Last year, in our round-up from the latest in latte coffee printer, we discussed how recent introductions have, at the very least partly, been meant to help move work from analog technologies like offset to digital wide-format, particularly 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 one technology to another, and much more of merely one on creating unique print applications that 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 have huge variations from small table- or benchtop units built to print on such things as golf balls and smartphone cases, as much as massive behemoths through which you can run large sheets of wood, corrugated board, along with other such materials, even objects like footballs.
Flatbed units will also be along the way of blurring the line between commercial and industrial printing. (Industrial printing is printing that is certainly done as an element of a manufacturing process, including the control labels in the front of your appliance similar to a dishwasher, an automobile 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-to date-can’t print on? Teflon. It makes sense when you think about it….) The most recent trend in UV inks is really-called cold-curing UV, or UV inks that cure under contact with LED lamps rather than traditional mercury vapor lamps. It’s not really a new technology, nevertheless the costs from it are coming down. LEDs run much cooler than mercury vapor, which makes them considerably better for thin plastic substrates. LEDs are also reported to be energy-efficient meaning cost benefits. EFI specifically is a highly active proponent of LED UV and has announced its intention to completely support the technology in all its UV offerings.
We have been also visiting a greater proliferation of hybrid units, flatbed printers that may also function as roll-to-roll devices for printing on flexible materials. Where once hybrids were perceived as “jacks of most trades, masters of none,” they have got improved to the level where they are respectedly viewed as means of giving shops the flexibility to use on a wide variety of print projects. (Remember, though, how the same UV inks might not be suited to all materials because of the respective dyne quantities of ink and surface. Some surfaces can also require pre- or post-treatment to obtain UV ink to stay.)
Earlier this year with 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 may be the follow-up to the HP Scitex 10000 platform launched 2 yrs ago, even though the HP Scitex 15500 Corrugated Press is made for short-run corrugated packaging and the like, ideal 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. In addition, 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 merely a subject of speed, but additionally of getting materials off and on press as quickly as possible and improving automation.
“The focus is really learning 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 a very important element. Customers are requesting automation both in the prepress side plus the finishing side.”
“We also have observed 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 want to jump into rigid, and also the industry is polarizing between the high-end presses doing a growing number of volume along with the smaller devices which can 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 current year, Roland launched its first big flatbed, the 64-inch VersaUV LEJ-640FT flatbed UV printer. This new flatbed has a “throat” (yes, that’s a genuine term) big enough that materials up to six inches thick may be fed throughout the printer. With the Sign Expo, people to the booth could witness the company running footballs from the printer.
“Print providers are researching 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 featuring its unique six-inch printing clearance. The LEJ-640FT, as well as smaller benchtop flatbeds for example Roland’s LEF series printers, open up a new arena of printing possibilities for PSPs. Now, the question isn’t a great deal ‘What is it possible to print on?’ but alternatively ‘What can’t you print on?’ We’re constantly excited by the creativity of the using our technology to produce 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 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 offers the 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 seeking 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 Is It Possible To See
The newest models in Canon Solutions America’s (CSA) Océ Arizona 6100 Series-launched this past year-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 variety 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-created to be board printers; they are doing not include a roll option.
The new Arizona printers are taking 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 this takes us for the high-end from the mid-volume, or even the low end from the high-volume,” he stated. “It’s taken us into new markets and new business. They either provide an Arizona or possibly a similar product now and therefore are growing their business and are searching for a much more economical printer to add a bit of capacity but additionally not tie up their high-volume press.”
At its fastest, the newest machines can print a maximum of 33 boards one hour. “We had a fascinating customer event where we passed out stopwatches to all of the visitors,” said Paar. “We printed a number of boards, and had all of them time them. Sure enough, we had been right on the funds.”
While I mentioned earlier in this particular story, EFI has become 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 that also functions like a flatbed or a rollfed.
“One of the largest opportunities in rigid substrate/flatbed printing comes in the ability 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 brought a progressive stance within the material handling needed for a real analog-to-digital transition in higher-volume print with semi- and full-automation feed and delivery systems for the VUTEk HS100 Pro hybrid inkjet press. Businesses that enter into high-volume digital want the most ROI from automated materials handling. These are the companies from the screen or offset print space that are looking to change a selection of their analog opportunity to digital, and they also are only able to do that when they are 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 will 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 that 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 made for outdoor and indoor applications. The Matan Barak 8QW was picked as being a Wide Format Imaging magazine 2015 Product of the Year.
The Jig is Up
Mutoh has a few options within the tabletop and wide-format proper categories. The 19-inch ValueJet 426UF UV LED tabletop printer was created to print on a variety of materials, especially 3D objects, approximately 2.75 inches thick. The 64-inch ValueJet 1626UH is actually a hybrid UV LED printer that 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 built to be an environmentally friendly ink option.
“The niche for flatbed and hybrid printing remains strong and with so many applications coming to the outer lining it isn’t surprising to discover sales of the machines increase,” said David Conrad, Director of advertising, for Mutoh America, Inc. “Additional application opportunities for printing on almost any substrate as much as almost three inches thick on our desktop version make the chance to purchase one of these brilliant machines very attractive to many markets including awards and engraving, trophy shops, industrial printers and specialty shops offering many different items that may be personalized with digital printing. Look for thicker print capabilities, faster speeds, and more custom jig options to drive demand and open up more unique applications for this particular technology.”
Durst offers various flatbeds within its Rho series of UV machines. The newest introduction was the textile printer, which handle media as much as 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 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 with regards to having the ability to quickly switch between materials and jobs to deal with lead times, and they also need robust design and manufacturing to produce on a 24/7 schedule. Customers and PSPs wish to produce every possible application or product 03dexqpky their flatbeds, therefore they have to have the flexibility to handle complex client projects that can come along with little notice, and require a sudden turnaround.”
It appears fitting to complete this roundup together with the latest model from Inca Digital, the business whose Inca Eagle 44 kicked 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 comes in either four-, five, or six-color configurations. It could handle substrates up to 2 ” thick.
Be sure to have a look at these and also other models at Graph Expo as well as November’s SGIA Expo in Atlanta.
It seems fitting to complete this roundup with all the latest model from Inca Digital, the corporation whose Inca Eagle 44 kicked off of 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 comes in either four-, five, or six-color configurations. It can handle substrates as much as two inches thick. Inca Digital wide-format printers are offered through Fujifilm, its global distribution partner.
The Return in 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 former is 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 collection of flatbeds and hybrids.
“We realize that some print companies prefer dedicated flatbed printing systems and some benefit from 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 alternatives on many of our true flatbed equipment so an alternative is accessible with many of our printers. Currently, I see a mix 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 very important determine what you primarily need to do using this equipment and select the technology that best fits this anticipated combination of work.”