A year ago, within our round-up from the latest in latte coffee printer, we discussed how recent introductions have, at the very least to some extent, been created to help move work from analog technologies like offset to digital wide-format, specifically for things like posters, POP/POS displays, and stuff like that. In the past year, there’s been less of an emphasis on shifting work from a technology to another, and more of merely one on creating unique print applications which had never before been possible. Printing on atypical rigid substrates and three-dimensional objects has become the raison d’être for today’s flatbeds, and manufacturers’ product portfolios have huge variations from small table- or benchtop units designed to print on items like golf balls and smartphone cases, up to massive behemoths whereby anybody can run large sheets of wood, corrugated board, and also other such materials, even objects like footballs.
Flatbed units will also be during this process of blurring the fishing line between commercial and industrial printing. (Industrial printing is printing which is done as an element of a manufacturing process, such as the control labels on the front of any appliance just like a dishwasher, a car dashboard, the gradations and measurement units on syringes or any other medical items, and other types of printing that are different from the standard “print for pay” applications.)
Most of the flatbed units available today use UV (ultraviolet) cured inks, it being the ink technology which includes made such versatility possible. (Trivia question: what is the one substrate that UV inks-to date-can’t print on? Teflon. It seems sensible when you think about it….) The most recent 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 really a new technology, however the costs of it are coming down. LEDs run much cooler than mercury vapor, leading them to be considerably better for thin plastic substrates. LEDs may also be reported to be energy-efficient which suggests cost benefits. EFI in particular is a huge highly active proponent of LED UV and contains announced its intention to completely retain the technology in all of the its UV offerings.
We are 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 all trades, masters of none,” they may have improved to the level where they are now respectedly regarded as methods for giving shops the versatility to battle numerous print projects. (Keep in mind, though, the same UV inks may not be suitable for all materials due to the respective dyne levels of ink and surface. Some surfaces can also require pre- or post-treatment to obtain UV ink to stay.)
Earlier this coming year at 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 definitely the follow-approximately the HP Scitex 10000 platform launched 2 years ago, as the HP Scitex 15500 Corrugated Press is ideal for short-run corrugated packaging and the like, ideal for prototyping, related POP graphics, and personalized/customized/short-run corrugated applications.
HP also has recently announced the Scitex 17000, intended for short- and medium-run corrugated printing. In addition, it 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 to getting materials off and on press as soon as possible and improving automation.
“The focus is really 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 among the reasons we developed the 17000 press. It’s not only the printing speed, the production workflow is a very important element. Clients are asking for automation both around the prepress side plus 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 wish to jump into rigid, and the industry is polarizing in between 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 along with the VersaUV LEJ-640 hybrid printer. Earlier this season, 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 real term) large enough that materials around six inches thick can be fed throughout the printer. In the Sign Expo, website visitors to the booth could witness the corporation running footballs with the printer.
“Print agencies 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 further with its unique six-inch printing clearance. The LEJ-640FT, together with smaller benchtop flatbeds for example Roland’s LEF series printers, open a completely new field of printing possibilities for PSPs. Now, the question isn’t so much ‘What could you print on?’ but alternatively ‘What can’t you print on?’ We’re constantly astonished by the creativity of the 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 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 name but a couple of. Mimaki even offers smaller 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 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 Could You See
The most recent models in Canon Solutions America’s (CSA) Océ Arizona 6100 Series-launched this past year-are the six-color (CMYKLcLm) Océ Arizona 6160 XTS and seven-color (CMYKLcLm white) Océ Arizona 6170 XTS. Like most of its brethren, the Arizonas are capable of printing on a variety of rigid media applications, multi-layer and double-sided prints, and huge prints tiled over multiple boards. They also support edge-to-edge printing. These new printers are purpose-built to be board printers; they actually do not have 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 within the mid-volume area, and that takes us on the high-end from the mid-volume, or maybe the low end of the high-volume,” he explained. “It’s taken us into new markets and new clients. They either offer an Arizona or even 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 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 an appealing customer event where we handed out stopwatches for all the visitors,” said Paar. “We printed several boards, along with every one of them time them. Sure enough, we were right on the cash.”
When I mentioned earlier within this story, EFI is dedicating itself to LED curing technology due to its UV lines, especially the company’s latest product, the EFI H1625 LED, a mid-level production printer that functions like a flatbed or even a rollfed.
“One of the most popular opportunities in rigid substrate/flatbed printing comes in the opportunity 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 an actual 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. Businesses that go into high-volume digital require 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 ability to digital, and they are only able to do this when they are hitting maximum throughput on a digital production line.”
Last June marked the ten-year anniversary of EFI’s acquisition of VUTEk, and while tin or aluminum may be the traditional 10th anniversary gift, for EFI it’s apparently equipment manufacturing companies. On July 1, simply 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. For sale 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 like a Wide Format Imaging magazine 2015 Product of the season.
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 designed to print on many different materials, especially 3D objects, around 2.75 inches thick. The 64-inch ValueJet 1626UH can be a hybrid UV LED printer that comes in CMYK plus White and Varnish, while the 64-inch ValueJet 1617H hybrid uses, rather than UV, Mutoh’s Multi-Purpose ink, a form of eco-solvent ink derived largely from plant-based materials and built to be an eco friendly ink option.
“The industry for flatbed and hybrid printing remains strong and with so many applications coming over to the surface it isn’t surprising to find out sales of such machines increase,” said David Conrad, Director of promoting, for Mutoh America, Inc. “Additional application opportunities for printing on practically any substrate around almost three inches thick on our desktop version make the chance to purchase one of these simple machines very popular with many markets including awards and engraving, trophy shops, industrial printers and specialty shops that provide various items that may be personalized with digital printing. Seek out thicker print capabilities, faster speeds, plus more custom jig choices to drive demand and open even more unique applications for this technology.”
Durst offers a number of flatbeds in their Rho series of UV machines. The most recent introduction was the t-shirt printer, which handle media up to 8 feet wide. The Rho P10 series is directed at 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 addition to 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 when it comes to having the capacity to quickly switch between materials and jobs to manage lead times, and they also need robust design and manufacturing to create over a 24/7 schedule. Customers and PSPs want to produce every possible application or product 03dexqpky their flatbeds, so they want the flexibility to handle complex client projects that could come in with little notice, and require an immediate turnaround.”
It appears fitting to round out this roundup 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 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 might handle substrates as much as 2 ” thick.
Be sure to have a look at these and also other models at Graph Expo and at November’s SGIA Expo in Atlanta.
It appears to be fitting to complete this roundup with the latest model from Inca Digital, the business whose Inca Eagle 44 kicked off of 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 purchased in either four-, five, or six-color configurations. It could handle substrates as much as 2 ” thick. Inca Digital wide-format printers can be found 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 and also the hybrid Jeti Tauro. The first kind is really a true 2.7-meter (105 inches) flatbed, even though the latter can be a 2.5-meter hybrid. These newest models complement Agfa’s extensive Anapurna type of flatbeds and hybrids.
“We discover that some print service providers prefer dedicated flatbed printing systems and some enjoy the flexibility of a hybrid device, and then 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 different is offered with a number 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 is unique so it is important to know what you primarily need to do using this type of equipment and choose the technology that best fits this anticipated blend of work.”