A year ago, within our round-up in the latest in latte coffee printer, we discussed how recent introductions have, no less than to some extent, been designed to help move work from analog technologies like offset to digital wide-format, especially for things like posters, POP/POS displays, and stuff like that. In the past year, there’s been a smaller amount of an emphasis on shifting work from a single technology to another, plus more of a single on creating unique print applications who 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 built to print on stuff like golf balls and smartphone cases, as much as massive behemoths by which anybody can run large sheets of wood, corrugated board, as well as other such materials, even objects like footballs.
Flatbed units will also be at the same time of blurring the line between commercial and industrial printing. (Industrial printing is printing that may be done included in a manufacturing process, like the control labels around the front of any appliance similar to a dishwasher, a vehicle dashboard, the gradations and measurement units on syringes or any other medical items, and other kinds of printing that are different from the typical “print for pay” applications.)
The majority of the flatbed units available today use UV (ultraviolet) cured inks, it being the ink technology which has made such versatility possible. (Trivia question: just what is the one substrate that UV inks-thus far-can’t print on? Teflon. It makes sense when you consider it….) The newest trend in UV inks is so-called cold-curing UV, or UV inks that cure under contact with LED lamps rather than the traditional mercury vapor lamps. It’s not much of a new technology, but the costs of this are coming down. LEDs run much cooler than mercury vapor, which makes them considerably better for thin plastic substrates. LEDs may also be reported to be energy-efficient which suggests cost savings. EFI especially has been a highly active proponent of LED UV and contains announced its intention to totally support the technology in most its UV offerings.
Our company is also seeing a greater proliferation of hybrid units, flatbed printers that can also work as roll-to-roll devices for printing on flexible materials. Where once hybrids were regarded as “jacks of trades, masters of none,” they have improved to the stage where they are now respectedly viewed as ways of giving shops the flexibility to take on a wide variety of print projects. (Remember, though, that the same UV inks may not be appropriate for all materials due to the respective dyne degrees of ink and surface. Some surfaces could also require pre- or post-treatment to obtain UV ink to keep.)
Earlier this current year on the International Sign Association (ISA) Sign Expo, HP launched several new flatbeds in 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 the follow-up to the HP Scitex 10000 platform launched 2 yrs ago, while the HP Scitex 15500 Corrugated Press is ideal for short-run corrugated packaging and so on, helpful for prototyping, related POP graphics, and personalized/customized/short-run corrugated applications.
HP also has recently announced the Scitex 17000, made for short- and medium-run corrugated printing. It also 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 question of speed, but additionally of getting materials on and off press as quickly as possible and improving automation.
“The focus is actually how you can 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 just the printing speed, the production workflow is a very important element. People 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 basic level,” added Joan Pe´rez Pericot, Marketing Director for HP’s Large-Format Sign and Display Division. “Smaller customers desire to jump into rigid, and the industry is polarizing in between the high-end presses doing a growing number of volume as well as 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 year, Roland launched its first big flatbed, the 64-inch VersaUV LEJ-640FT flatbed UV printer. This new flatbed features a “throat” (yes, that’s an actual term) big enough that materials as much as six inches thick can be fed through the printer. In the Sign Expo, visitors to the booth could witness the business running footballs throughout the printer.
“Print companies are researching 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 even more having its unique six-inch printing clearance. The LEJ-640FT, as well as smaller benchtop flatbeds like Roland’s LEF series printers, open another realm of printing possibilities for PSPs. Now, the question isn’t a whole lot ‘What are you able to print on?’ but ‘What can’t you print on?’ We’re constantly excited by the creativity of people using our technology to make 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 and also 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 couple of. Mimaki also has 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 searching for feature-rich, high-quality versatility that enables them to replace labor- and waste-intensive processes and print direct-to-substrate, while adding value with higher margin applications for example personalized products and package prototyping,” said Ken VanHorn, Director, Marketing and Business Development, Mimaki USA.
Océ Could You See
The most recent models in Canon Solutions America’s (CSA) Océ Arizona 6100 Series-launched last year-will be the six-color (CMYKLcLm) Océ Arizona 6160 XTS and seven-color (CMYKLcLm white) Océ Arizona 6170 XTS. Like a lot of its brethren, the Arizonas are designed for printing on a wide array of rigid media applications, multi-layer and double-sided prints, and big prints tiled over multiple boards. In addition they support edge-to-edge printing. These new printers are purpose-manufactured to be board printers; they do not come with a roll option.
The brand new Arizona printers take CSA 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 for the top quality of the mid-volume, or maybe the low end from the high-volume,” he explained. “It’s taken us into new markets and new clients. They either provide an Arizona or even a similar product now and are growing their business and are trying to find an even more economical printer to add a small amount of capacity but additionally not tie up their high-volume press.”
At its fastest, the newest machines can print a maximum of 33 boards an hour or so. “We had an interesting customer event where we handed out stopwatches to any or all the visitors,” said Paar. “We printed a variety of boards, along with each of them time them. Sure enough, we had been directly on the money.”
As I mentioned earlier within this story, EFI has been 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 that functions as being a flatbed or a rollfed.
“One of the most popular opportunities in rigid substrate/flatbed printing comes in the chance to 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 gotten a progressive stance within the material handling required 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. Firms that go into high-volume digital require the most ROI from automated materials handling. These are the companies coming from the screen or offset print space that want to switch some of their analog capacity to digital, and they also can only do that should they be hitting maximum throughput on the digital production line.”
Last June marked the ten-year anniversary of EFI’s acquisition of VUTEk, and while tin or aluminum is definitely the traditional 10th anniversary gift, for EFI it’s apparently equipment manufacturing companies. On July 1, since 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 ideal for outdoor and indoor applications. The Matan Barak 8QW was picked as a Wide Format Imaging magazine 2015 Product of year.
The Jig is Up
Mutoh has several options from the tabletop and wide-format proper categories. The 19-inch ValueJet 426UF UV LED tabletop printer was designed to print on a number of materials, especially 3D objects, up to 2.75 inches thick. The 64-inch ValueJet 1626UH can be a hybrid UV LED printer that comes in CMYK plus White and Varnish, even though the 64-inch ValueJet 1617H hybrid uses, rather than UV, Mutoh’s Multi-Purpose ink, a type of eco-solvent ink derived largely from plant-based materials and designed to be an eco-friendly ink option.
“The industry for flatbed and hybrid printing remains strong and considering the variety of applications coming over to the outer lining it isn’t surprising to view sales of the machines increase,” said David Conrad, Director of Marketing, for Mutoh America, Inc. “Additional application opportunities for printing on practically any substrate up to almost three inches thick on our desktop version make the ability to purchase one of those machines very alluring to many markets including awards and engraving, trophy shops, industrial printers and specialty shops that offer many different items that may be personalized with digital printing. Try to find thicker print capabilities, faster speeds, and much more custom jig choices to drive demand and start much more unique applications for this particular technology.”
Durst offers a number of flatbeds within its Rho group of UV machines. The most recent introduction was the t-shirt printer, which handle media around 8 feet wide. The Rho P10 series is geared towards high-end applications such as 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 sturdiness are what printers need,” said Christopher Guyett, sales and marketing coordinator for Durst Image Technology. “They need flexibility regarding having the ability to quickly switch between materials and jobs to take care of lead times, and they also need robust design and manufacturing to produce over a 24/7 schedule. Customers and PSPs are looking to produce every possible application or product 03dexqpky their flatbeds, so that they require the flexibility to take care of complex client projects that could come along with little notice, and require an immediate turnaround.”
It seems like fitting to round out this roundup with all the latest model from Inca Digital, the company whose Inca Eagle 44 kicked away from the flatbed wide-format market back 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 is available in either four-, five, or six-color configurations. It might handle substrates approximately two inches thick.
Make sure you take a look at these along with 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 company whose Inca Eagle 44 kicked off of 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 approximately two inches thick. Inca Digital wide-format printers are available 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 and also the hybrid Jeti Tauro. The previous is actually a true 2.7-meter (105 inches) flatbed, even though the latter is a 2.5-meter hybrid. These newest models complement Agfa’s extensive Anapurna brand of flatbeds and hybrids.
“We realize that some print service providers prefer dedicated flatbed printing systems and some benefit from the flexibility of your hybrid device, so we carry both technologies,” said Larry D’Amico, Vice-President Digital Imaging, Agfa Graphics. “We offer roll-to-roll choices on many of our true flatbed equipment so an alternate is available with many of our printers. Currently, I see a mixture of both dedicated and hybrid devices being purchased and I check this out trend continuing. Everyone’s application and product mix is distinct so you should understand what you primarily might like to do using this equipment and select the technology that best fits this anticipated mixture of work.”