Last year, inside our round-up of your latest in latte coffee printer, we discussed how recent introductions have, at the very least partly, been intended to help move work from analog technologies like offset to digital wide-format, specifically for things like posters, POP/POS displays, and so on. In the past year, there’s been a smaller amount of a focus on shifting work in one technology to another, plus more of just one on creating unique print applications that had never before been possible. Printing on atypical rigid substrates and three-dimensional objects is among the most raison d’être for today’s flatbeds, and manufacturers’ product portfolios have huge variations from small table- or benchtop units created to print on items like golf balls and smartphone cases, as much as massive behemoths in which one could run large sheets of wood, corrugated board, along with other such materials, even objects like footballs.
Flatbed units can also be in the process of blurring the fishing line between commercial and industrial printing. (Industrial printing is printing that is certainly done included in a manufacturing process, including the control labels about the front of the appliance such as a dishwasher, a car dashboard, the gradations and measurement units on syringes or other medical items, and other sorts of printing that vary from the typical “print for pay” applications.)
Most of the flatbed units available today use UV (ultraviolet) cured inks, it being the ink technology that has made such versatility possible. (Trivia question: just what is the one substrate that UV inks-to date-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 contact with LED lamps instead of the traditional mercury vapor lamps. It’s not a new technology, however the costs than it are coming down. LEDs run much cooler than mercury vapor, making them more desirable for thin plastic substrates. LEDs will also be said to be energy-efficient meaning cost benefits. EFI in particular has been a highly active proponent of LED UV and has announced its intention to completely secure the technology in all of the its UV offerings.
Our company is also visiting 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 regarded as “jacks of all the trades, masters of none,” they already have improved to the stage where they are now respectedly considered as methods for giving shops the flexibility to consider numerous types of print projects. (Remember, though, that the same UV inks may not be appropriate for all materials given the respective dyne degrees of ink and surface. Some surfaces may also require pre- or post-treatment to have UV ink to adhere.)
Earlier this coming 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 will be the follow-as much as 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, ideal for prototyping, related POP graphics, and personalized/customized/short-run corrugated applications.
HP also has recently announced the Scitex 17000, designed for short- and medium-run corrugated printing. Additionally, it features the HP Scitex Corrugated Grip, a media handling system made to facilitate printing on warped corrugated boards.
For HP, the prevailing trend is toward more automation and improving productivity, which is not only a question of speed, but in addition of obtaining materials off and on press as fast as possible and improving automation.
“The focus is really how you can make digital production more productive, and we’re looking 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 development workflow is an extremely important element. People are looking for automation both about 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 would like to jump into rigid, and also the industry is polarizing between the high-end presses doing a growing number of volume along with 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 and also the VersaUV LEJ-640 hybrid printer. Earlier this year, 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 true term) large enough that materials up to six inches thick may be fed throughout the printer. On the Sign Expo, visitors to the booth could witness the company running footballs through the printer.
“Print service providers are looking 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 having its unique six-inch printing clearance. The LEJ-640FT, in addition to smaller benchtop flatbeds including Roland’s LEF series printers, start another realm of printing possibilities for PSPs. Now, the question isn’t a whole lot ‘What are you able to print on?’ but ‘What can’t you print on?’ We’re constantly surprised 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 list but several. Mimaki even offers the lesser tabletop UJF Series UV LED printers for that 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 lets them 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 this past year-are definitely 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 array of rigid media applications, multi-layer and double-sided prints, and large prints tiled over multiple boards. Additionally they support edge-to-edge printing. These new printers are purpose-created to be board printers; they generally do not come with a roll option.
The new Arizona printers are taking 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 maybe the low end of the high-volume,” he explained. “It’s taken us into new markets and new business. They either offer an Arizona or possibly a similar product now and are growing their business and are searching for an even more economical printer to include some capacity but additionally not tie up their high-volume press.”
At its fastest, the new machines can print a maximum of 33 boards 1 hour. “We had an interesting customer event where we passed out stopwatches to any or all the visitors,” said Paar. “We printed a number of boards, along with every one of them time them. Sure enough, we had been on the funds.”
Because I mentioned earlier within this story, EFI is dedicating itself to LED curing technology because of its UV lines, particularly the company’s latest product, the EFI H1625 LED, a mid-level production printer which functions being a flatbed or a rollfed.
“One of the largest opportunities in rigid substrate/flatbed printing will come in the chance 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 is taking a progressive stance in the material handling needed 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. Companies that enter into high-volume digital need the most ROI from automated materials handling. Those are the companies from the screen or offset print space that are looking to exchange a selection of their analog capacity to digital, and they also can only do this when they are hitting maximum throughput with 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, as 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. Offered 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 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, around 2.75 inches thick. The 64-inch ValueJet 1626UH is really a hybrid UV LED printer which comes in CMYK plus White and Varnish, whilst 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 designed to be an eco-friendly ink option.
“The marketplace for flatbed and hybrid printing remains strong and with so many applications coming to the top it isn’t surprising to view sales of those machines increase,” said David Conrad, Director of advertising, for Mutoh America, Inc. “Additional application opportunities for printing on virtually any substrate as much as almost three inches thick on our desktop version make the ability to purchase one of these brilliant machines very appealing to many markets including awards and engraving, trophy shops, industrial printers and specialty shops that supply a number of items that can be personalized with digital printing. Search 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 variety of flatbeds in the Rho series of UV machines. The newest introduction was the textile printer, which handle media up to 8 feet wide. The Rho P10 series is aimed towards 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 in terms of having the ability to quickly switch between materials and jobs to take care of lead times, and so they need robust design and manufacturing to generate on the 24/7 schedule. Customers and PSPs are looking to produce every possible application or product 03dexqpky their flatbeds, so they need the flexibility to deal with complex client projects which come in with little notice, and require a quick turnaround.”
It seems like fitting to round out this roundup with all 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 found in either four-, five, or six-color configurations. It could handle substrates as much as two inches thick.
Make sure you check out these as well as other models at Graph Expo as well as at November’s SGIA Expo in Atlanta.
It appears fitting to complete this roundup with the latest model from Inca Digital, the business whose Inca Eagle 44 kicked away 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 comes in either four-, five, or six-color configurations. It can handle substrates as much as two inches 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 as well as the hybrid Jeti Tauro. The previous is really a true 2.7-meter (105 inches) flatbed, even though the latter is a 2.5-meter hybrid. These newest models complement Agfa’s extensive Anapurna type of flatbeds and hybrids.
“We find that some print providers prefer dedicated flatbed printing systems while some take advantage of the flexibility of your 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 alternative can be obtained with many of our printers. Currently, I see a mix of both dedicated and hybrid devices being purchased and so i see this trend continuing. Everyone’s application and product mix is unique so you should determine what you primarily need to do with this equipment and select the technology that best fits this anticipated combination of work.”