Last year, in your round-up in the latest in latte coffee printer, we discussed how recent introductions have, at least partly, been designed to help move work from analog technologies like offset to digital wide-format, particularly for things like posters, POP/POS displays, and so on. Previously year, there’s been less of a focus on shifting work from a technology to another one, and much more of one on creating unique print applications who 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 have huge variations from small table- or benchtop units created to print on such things as golf balls and smartphone cases, up to massive behemoths whereby you can run large sheets of wood, corrugated board, and 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 done as an element of a manufacturing process, like the control labels around the front of an appliance like a dishwasher, a vehicle dashboard, the gradations and measurement units on syringes or other medical items, and other sorts of printing that change from the typical “print for pay” applications.)
Most of the flatbed units on the market today use UV (ultraviolet) cured inks, it being the ink technology containing 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 latest trend in UV inks is really-called cold-curing UV, or UV inks that cure under being exposed to LED lamps rather than the traditional mercury vapor lamps. It’s not much of a new technology, although the costs of it are coming down. LEDs run much cooler than mercury vapor, which makes them more suitable for thin plastic substrates. LEDs can also be said to be energy-efficient meaning financial savings. EFI in particular is a huge highly active proponent of LED UV and contains announced its intention to totally retain the technology in all of the its UV offerings.
We are also seeing 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 perceived as “jacks of all the trades, masters of none,” they have improved to the point where they are now respectedly seen as methods of giving shops the flexibility to battle a wide variety of print projects. (Take into account, though, the same UV inks may not be appropriate for all materials because of the respective dyne amounts of ink and surface. Some surfaces might also require pre- or post-treatment to acquire UV ink to stay.)
Earlier this year at 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 may be the follow-around the HP Scitex 10000 platform launched a couple of years ago, even though the HP Scitex 15500 Corrugated Press is ideal 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 also recently announced the Scitex 17000, created for short- and medium-run corrugated printing. Additionally, 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 only a matter of speed, and also of having materials off and on press immediately and improving automation.
“The focus is very 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 one of the reasons we developed the 17000 press. It’s not merely the printing speed, the production workflow is definitely a important element. Clients are seeking automation both around the prepress side plus the finishing side.”
“We have 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 desire to jump into rigid, and the market is polarizing involving the high-end presses doing a lot more volume and also the smaller devices which 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 current year, Roland launched its first big flatbed, the 64-inch VersaUV LEJ-640FT flatbed UV printer. This new flatbed includes a “throat” (yes, that’s a genuine term) large enough that materials as much as six inches thick can be fed from the printer. With the Sign Expo, people to the booth could witness the business 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, phone case 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 like Roland’s LEF series printers, open another realm of printing possibilities for PSPs. Now, the question isn’t so much ‘What is it possible to print on?’ but rather ‘What can’t you print on?’ We’re constantly excited by the creativity of those using our technology to produce 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 along with 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 call but a couple of. Mimaki even offers the lesser tabletop UJF Series UV LED printers for the 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 allows them to replace labor- and waste-intensive processes and print direct-to-substrate, while adding value with higher margin applications such as 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 last year-will be the six-color (CMYKLcLm) Océ Arizona 6160 XTS and seven-color (CMYKLcLm white) Océ Arizona 6170 XTS. Like several 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. They also support edge-to-edge printing. These new printers are purpose-created to be board printers; they actually do not include a roll option.
The new Arizona printers take CSA right into a new space, said Randy Paar, Marketing Manager of Display Graphics for CSA. “We’ve been popular in the mid-volume area, and that takes us to the top end of the mid-volume, or the low end of the high-volume,” he was quoted saying. “It’s taken us into new markets and new business. They either offer an Arizona or even a similar product now and so are growing their business and are trying to find a far more economical printer to include a bit of capacity but also not tie up their high-volume press.”
At its fastest, the latest machines can print a maximum of 33 boards 1 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 were right on the money.”
When I mentioned earlier with this story, EFI has become dedicating itself to LED curing technology because of its UV lines, specially the company’s latest product, the EFI H1625 LED, a mid-level production printer which functions like a flatbed or even a rollfed.
“One of the most popular 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 taken a progressive stance inside the material handling necessary for an actual analog-to-digital transition in higher-volume print with semi- and full-automation feed and delivery systems for our VUTEk HS100 Pro hybrid inkjet press. Companies that enter into high-volume digital need the most ROI from automated materials handling. These are the companies from the screen or offset print space who want to exchange some of their analog capability to digital, and they also could only achieve 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 is 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 made 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 a number of options from 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, 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, even though the 64-inch ValueJet 1617H hybrid uses, in lieu of UV, Mutoh’s Multi-Purpose ink, a kind 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 so many applications arriving at the top it isn’t surprising to view sales of the machines increase,” said David Conrad, Director of promoting, for Mutoh America, Inc. “Additional application opportunities for printing on almost any substrate approximately almost three inches thick on our desktop version make the chance to purchase one of these brilliant machines very alluring to many markets including awards and engraving, trophy shops, industrial printers and specialty shops that supply a number of items that could be personalized with digital printing. Look for thicker print capabilities, faster speeds, plus more custom jig choices to drive demand and open up much more unique applications for this particular technology.”
Durst offers a variety of flatbeds in its Rho series of UV machines. The most up-to-date introduction was the t-shirt printer, which handle media up to 8 feet wide. The Rho P10 series is targeted at 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 addition to 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, plus they need robust design and manufacturing to generate on a 24/7 schedule. Customers and PSPs would like to produce every possible application or product 03dexqpky their flatbeds, so they have to have the flexibility to handle complex client projects that could come along with little notice, and require an instant turnaround.”
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 back in 2001. The Onset series debuted in 2007, and earlier this 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 as much as 2 ” thick.
Be sure to take a look at these and also other models at Graph Expo and also at November’s SGIA Expo in Atlanta.
It appears to be fitting to round out this roundup using the latest model from Inca Digital, the business whose Inca Eagle 44 kicked off the flatbed wide-format market way 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 can be purchased in either four-, five, or six-color configurations. It may handle substrates as much as 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 first kind is actually a true 2.7-meter (105 inches) flatbed, while the latter is a 2.5-meter hybrid. These newest models complement Agfa’s extensive Anapurna type of flatbeds and hybrids.
“We realize that some print agencies prefer dedicated flatbed printing systems while some take pleasure in the flexibility of any hybrid device, and then we carry both technologies,” said Larry D’Amico, Vice-President Digital Imaging, Agfa Graphics. “We offer roll-to-roll alternatives on a number of our true flatbed equipment so an alternate is offered 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 unique so it is essential to determine what you primarily might like to do using this equipment and select the technology that meets this anticipated mixture of work.”