Just last year, inside our round-up of your latest in coffee printer, we discussed how recent introductions have, no less than partly, been designed to help move work from analog technologies like offset to digital wide-format, especially for things like posters, POP/POS displays, and so forth. In the past year, there’s been a smaller amount of a focus on shifting work from a technology to a different, and much more of merely one on creating unique print applications which 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 designed 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, as well as other such materials, even objects like footballs.
Flatbed units are also along the way of blurring the fishing line between commercial and industrial printing. (Industrial printing is printing which is done as part of a manufacturing process, for example the control labels on the front of your appliance such as a dishwasher, an automobile dashboard, the gradations and measurement units on syringes or any other medical items, and other types of printing that differ from the typical “print for pay” applications.)
A lot of the flatbed units currently available use UV (ultraviolet) cured inks, it being the ink technology that has made such versatility possible. (Trivia question: exactly what is the one substrate that UV inks-thus far-can’t print on? Teflon. It makes sense when you think of it….) The most up-to-date trend in UV inks is so-called cold-curing UV, or UV inks that cure under exposure to LED lamps rather than traditional mercury vapor lamps. It’s not really a new technology, but the costs than it are coming down. LEDs run much cooler than mercury vapor, making them more suitable for thin plastic substrates. LEDs can also be said to be energy-efficient meaning saving money. EFI specifically has become a highly active proponent of LED UV and contains announced its intention to totally support the technology in every its UV offerings.
Our company is also visiting 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 all trades, masters of none,” they may have improved to the point where they are respectedly considered as means of giving shops the versatility to consider numerous print projects. (Keep in mind, though, the same UV inks is probably not appropriate for all materials because of the respective dyne levels of ink and surface. Some surfaces can also require pre- or post-treatment to have UV ink to keep.)
Earlier this year in the International Sign Association (ISA) Sign Expo, HP launched several new flatbeds within its 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, as the HP Scitex 15500 Corrugated Press is made for short-run corrugated packaging and so on, a good choice for prototyping, related POP graphics, and personalized/customized/short-run corrugated applications.
HP has recently announced the Scitex 17000, designed for short- and medium-run corrugated printing. Furthermore, it features the HP Scitex Corrugated Grip, a media handling system designed 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 in addition of having materials off and on press immediately and improving automation.
“The focus is very how to make digital production more productive, and we’re seeking 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 among the reasons we developed the 17000 press. It’s not simply the printing speed, the production workflow is definitely a important element. People are asking for automation both around the prepress side along with the finishing side.”
“We have also found in general a trend toward lower-cost flatbed printers, especially entry level,” added Joan Pe´rez Pericot, Marketing Director for HP’s Large-Format Sign and Display Division. “Smaller customers desire to jump into rigid, along with the industry is polarizing between the high-end presses doing increasingly more volume along with 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 as well as 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 real term) big enough that materials around six inches thick might be fed through the printer. At the Sign Expo, people to the booth could witness the company running footballs with the printer.
“Print 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, uv printer. “Roland’s new VersaUV LEJ-640FT expands this capability even further featuring its unique six-inch printing clearance. The LEJ-640FT, along with smaller benchtop flatbeds such as Roland’s LEF series printers, start a new realm of printing possibilities for PSPs. Now, the question isn’t a lot ‘What can you print on?’ but instead ‘What can’t you print on?’ We’re constantly amazed by the creativity of those using our technology to create stunning images on substrates and objects that couldn’t be printed on in the past.”
Joanie Loves Tchotchkes
Mimaki’s JFX Series UV LED flatbed printers (comprising the 51-inch JFX200 as well as 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 a few. Mimaki also offers smaller tabletop UJF Series UV LED printers for the tchotchke-printing market: smartphone covers, pens, lenticular panels, membrane switch panels, wine bottles, and lots of other novelty and specialty print objects.
“Customers are looking for 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 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-would 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 array of rigid media applications, multi-layer and double-sided prints, and huge prints tiled over multiple boards. They also support edge-to-edge printing. These new printers are purpose-manufactured to be board printers; they actually do not have a roll option.
The brand new Arizona printers take CSA right into a new space, said Randy Paar, Marketing Manager of Display Graphics for CSA. “We’ve been popular inside the mid-volume area, and this takes us for the high-end from the mid-volume, or perhaps the low end of the high-volume,” he explained. “It’s taken us into new markets and customers. They either provide an Arizona or even a similar product now and so 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 newest machines can print a maximum of 33 boards an hour. “We had a fascinating customer event where we given out stopwatches for all the visitors,” said Paar. “We printed a number of boards, and had every one of them time them. Sure enough, we were directly on the cash.”
When I mentioned earlier within this story, EFI is dedicating itself to LED curing technology for its UV lines, specially the company’s latest product, the EFI H1625 LED, a mid-level production printer which also functions like a flatbed or a rollfed.
“One of the biggest opportunities in rigid substrate/flatbed printing can be purchased in the ability to transition analog try 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 is taking a progressive stance from the material handling essential for a real 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. Firms that go into high-volume digital require the most ROI from automated materials handling. These are companies from the screen or offset print space that want to change a selection of their analog ability to digital, plus they is only able to do that should they be hitting maximum throughput on a digital production line.”
Last June marked the ten-year anniversary of EFI’s acquisition of VUTEk, even though tin or aluminum is definitely the traditional 10th anniversary gift, for EFI it’s apparently equipment manufacturing companies. On July 1, because this story was being finalized, EFI announced that this had acquired Matan Digital Printers, an Israel-based manufacturer of grand-format (aka superwide) hybrid UV printers. Available 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 as a Wide Format Imaging magazine 2015 Product of the Year.
The Jig is Up
Mutoh has a few options from the tabletop and wide-format proper categories. The 19-inch ValueJet 426UF UV LED tabletop printer is made to print on many different materials, especially 3D objects, approximately 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, rather than UV, Mutoh’s Multi-Purpose ink, a sort of eco-solvent ink derived largely from plant-based materials and designed to be an environmentally friendly ink option.
“The niche for flatbed and hybrid printing remains strong and with the amount of applications coming over to the top it isn’t surprising to discover sales of such machines increase,” said David Conrad, Director of promoting, for Mutoh America, Inc. “Additional application opportunities for printing on practically any substrate around almost three inches thick on our desktop version make the opportunity to purchase one of these machines very attractive to many markets including awards and engraving, trophy shops, industrial printers and specialty shops that provide a variety of items which can be personalized with digital printing. Seek out thicker print capabilities, faster speeds, plus more custom jig choices to drive demand and unlock a lot more unique applications with this technology.”
Durst offers a number of flatbeds in the Rho series of UV machines. The most up-to-date introduction was the t-shirt printer, which handle media approximately 8 feet wide. The Rho P10 series is geared towards high-end applications like backlit displays for windows or light boxes, particularly for luxury goods, indoor and outdoor signage, POP and POS displays, and small to medium-sized packaging.
“In accessory for 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 when it comes to having the ability to quickly switch between materials and jobs to deal with lead times, plus they need robust design and manufacturing to produce with a 24/7 schedule. Customers and PSPs are looking to produce every possible application or product 03dexqpky their flatbeds, hence they need the flexibility to deal with complex client projects that come along with little notice, and require an instant turnaround.”
It seems like fitting to complete this roundup with the latest model from Inca Digital, the company whose Inca Eagle 44 kicked from the flatbed wide-format market 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 purchased in either four-, five, or six-color configurations. It can handle substrates around 2 ” thick.
Make sure you take a look at these and also other models at Graph Expo and at November’s SGIA Expo in Atlanta.
It seems fitting to complete this roundup with the latest model from Inca Digital, the organization whose Inca Eagle 44 kicked away from the flatbed wide-format market in the past in 2001. The Onset series debuted in 2007, and earlier this current 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 could handle substrates up to 2 ” thick. Inca Digital wide-format printers can be purchased through Fujifilm, its global distribution partner.
The Return from the Jeti
Also with the ISA Sign Expo last spring, Agfa Graphics introduced the flatbed Jeti Mira as well as the hybrid Jeti Tauro. The previous is really a true 2.7-meter (105 inches) flatbed, even though the latter can be a 2.5-meter hybrid. These newest models complement Agfa’s extensive Anapurna collection of flatbeds and hybrids.
“We realize that some print companies prefer dedicated flatbed printing systems while some take pleasure in the flexibility of any hybrid device, therefore we carry both technologies,” said Larry D’Amico, Vice-President Digital Imaging, Agfa Graphics. “We offer roll-to-roll alternatives on many of our true flatbed equipment so a different is offered 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 understand what you primarily want to do using this equipment and choose the technology that best fits this anticipated mixture of work.”