Just last year, in our round-up of the latest in coffee printer, we discussed how recent introductions have, a minimum of 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 so forth. In the past year, there’s been a smaller amount of a focus on shifting work in one technology to another one, plus more of merely one on creating unique print applications which 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 run the gamut from small table- or benchtop units designed to print on things like golf balls and smartphone cases, up to massive behemoths whereby anybody can run large sheets of wood, corrugated board, along with other such materials, even objects like footballs.
Flatbed units are also along the way of blurring the line between commercial and industrial printing. (Industrial printing is printing which is done included in a manufacturing process, including the control labels on the front of your appliance such as a dishwasher, a vehicle dashboard, the gradations and measurement units on syringes or some other medical items, and other types of printing that change from the typical “print for pay” applications.)
A lot 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: what exactly is the one substrate that UV inks-thus far-can’t print on? Teflon. It seems sensible when you consider 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 the traditional mercury vapor lamps. It’s not really a new technology, however the costs from 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 said to be energy-efficient which means cost savings. EFI particularly is a huge highly active proponent of LED UV and possesses announced its intention to totally secure the technology in every its UV offerings.
We are also going to a greater proliferation of hybrid units, flatbed printers that will also function as roll-to-roll devices for printing on flexible materials. Where once hybrids were perceived as “jacks of all trades, masters of none,” they have improved to the point where they are respectedly considered as means of giving shops the versatility to consider numerous types of print projects. (Remember, though, how the same UV inks might not be appropriate for all materials given the respective dyne levels of ink and surface. Some surfaces might also require pre- or post-treatment to get UV ink to stick.)
Earlier this current year in 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 will be the follow-up to the HP Scitex 10000 platform launched a couple of years ago, while the HP Scitex 15500 Corrugated Press is made for short-run corrugated packaging and so forth, a good choice for prototyping, related POP graphics, and personalized/customized/short-run corrugated applications.
HP has recently announced the Scitex 17000, intended for short- and medium-run corrugated printing. It also 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 having materials on / off 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 only the printing speed, the production workflow is a very important element. Clients are seeking automation both on the prepress side along with the finishing side.”
“We have likewise 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, as well as the marketplace is polarizing between the high-end presses doing a growing number of volume and the smaller devices that 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 coming year, Roland launched its first big flatbed, the 64-inch VersaUV LEJ-640FT flatbed UV printer. This new flatbed features a “throat” (yes, that’s a real term) large enough that materials approximately six inches thick might be fed throughout the printer. On the Sign Expo, visitors to the booth could witness the corporation running footballs with 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 even more featuring its unique six-inch printing clearance. The LEJ-640FT, in addition to smaller benchtop flatbeds including Roland’s LEF series printers, open a completely new world of printing possibilities for PSPs. Now, the question isn’t a whole lot ‘What could you print on?’ but instead ‘What can’t you print on?’ We’re constantly amazed by the creativity of people using our technology to make stunning images on substrates and objects that couldn’t be printed on previously.”
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 smaller tabletop UJF Series UV LED printers to 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 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 including personalized products and package prototyping,” said Ken VanHorn, Director, Marketing and Business Development, Mimaki USA.
Océ Are You Able To See
The latest models in Canon Solutions America’s (CSA) Océ Arizona 6100 Series-launched a year ago-would be the six-color (CMYKLcLm) Océ Arizona 6160 XTS and seven-color (CMYKLcLm white) Océ Arizona 6170 XTS. Like a lot of its brethren, the Arizonas are capable of printing on a wide range 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-manufactured to be board printers; they actually do not come with a roll option.
The newest Arizona printers take CSA in a new space, said Randy Paar, Marketing Manager of Display Graphics for CSA. “We’ve been popular from the mid-volume area, and that takes us on the high-end in the mid-volume, or even the low end in the high-volume,” he explained. “It’s taken us into new markets and new business. They either come with an Arizona or possibly a similar product now and they are growing their business and are looking for a much more economical printer to provide some capacity but additionally not tie up their high-volume press.”
At its fastest, the latest machines can print a maximum of 33 boards one hour. “We had an appealing customer event where we passed out stopwatches for all the visitors,” said Paar. “We printed a variety of boards, and had all of them time them. Sure enough, we had been on the amount of money.”
When I mentioned earlier in this story, EFI continues to be 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 possibly a rollfed.
“One of the most popular opportunities in rigid substrate/flatbed printing will come in the opportunity 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 taken a progressive stance from the material handling essential 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. Firms that go into high-volume digital want the most ROI from automated materials handling. They are the companies from the screen or offset print space that want to switch a selection of their analog ability to digital, and they could only achieve that 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 while tin or aluminum may be the traditional 10th anniversary gift, for EFI it’s apparently equipment manufacturing companies. On July 1, as 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 like a Wide Format Imaging magazine 2015 Product of the 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 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, whilst the 64-inch ValueJet 1617H hybrid uses, rather than UV, Mutoh’s Multi-Purpose ink, a type of eco-solvent ink derived largely from plant-based materials and created to be an eco friendly ink option.
“The industry for flatbed and hybrid printing remains strong and because of so many applications arriving at the outer lining 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 virtually 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 various items which can be personalized with digital printing. Look for thicker print capabilities, faster speeds, plus more custom jig options to drive demand and open up a lot more unique applications for this technology.”
Durst offers a number of flatbeds in its Rho group of UV machines. The latest introduction was the dtg printer, which handle media as much as 8 feet wide. The Rho P10 series is directed at high-end applications like 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 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 ability to quickly switch between materials and jobs to handle lead times, and so they need robust design and manufacturing to make with a 24/7 schedule. Customers and PSPs are looking to produce every possible application or product 03dexqpky their flatbeds, so they want the flexibility to deal with complex client projects which come together with little notice, and require an immediate turnaround.”
It seems like fitting to complete this roundup with the latest model from Inca Digital, the corporation whose Inca Eagle 44 kicked off the flatbed wide-format market in the past 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 approximately 2 ” thick.
Be sure to look at these and other models at Graph Expo as well as November’s SGIA Expo in Atlanta.
It appears to be fitting to round out this roundup with the latest model from Inca Digital, the company whose Inca Eagle 44 kicked from the flatbed wide-format market in the past 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 may handle substrates up to 2 ” 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 the hybrid Jeti Tauro. The previous is actually a true 2.7-meter (105 inches) flatbed, while the latter is really a 2.5-meter hybrid. These newest models complement Agfa’s extensive Anapurna type of flatbeds and hybrids.
“We find that some print service providers prefer dedicated flatbed printing systems while others take advantage of the flexibility of your hybrid device, so that we carry both technologies,” said Larry D’Amico, Vice-President Digital Imaging, Agfa Graphics. “We offer roll-to-roll choices on many of our true flatbed equipment so a different is accessible 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 you should know very well what you primarily need to do with this equipment and choose the technology that meets this anticipated blend of work.”