This past year, in our round-up of the latest in latte coffee 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, especially for stuff like posters, POP/POS displays, and so on. Before year, there’s been less of a focus on shifting work in one technology to another one, and more of a single on creating unique print applications that 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, around massive behemoths whereby you can 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 fishing line between commercial and industrial printing. (Industrial printing is printing that is certainly done as part of a manufacturing process, including 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 types of printing that vary from the usual “print for pay” applications.)
The majority of the flatbed units that you can buy use UV (ultraviolet) cured inks, it being the ink technology which has made such versatility possible. (Trivia question: what is the one substrate that UV inks-thus far-can’t print on? Teflon. It seems sensible when you think about 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 a new technology, although the costs of this are coming down. LEDs run much cooler than mercury vapor, causing them to be more suitable for thin plastic substrates. LEDs may also be reported to be energy-efficient which means cost benefits. EFI particularly has been a highly active proponent of LED UV and has announced its intention to totally support the technology in all of the 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 trades, masters of none,” they have got improved to the stage where they are now respectedly regarded as means of giving shops the flexibility to consider numerous types of print projects. (Take into account, though, that this same UV inks is probably not appropriate for all materials given the respective dyne amounts of ink and surface. Some surfaces can also require pre- or post-treatment to acquire UV ink to stick.)
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 the follow-approximately the HP Scitex 10000 platform launched 2 years ago, while the HP Scitex 15500 Corrugated Press is ideal for short-run corrugated packaging and so on, ideal for prototyping, related POP graphics, and personalized/customized/short-run corrugated applications.
HP has additionally 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 built 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 also of obtaining materials on / off press immediately and improving automation.
“The focus is actually steps 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 amongst the reasons we developed the 17000 press. It’s not just the printing speed, the production workflow is certainly a important element. Customers are asking for automation both about the prepress side along with the finishing side.”
“We have also observed 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 want to jump into rigid, and the industry is polarizing involving 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 has a “throat” (yes, that’s a true term) big enough that materials up to six inches thick can be fed with the printer. With the Sign Expo, people to the booth could witness the organization 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, phone case printer. “Roland’s new VersaUV LEJ-640FT expands this capability a little bit more featuring its unique six-inch printing clearance. The LEJ-640FT, together with smaller benchtop flatbeds for example Roland’s LEF series printers, unlock a whole new world of printing possibilities for PSPs. Now, the question isn’t a whole lot ‘What are you able to print on?’ but rather ‘What can’t you print on?’ We’re constantly surprised by the creativity of people using our technology to generate 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 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 list but a few. Mimaki even offers small 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 searching 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 for example personalized products and package prototyping,” said Ken VanHorn, Director, Marketing and Business Development, Mimaki USA.
Océ Are You Able To See
The most recent models in Canon Solutions America’s (CSA) Océ Arizona 6100 Series-launched just last 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 capable of printing on a variety of rigid media applications, multi-layer and double-sided prints, and big prints tiled over multiple boards. They also support edge-to-edge printing. These new printers are purpose-manufactured to be board printers; they generally do not feature a roll option.
The 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 from the mid-volume area, and this takes us towards the top quality of your mid-volume, or even the low end of the high-volume,” he stated. “It’s taken us into new markets and new business. They either offer an Arizona or perhaps a similar product now and so are growing their business and are trying to find an even more economical printer to add some capacity but in addition not tie up their high-volume press.”
At its fastest, the newest machines can print a maximum of 33 boards one hour. “We had an intriguing customer event where we given out stopwatches for all the visitors,” said Paar. “We printed numerous boards, along with each one time them. Sure enough, we had been directly on the cash.”
Because I mentioned earlier with this story, EFI has been dedicating itself to LED curing technology because of its UV lines, especially the company’s latest product, the EFI H1625 LED, a mid-level production printer which also functions as a flatbed or a rollfed.
“One of the most popular opportunities in rigid substrate/flatbed printing is available in the opportunity transition analog work 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 is taking a progressive stance in 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 the VUTEk HS100 Pro hybrid inkjet press. Businesses that go deep into high-volume digital need the most ROI from automated materials handling. Those are the companies from the screen or offset print space who want to change some of their analog capability to digital, and so they is only able to do this when they are hitting maximum throughput over a digital production line.”
Last June marked the 10-year anniversary of EFI’s acquisition of VUTEk, and even though tin or aluminum is 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 being a Wide Format Imaging magazine 2015 Product of the Year.
The Jig is Up
Mutoh has several options inside the tabletop and wide-format proper categories. The 19-inch ValueJet 426UF UV LED tabletop printer is made to print on a number of materials, especially 3D objects, as much as 2.75 inches thick. The 64-inch ValueJet 1626UH is actually a hybrid UV LED printer which 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 form of eco-solvent ink derived largely from plant-based materials and made to be an environmentally friendly ink option.
“The niche for flatbed and hybrid printing remains strong and with the amount of applications visiting the top it isn’t surprising to view sales of such machines increase,” said David Conrad, Director of advertising, for Mutoh America, Inc. “Additional application opportunities for printing on just about any substrate up to almost three inches thick on our desktop version make the opportunity purchase one of these brilliant machines very attractive to many markets including awards and engraving, trophy shops, industrial printers and specialty shops that offer a number of items which can be personalized with digital printing. Search for thicker print capabilities, faster speeds, and more custom jig choices to drive demand and start even more unique applications with this technology.”
Durst offers a variety of flatbeds in their Rho group of UV machines. The newest introduction was the t-shirt printer, which handle media as much as 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 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 with regards to having the capability to quickly switch between materials and jobs to take care of lead times, and they need robust design and manufacturing to create on the 24/7 schedule. Customers and PSPs are looking to produce every possible application or product 03dexqpky their flatbeds, therefore they need the flexibility to take care of complex client projects that could come along with little notice, and require a quick turnaround.”
It seems fitting to complete this roundup together with the latest model from Inca Digital, the company whose Inca Eagle 44 kicked off of the flatbed wide-format market 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 could handle substrates as much as two inches thick.
Be sure you look at these and other models at Graph Expo and also at November’s SGIA Expo in Atlanta.
It seems like fitting to round out this roundup with all the latest model from Inca Digital, the business whose Inca Eagle 44 kicked off of the flatbed wide-format market in the past 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 might handle substrates approximately two inches thick. Inca Digital wide-format printers are available through Fujifilm, its global distribution partner.
The Return of the Jeti
Also at the ISA Sign Expo last spring, Agfa Graphics introduced the flatbed Jeti Mira as well as the hybrid Jeti Tauro. The first kind is really a true 2.7-meter (105 inches) flatbed, while the latter is actually 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 although some enjoy the flexibility of a hybrid device, so we carry both technologies,” said Larry D’Amico, Vice-President Digital Imaging, Agfa Graphics. “We offer roll-to-roll options on many of our true flatbed equipment so a substitute can be obtained with a number of our printers. Currently, I see a mixture of both dedicated and hybrid devices being purchased and so i see this trend continuing. Everyone’s application and product mix is distinct so it is important to know very well what you primarily might like to do using this type of equipment and select the technology that meets this anticipated mixture of work.”