A year ago, within our round-up from the latest in latte coffee printer, we discussed how recent introductions have, at the very least partly, been created to help move work from analog technologies like offset to digital wide-format, specifically for things such as posters, POP/POS displays, and so on. Before year, there’s been less of an emphasis on shifting work from one technology to a different one, plus more of merely one on creating unique print applications that 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 run the gamut from small table- or benchtop units built to print on such things as golf balls and smartphone cases, around massive behemoths through which one could run large sheets of wood, corrugated board, along with other such materials, even objects like footballs.
Flatbed units will also be at the same time of blurring the line between commercial and industrial printing. (Industrial printing is printing which is done as an element of a manufacturing process, for example the control labels on the front of any appliance just like a dishwasher, a car dashboard, the gradations and measurement units on syringes or some other medical items, and other kinds of printing that vary from the normal “print for pay” applications.)
A lot 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: just what is the one substrate that UV inks-thus far-can’t print on? Teflon. It makes sense when you consider it….) The most up-to-date trend in UV inks is very-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 just a new technology, nevertheless the costs of it are coming down. LEDs run much cooler than mercury vapor, causing them to be more desirable for thin plastic substrates. LEDs may also be said to be energy-efficient meaning cost savings. EFI especially is a highly active proponent of LED UV and possesses announced its intention to fully secure the technology in all its UV offerings.
We have been 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 most trades, masters of none,” they already have improved to the level where they are respectedly regarded as methods of giving shops the versatility to consider numerous print projects. (Bear in mind, though, how the same UV inks may not be appropriate for all materials given the respective dyne amounts of ink and surface. Some surfaces may also require pre- or post-treatment to acquire UV ink to stick.)
Earlier this season with 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-approximately the HP Scitex 10000 platform launched 2 yrs ago, as the HP Scitex 15500 Corrugated Press is for short-run corrugated packaging and the like, ideal for prototyping, related POP graphics, and personalized/customized/short-run corrugated applications.
HP has also 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 designed to facilitate printing on warped corrugated boards.
For HP, the prevailing trend is toward more automation and improving productivity, which is not merely an issue of speed, and also of obtaining materials off and on press as quickly as possible and improving automation.
“The focus is actually learning 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 simply the printing speed, the development workflow is an extremely important element. Consumers are looking for automation both around the prepress side and also the finishing side.”
“We also have seen in general a trend toward lower-cost flatbed printers, especially basic level,” added Joan Pe´rez Pericot, Marketing Director for HP’s Large-Format Sign and Display Division. “Smaller customers wish to jump into rigid, along with the market is polarizing between your high-end presses doing a lot more volume as well as 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 plus 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 has a “throat” (yes, that’s a real term) large enough that materials approximately six inches thick can be fed throughout the printer. With the Sign Expo, targeted traffic to the booth could witness the business running footballs throughout the printer.
“Print companies are researching 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 using its unique six-inch printing clearance. The LEJ-640FT, along with smaller benchtop flatbeds like Roland’s LEF series printers, open a 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 amazed by the creativity of these using our technology to make 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 mention but a few. Mimaki also has small tabletop UJF Series UV LED printers for your tchotchke-printing market: smartphone covers, pens, lenticular panels, membrane switch panels, wine bottles, and several 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 like personalized products and package prototyping,” said Ken VanHorn, Director, Marketing and Business Development, Mimaki USA.
Océ Can You See
The most up-to-date 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 most of its brethren, the Arizonas are capable of printing on an array of rigid media applications, multi-layer and double-sided prints, and huge prints tiled over multiple boards. Additionally, they support edge-to-edge printing. These new printers are purpose-designed to be board printers; they generally do not come with a roll option.
The latest Arizona printers are taking CSA in 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 of your mid-volume, or perhaps the low end of your high-volume,” he explained. “It’s taken us into new markets and customers. They either have an Arizona or perhaps a similar product now and therefore are growing their business and are trying to find a much more economical printer to add a little bit of capacity but in addition not tie up their high-volume press.”
At its fastest, the new machines can print a maximum of 33 boards 1 hour. “We had a fascinating customer event where we given out stopwatches to all the visitors,” said Paar. “We printed numerous boards, and had every one of them time them. Sure enough, we were right on the money.”
While I mentioned earlier within 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 that functions as a flatbed or a rollfed.
“One of the largest opportunities in rigid substrate/flatbed printing comes in the chance to 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 has brought a progressive stance inside 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 our own VUTEk HS100 Pro hybrid inkjet press. Firms that go deep into high-volume digital need the most ROI from automated materials handling. Those are the companies coming from the screen or offset print space who want to exchange a selection of their analog capacity to digital, and they also is only able to do this should they be hitting maximum throughput over a digital production line.”
Last June marked the ten-year anniversary of EFI’s acquisition of VUTEk, and although 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 which it 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 for indoor and outdoor applications. The Matan Barak 8QW was picked as 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 designed to print on many different materials, especially 3D objects, up to 2.75 inches thick. The 64-inch ValueJet 1626UH is a hybrid UV LED printer that comes in CMYK plus White and Varnish, even though the 64-inch ValueJet 1617H hybrid uses, rather than UV, Mutoh’s Multi-Purpose ink, a sort of eco-solvent ink derived largely from plant-based materials and made to be an environmentally friendly ink option.
“The marketplace for flatbed and hybrid printing remains strong and with so many applications coming over to the top it isn’t surprising to discover 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 chance to purchase one of those machines very attractive to many markets including awards and engraving, trophy shops, industrial printers and specialty shops that offer a number of items that can be personalized with digital printing. Seek out thicker print capabilities, faster speeds, and a lot more custom jig options to drive demand and open up much more unique applications for this particular technology.”
Durst offers a variety of flatbeds in its Rho combination of UV machines. The most recent 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 for example 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 durability 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 need robust design and manufacturing to produce over a 24/7 schedule. Customers and PSPs are looking to produce every possible application or product 03dexqpky their flatbeds, so that they want the flexibility to take care of complex client projects that can come in with little notice, and require an immediate turnaround.”
It appears to be fitting to complete this roundup with all the latest model from Inca Digital, the company whose Inca Eagle 44 kicked off the flatbed wide-format market way 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 is available in either four-, five, or six-color configurations. It may handle substrates as much as two inches thick.
Be sure you look at these and also other models at Graph Expo as well as November’s SGIA Expo in Atlanta.
It appears to be fitting to complete this roundup with the latest model from Inca Digital, the company whose Inca Eagle 44 kicked from 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 can be purchased in either four-, five, or six-color configurations. It could handle substrates approximately two inches thick. Inca Digital wide-format printers can be found through Fujifilm, its global distribution partner.
The Return of 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 actually a true 2.7-meter (105 inches) flatbed, as the latter can be a 2.5-meter hybrid. These newest models complement Agfa’s extensive Anapurna collection of flatbeds and hybrids.
“We realize that some print service providers prefer dedicated flatbed printing systems while some take advantage of 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 many of our true flatbed equipment so a different is offered with many of our printers. Currently, I see a mixture of both dedicated and hybrid devices being purchased and that i see this trend continuing. Everyone’s application and product mix is distinct so it is important to understand what you primarily might like to do using this type of equipment and choose the technology that meets this anticipated mix of work.”