This past year, inside our round-up from the latest in coffee printer, we discussed how recent introductions have, at least to some extent, been intended to help move work from analog technologies like offset to digital wide-format, particularly for stuff like posters, POP/POS displays, and so forth. In the past year, there’s been a smaller amount of a focus on shifting work in one technology to a different one, and more of one on creating unique print applications which had never before been possible. Printing on atypical rigid substrates and three-dimensional objects is considered the raison d’être for today’s flatbeds, and manufacturers’ product portfolios run the gamut from small table- or benchtop units made to print on items like golf balls and smartphone cases, approximately massive behemoths through which one could run large sheets of wood, corrugated board, and other such materials, even objects like footballs.
Flatbed units may also be at the same time of blurring the line between commercial and industrial printing. (Industrial printing is printing which is done as part of a manufacturing process, including the control labels in the front of any appliance similar to a dishwasher, a car dashboard, the gradations and measurement units on syringes or other medical items, and other types of printing that vary from the usual “print for pay” applications.)
Many of the flatbed units currently available use UV (ultraviolet) cured inks, it being the ink technology containing made such versatility possible. (Trivia question: exactly what is the one substrate that UV inks-to date-can’t print on? Teflon. It seems sensible when you consider it….) The most up-to-date trend in UV inks is really-called cold-curing UV, or UV inks that cure under exposure to LED lamps rather than the traditional mercury vapor lamps. It’s not just a new technology, but the costs of this are coming down. LEDs run much cooler than mercury vapor, causing them to be considerably better for thin plastic substrates. LEDs may also be said to be energy-efficient which suggests cost savings. EFI especially is a huge highly active proponent of LED UV and contains announced its intention to totally keep the technology in most its UV offerings.
We have been also visiting a greater proliferation of hybrid units, flatbed printers that could also serve as roll-to-roll devices for printing on flexible materials. Where once hybrids were regarded as “jacks of all the trades, masters of none,” they have improved to the stage where they are now respectedly considered as means of giving shops the flexibility to consider numerous types of print projects. (Take into account, though, that this same UV inks might not be suited to all materials because of the respective dyne levels of ink and surface. Some surfaces might also require pre- or post-treatment to get UV ink to stay.)
Earlier this season in the International Sign Association (ISA) Sign Expo, HP launched several new flatbeds in the 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 two years ago, whilst 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, designed for short- and medium-run corrugated printing. Furthermore, it features the HP Scitex Corrugated Grip, a media handling system made to facilitate printing on warped corrugated boards.
For HP, the prevailing trend is toward more automation and improving productivity, which is not only a matter of speed, but in addition to getting materials on and off press as soon as possible and improving automation.
“The focus is actually how to make digital production more productive, and we’re trying 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 development workflow is a very important element. Consumers are requesting automation both around the prepress side as well as the finishing side.”
“We 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 industry is polarizing in between the high-end presses doing a lot more volume and 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 genuine term) large enough that materials as much as six inches thick can be fed through the printer. On the Sign Expo, targeted traffic to the booth could witness the business running footballs from 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, led uv printer. “Roland’s new VersaUV LEJ-640FT expands this capability even 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 a completely new world of printing possibilities for PSPs. Now, the question isn’t a lot ‘What are you able to print on?’ but ‘What can’t you print on?’ We’re constantly astonished by the creativity of these using our technology to generate stunning images on substrates and objects that couldn’t be printed on in past times.”
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 list but a number of. Mimaki also has small tabletop UJF Series UV LED printers for that 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 newest models in Canon Solutions America’s (CSA) Océ Arizona 6100 Series-launched just last year-are definitely 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 capable of printing on a wide array of rigid media applications, multi-layer and double-sided prints, and enormous prints tiled over multiple boards. Additionally they support edge-to-edge printing. These new printers are purpose-designed to be board printers; they actually do not come with a roll option.
The brand new Arizona printers are taking CSA in to a new space, said Randy Paar, Marketing Manager of Display Graphics for CSA. “We’ve been popular in the mid-volume area, and this takes us to the top quality in the mid-volume, or the low end in the high-volume,” he explained. “It’s taken us into new markets and customers. They either offer an Arizona or a similar product now and therefore are growing their business and are searching for a more economical printer to incorporate a little bit of capacity but also not tie up their high-volume press.”
At its fastest, the new machines can print a maximum of 33 boards an hour. “We had an intriguing customer event where we passed out stopwatches to any or all the visitors,” said Paar. “We printed numerous boards, along with every one of them time them. Sure enough, we were right on the money.”
Because I mentioned earlier in this particular story, EFI has become dedicating itself to LED curing technology due to its UV lines, specially the company’s latest product, the EFI H1625 LED, a mid-level production printer that functions being a flatbed or perhaps a rollfed.
“One of the biggest opportunities in rigid substrate/flatbed printing comes 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 has brought 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 our own 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 are looking to exchange some of their analog ability to digital, and so they are only able to achieve that should they be hitting maximum throughput on a digital production line.”
Last June marked the 10-year anniversary of EFI’s acquisition of VUTEk, even though 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. Obtainable in 3m and 5m widths, Matan’s flatbed and hybrid product portfolio is ideal for indoor and outdoor 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 number of options within 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, as the 64-inch ValueJet 1617H hybrid uses, in lieu of UV, Mutoh’s Multi-Purpose ink, a form of eco-solvent ink derived largely from plant-based materials and designed to be an eco friendly ink option.
“The market for flatbed and hybrid printing remains strong and with so many applications arriving at the outer lining it isn’t surprising to discover sales of these machines increase,” said David Conrad, Director of promoting, 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 opportunity purchase one of these machines very attractive 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. Seek out thicker print capabilities, faster speeds, plus more custom jig options to drive demand and open much more unique applications for this particular technology.”
Durst offers a number of flatbeds in its Rho number of UV machines. The latest introduction was the t-shirt printer, which handle media around 8 feet wide. The Rho P10 series is aimed towards 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 accessory for the 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 capacity to quickly switch between materials and jobs to take care of lead times, and so they need robust design and manufacturing to generate on a 24/7 schedule. Customers and PSPs want to produce every possible application or product 03dexqpky their flatbeds, hence they want the flexibility to deal with complex client projects that come in with little notice, and require a quick turnaround.”
It appears to be fitting to round out this roundup together with the latest model from Inca Digital, the corporation 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 season 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 two inches thick.
Be sure to look at these along with other models at Graph Expo as well as at November’s SGIA Expo in Atlanta.
It seems like fitting to complete this roundup using the latest model from Inca Digital, the organization whose Inca Eagle 44 kicked from the flatbed wide-format market way 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 comes in either four-, five, or six-color configurations. It can handle substrates around two inches thick. Inca Digital wide-format printers are available through Fujifilm, its global distribution partner.
The Return of the Jeti
Also on the ISA Sign Expo last spring, Agfa Graphics introduced the flatbed Jeti Mira and the hybrid Jeti Tauro. The former is really a true 2.7-meter (105 inches) flatbed, as the latter is a 2.5-meter hybrid. These newest models complement Agfa’s extensive Anapurna line of flatbeds and hybrids.
“We realize that some print service providers prefer dedicated flatbed printing systems and some take pleasure in the flexibility of the hybrid device, so that we carry both technologies,” said Larry D’Amico, Vice-President Digital Imaging, Agfa Graphics. “We offer roll-to-roll choices on a number of our true flatbed equipment so an alternate can be obtained with many of our printers. Currently, I see a mix of both dedicated and hybrid devices being purchased and I check this out trend continuing. Everyone’s application and product mix is distinct so it is very important know very well what you primarily might like to do using this equipment and choose the technology that best fits this anticipated combination of work.”