials given the respective dyne quantities of ink and surface. Some surfaces can 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-as much as the HP Scitex 10000 platform launched 2 years ago, while the HP Scitex 15500 Corrugated Press is for short-run corrugated packaging and the like, a good choice for prototyping, related POP graphics, and personalized/customized/short-run corrugated applications.
HP has also recently announced the Scitex 17000, made for short- and medium-run corrugated printing. Furthermore, it features the HP Scitex Corrugated Grip, a media handling system created to facilitate printing on warped corrugated boards.
For HP, the prevailing trend is toward more automation and improving productivity, which is not only a question of speed, but in addition of having materials off and on press as quickly as possible and improving automation.
“The focus is actually how you can make digital production more productive, and we’re looking 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 only the printing speed, the development workflow is certainly a important element. Customers are seeking automation both in the prepress side as well as the finishing side.”
“We have likewise seen 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, and also the marketplace is polarizing between the high-end presses doing increasingly more volume and also the smaller devices that are doing very short runs.”
Mind Your Throat, Please
Roland DGA has long offered its tabletop VersaUV LEF-12 and LEF-20 UV flatbeds and also the VersaUV LEJ-640 hybrid printer. Earlier this season, 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 real term) big enough that materials up to six inches thick may be fed through the printer. In the Sign Expo, people to the booth could witness the business running footballs from the printer.
“Print companies are looking for ways to differentiate and expand their businesses-opportunities that flatbed printers certainly provide,” said Jay Roberts, Roland DGA’s Product Manager, uv printer. “Roland’s new VersaUV LEJ-640FT expands this capability a little bit more using its unique six-inch printing clearance. The LEJ-640FT, together with smaller benchtop flatbeds such as Roland’s LEF series printers, unlock a completely new world of printing possibilities for PSPs. Now, the question isn’t a great deal ‘What can you print on?’ but ‘What can’t you print on?’ We’re constantly astonished by the creativity of the using our technology to produce stunning images on substrates and objects that couldn’t be printed on before.”
Joanie Loves Tchotchkes
Mimaki’s JFX Series UV LED flatbed printers (comprising the 51-inch JFX200 and 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 name but several. Mimaki even offers smaller tabletop UJF Series UV LED printers for that tchotchke-printing market: smartphone covers, pens, lenticular panels, membrane switch panels, wine bottles, and a lot of other novelty and specialty print objects.
“Customers are looking for feature-rich, high-quality versatility that allows them to replace labor- and waste-intensive processes and print direct-to-substrate, while adding value with higher margin applications including personalized products and package prototyping,” said Ken VanHorn, Director, Marketing and Business Development, Mimaki USA.
Océ Can You See
The most up-to-date models in Canon Solutions America’s (CSA) Océ Arizona 6100 Series-launched this past year-are definitely the six-color (CMYKLcLm) Océ Arizona 6160 XTS and seven-color (CMYKLcLm white) Océ Arizona 6170 XTS. Like most of its brethren, the Arizonas are capable of printing on a wide array of rigid media applications, multi-layer and double-sided prints, and huge prints tiled over multiple boards. Additionally they support edge-to-edge printing. These new printers are purpose-built to be board printers; they are doing not include a roll option.
The new Arizona printers take CSA in a new space, said Randy Paar, Marketing Manager of Display Graphics for CSA. “We’ve been popular in the mid-volume area, and also this takes us towards the top quality of the mid-volume, or maybe the low end of your high-volume,” he explained. “It’s taken us into new markets and new business. They either come with an Arizona or possibly a similar product now and are growing their business and are searching for an even more economical printer to include a bit of capacity but also not tie up their high-volume press.”
At its fastest, the brand new machines can print a maximum of 33 boards an hour. “We had an intriguing customer event where we handed out stopwatches to any or all the visitors,” said Paar. “We printed a variety of boards, along with every one of them time them. Sure enough, we had been right on the money.”
As I mentioned earlier with this story, EFI has been dedicating itself to LED curing technology for its UV lines, particularly the company’s latest product, the EFI H1625 LED, a mid-level production printer which functions like a flatbed or possibly a rollfed.
“One of the largest opportunities in rigid substrate/flatbed printing will come in the opportunity to transition analog try to digital with higher-volume equipment,” said Ken Hanulec, Vice President, Marketing, Inkjet Solutions, at EFI. “So, beyond developing imaging systems that approach offset quality, EFI has gotten a progressive stance from the material handling necessary for a true analog-to-digital transition in higher-volume print with semi- and full-automation feed and delivery systems for your VUTEk HS100 Pro hybrid inkjet press. Companies that go into high-volume digital need the most ROI from automated materials handling. Those are the companies from the screen or offset print space that want to exchange a selection of their analog capability to digital, and they also are only able to achieve that should they be hitting maximum throughput over 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 which 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 made for outdoor and indoor applications. The Matan Barak 8QW was picked being a Wide Format Imaging magazine 2015 Product of the season.
The Jig is Up
Mutoh has a few options inside the tabletop and wide-format proper categories. The 19-inch ValueJet 426UF UV LED tabletop printer is made to print on various materials, especially 3D objects, up to 2.75 inches thick. The 64-inch ValueJet 1626UH is really a hybrid UV LED printer that comes in CMYK plus White and Varnish, as 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 designed to be an environmentally friendly ink option.
“The industry for flatbed and hybrid printing remains strong and considering the variety of applications coming over to the surface it isn’t surprising to view sales of those machines increase,” said David Conrad, Director of Marketing, for Mutoh America, Inc. “Additional application opportunities for printing on almost any substrate up to almost three inches thick on our desktop version make the opportunity purchase one of those machines very popular with many markets including awards and engraving, trophy shops, industrial printers and specialty shops that provide a variety of items that may be personalized with digital printing. Try to find thicker print capabilities, faster speeds, plus more custom jig choices to drive demand and open up more unique applications for this particular technology.”
Durst offers many different flatbeds within its Rho combination of UV machines. The most recent introduction was the t-shirt printer, which handle media up to 8 feet wide. The Rho P10 series is targeted at high-end applications like 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 durability are what printers need,” said Christopher Guyett, sales and marketing coordinator for Durst Image Technology. “They need flexibility in terms of having the capacity to quickly switch between materials and jobs to take care of lead times, and so they need robust design and manufacturing to produce over a 24/7 schedule. Customers and PSPs want to produce every possible application or product 03dexqpky their flatbeds, so they have to have the flexibility to manage complex client projects that come in with little notice, and require a quick turnaround.”
It seems like fitting to complete this roundup together with the latest model from Inca Digital, the organization whose Inca Eagle 44 kicked off the flatbed wide-format market back in 2001. The Onset series debuted in 2007, and earlier this year Inca introduced the Onset R40LT, a 3.14m (123.6-inch) by 1.6m (63-inch) flatbed that can be purchased in either four-, five, or six-color configurations. It may handle substrates around 2 ” thick.
Make sure you check out these as well as other models at Graph Expo and also at November’s SGIA Expo in Atlanta.
It appears fitting to round out this roundup with all the latest model from Inca Digital, the business whose Inca Eagle 44 kicked from the flatbed wide-format market way back in 2001. The Onset series debuted in 2007, and earlier this year Inca introduced the Onset R40LT, a 3.14m (123.6-inch) by 1.6m (63-inch) flatbed that can be purchased in either four-, five, or six-color configurations. It might handle substrates approximately two inches thick. Inca Digital wide-format printers can be purchased 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 along with the hybrid Jeti Tauro. The former is actually a true 2.7-meter (105 inches) flatbed, whilst the latter can be a 2.5-meter hybrid. These newest models complement Agfa’s extensive Anapurna type of flatbeds and hybrids.
“We realize that some print companies prefer dedicated flatbed printing systems while some take pleasure in the flexibility of a hybrid device, therefore we carry both technologies,” said Larry D’Amico, Vice-President Digital Imaging, Agfa Graphics. “We offer roll-to-roll options on a number of our true flatbed equipment so an alternate is accessible 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 is different so it is essential to understand what you primarily might like to do using this equipment and choose the technology that meets this anticipated mixture of work.”