Last year, in our round-up from the latest in latte coffee printer, we discussed how recent introductions have, at least to some extent, been meant to help move work from analog technologies like offset to digital wide-format, specifically stuff like posters, POP/POS displays, and stuff like that. In past times year, there’s been a smaller amount of a focus on shifting work from a single technology to another, plus more of just 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 designed to print on stuff like golf balls and smartphone cases, as much as massive behemoths in which one could run large sheets of wood, corrugated board, as well as other such materials, even objects like footballs.
Flatbed units will also be during this process of blurring the line between commercial and industrial printing. (Industrial printing is printing that may be done within a manufacturing process, for example the control labels on the front of an appliance like a dishwasher, an automobile dashboard, the gradations and measurement units on syringes or another medical items, and other sorts of printing that change from the normal “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 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 of it….) The most recent trend in UV inks is really-called cold-curing UV, or UV inks that cure under contact with LED lamps as opposed to the traditional mercury vapor lamps. It’s not really a new technology, but the costs of this are coming down. LEDs run much cooler than mercury vapor, making them more suitable for thin plastic substrates. LEDs may also be reported to be energy-efficient which suggests cost savings. EFI especially is a highly active proponent of LED UV and has announced its intention to fully retain the technology in all its UV offerings.
We are also going to a greater proliferation of hybrid units, flatbed printers that may also function as roll-to-roll devices for printing on flexible materials. Where once hybrids were regarded as “jacks of most trades, masters of none,” they already have improved to the point where they are now respectedly considered as means of giving shops the versatility to take on numerous types of print projects. (Keep in mind, though, the same UV inks might not be appropriate for all materials considering the respective dyne amounts of ink and surface. Some surfaces might also require pre- or post-treatment to acquire UV ink to keep.)
Earlier this season at the International Sign Association (ISA) Sign Expo, HP launched several new flatbeds in the 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-up to the HP Scitex 10000 platform launched two years ago, while the HP Scitex 15500 Corrugated Press is designed for short-run corrugated packaging and the like, a good choice for prototyping, related POP graphics, and personalized/customized/short-run corrugated applications.
HP has recently announced the Scitex 17000, created 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 only a subject of speed, and also to getting materials off and on press as quickly as possible and improving automation.
“The focus is very how you can 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 simply the printing speed, the production workflow is certainly a important element. Clients are looking for automation both about the prepress side plus the finishing side.”
“We also have found 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 desire to jump into rigid, along with the marketplace is polarizing in between the high-end presses doing more and more volume and also the smaller devices which can be 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 current 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 an actual term) large enough that materials up to six inches thick may be fed throughout the printer. On the Sign Expo, website visitors to the booth could witness the corporation running footballs through 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, led uv printer. “Roland’s new VersaUV LEJ-640FT expands this capability a little bit more featuring its unique six-inch printing clearance. The LEJ-640FT, as well as smaller benchtop flatbeds like Roland’s LEF series printers, start another 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 excited by the creativity of these using our technology to make 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 as well as 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 number of. Mimaki also has smaller 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 trying to find feature-rich, high-quality versatility that enables them to 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 Are You Able To See
The newest models in Canon Solutions America’s (CSA) Océ Arizona 6100 Series-launched last year-would be 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 wide range of rigid media applications, multi-layer and double-sided prints, and enormous 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 have a roll option.
The newest Arizona printers take CSA in to a new space, said Randy Paar, Marketing Manager of Display Graphics for CSA. “We’ve been popular in the mid-volume area, which takes us to the top end of the mid-volume, or even the low end in the high-volume,” he stated. “It’s taken us into new markets and new customers. They either offer an Arizona or a similar product now and are growing their business and are trying to find a much more economical printer to incorporate a little bit of capacity but also not tie up their high-volume press.”
At its fastest, the new machines can print a maximum of 33 boards one hour. “We had a fascinating customer event where we given out stopwatches to all of the visitors,” said Paar. “We printed numerous boards, and had every one of them time them. Sure enough, we were right on the cash.”
As I mentioned earlier in this story, EFI has been dedicating itself to LED curing technology for its UV lines, particularly the company’s latest product, the EFI H1625 LED, a mid-level production printer that also functions as being a flatbed or even a rollfed.
“One of the largest opportunities in rigid substrate/flatbed printing comes in the opportunity 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 taken a progressive stance inside the material handling necessary for a true 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. Firms that go deep into high-volume digital need the most ROI from automated materials handling. They are the companies coming from the screen or offset print space who want to replace a selection of their analog capacity to digital, and so they can only do that when they are hitting maximum throughput on the digital production line.”
Last June marked the 10-year anniversary of EFI’s acquisition of VUTEk, and even though tin or aluminum will be the traditional 10th anniversary gift, for EFI it’s apparently equipment manufacturing companies. On July 1, since this story was being finalized, EFI announced 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 made for outdoor and indoor applications. The Matan Barak 8QW was picked being a Wide Format Imaging magazine 2015 Product of the season.
The Jig is Up
Mutoh has several options within the tabletop and wide-format proper categories. The 19-inch ValueJet 426UF UV LED tabletop printer was designed to print on various materials, especially 3D objects, up to 2.75 inches thick. The 64-inch ValueJet 1626UH is actually a hybrid UV LED printer which comes in CMYK plus White and Varnish, while 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 designed to be an eco friendly ink option.
“The industry for flatbed and hybrid printing remains strong and with so many applications arriving at the outer lining it isn’t surprising to see sales of such machines increase,” said David Conrad, Director of Marketing, for Mutoh America, Inc. “Additional application opportunities for printing on almost any substrate up to almost three inches thick on our desktop version make the chance to purchase one of these simple machines very alluring to many markets including awards and engraving, trophy shops, industrial printers and specialty shops that offer a number of items that may be personalized with digital printing. Search for thicker print capabilities, faster speeds, and more custom jig choices to drive demand and unlock much more unique applications with this technology.”
Durst offers various flatbeds in its Rho number of UV machines. The latest introduction was the textile printer, which handle media up to 8 feet wide. The Rho P10 series is directed at 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 accessory for the 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 regarding having the capability to quickly switch between materials and jobs to take care of lead times, and so they need robust design and manufacturing to generate over a 24/7 schedule. Customers and PSPs want to produce every possible application or product 03dexqpky their flatbeds, therefore they want the flexibility to handle complex client projects that come together with little notice, and require an instant turnaround.”
It appears to be fitting to round out this roundup using the latest model from Inca Digital, the organization whose Inca Eagle 44 kicked off of the flatbed wide-format market 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 is available in either four-, five, or six-color configurations. It might handle substrates as much as two inches thick.
Be sure you have a look at these and other models at Graph Expo as well as November’s SGIA Expo in Atlanta.
It appears fitting to complete this roundup with all the latest model from Inca Digital, the company whose Inca Eagle 44 kicked from 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 is available in either four-, five, or six-color configurations. It might handle substrates as much as 2 ” thick. Inca Digital wide-format printers are offered 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 along with the hybrid Jeti Tauro. The first kind can be 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 discover that some print agencies prefer dedicated flatbed printing systems while some 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 alternatives on a number of our true flatbed equipment so an alternate is available with a number of our printers. Currently, I see a mixture of both dedicated and hybrid devices being purchased and so i check this out trend continuing. Everyone’s application and product mix is distinct so you should determine what you primarily need to do using this type of equipment and choose the technology that best fits this anticipated combination of work.”