Just last year, in our round-up from the latest in coffee printer, we discussed how recent introductions have, at least to some extent, been intended to help move work from analog technologies like offset to digital wide-format, especially for such things as posters, POP/POS displays, and so forth. Before year, there’s been a smaller amount of an emphasis on shifting work in one technology to another one, 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 is considered 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 stuff like golf balls and smartphone cases, up to massive behemoths through which one could run large sheets of wood, corrugated board, and also 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 that is done included in a manufacturing process, including the control labels on the front of any appliance like a dishwasher, an automobile dashboard, the gradations and measurement units on syringes or some other medical items, and other types of printing that vary from the usual “print for pay” applications.)
Many 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-thus far-can’t print on? Teflon. It makes sense when you think about 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 rather than the traditional mercury vapor lamps. It’s not really a new technology, but the costs of it are coming down. LEDs run much cooler than mercury vapor, causing them to be considerably better for thin plastic substrates. LEDs are also reported to be energy-efficient which means financial savings. EFI specifically is a huge highly active proponent of LED UV and has announced its intention to fully retain the technology in all its UV offerings.
Our company is also seeing 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 now respectedly viewed as ways of giving shops the versatility to battle numerous types of print projects. (Take into account, though, the same UV inks might not be suited to all materials due to the respective dyne quantities of ink and surface. Some surfaces might also require pre- or post-treatment to have UV ink to keep.)
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-up to the HP Scitex 10000 platform launched 2 yrs ago, as the HP Scitex 15500 Corrugated Press is designed for short-run corrugated packaging and so forth, ideal for prototyping, related POP graphics, and personalized/customized/short-run corrugated applications.
HP has additionally recently announced the Scitex 17000, made for short- and medium-run corrugated printing. It also features the HP Scitex Corrugated Grip, a media handling system created 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, and also of obtaining materials on and off press as quickly as possible and improving automation.
“The focus is very how to 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 among the reasons we developed the 17000 press. It’s not just the printing speed, the development workflow is a very important element. Customers are requesting automation both in the prepress side and also the finishing side.”
“We have also found 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 desire to jump into rigid, along with the market is polarizing 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 and also 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 includes a “throat” (yes, that’s a real term) big enough that materials around six inches thick might be fed through the printer. At the Sign Expo, visitors to the booth could witness the corporation 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, uv printer. “Roland’s new VersaUV LEJ-640FT expands this capability further having 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 realm of printing possibilities for PSPs. Now, the question isn’t a lot ‘What is it possible to print on?’ but ‘What can’t you print on?’ We’re constantly astonished 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 list but a number of. Mimaki even offers the smaller tabletop UJF Series UV LED printers for that 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 allows them to replace labor- and waste-intensive processes and print direct-to-substrate, while adding value with higher margin applications for example 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 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 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-built to be board printers; they generally do not include 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 this takes us to the high-end of the mid-volume, or perhaps the low end in the high-volume,” he stated. “It’s taken us into new markets and new business. They either come with an Arizona or even a similar product now and are growing their business and are searching for a more economical printer to include a little bit of capacity and also not tie up their high-volume press.”
At its fastest, the new machines can print a maximum of 33 boards an hour. “We had a fascinating customer event where we given out stopwatches to all the visitors,” said Paar. “We printed several boards, along with each of them time them. Sure enough, we were directly on the cash.”
Because I mentioned earlier in this story, EFI continues to be 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 as a flatbed or perhaps a rollfed.
“One of the biggest opportunities in rigid substrate/flatbed printing can be purchased in the opportunity transition analog try 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 from 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 your VUTEk HS100 Pro hybrid inkjet press. Firms that go deep into high-volume digital have to have the most ROI from automated materials handling. These are companies coming from the screen or offset print space that are looking to replace a selection of their analog ability to digital, and they is only able to do this should they be hitting maximum throughput on the 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, 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 designed for outdoor and indoor 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 number of options within the tabletop and wide-format proper categories. The 19-inch ValueJet 426UF UV LED tabletop printer was designed to print on a number of 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, 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 created to be an eco friendly ink option.
“The niche for flatbed and hybrid printing remains strong and with the amount of applications arriving at the top it isn’t surprising to discover sales of those 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 opportunity to purchase one of those machines very popular with many markets including awards and engraving, trophy shops, industrial printers and specialty shops that supply a number of items that could be personalized with digital printing. Look for thicker print capabilities, faster speeds, and more custom jig options to drive demand and open a lot more unique applications with this technology.”
Durst offers a number of flatbeds within its Rho combination of UV machines. The most recent introduction was the t-shirt printer, which handle media approximately 8 feet wide. The Rho P10 series is directed at high-end applications including 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 regarding having the capability to quickly switch between materials and jobs to take care of lead times, and they also need robust design and manufacturing to produce on a 24/7 schedule. Customers and PSPs want to produce every possible application or product 03dexqpky their flatbeds, so they require the flexibility to manage complex client projects that could come in with little notice, and require an instant turnaround.”
It seems like fitting to complete this roundup using the latest model from Inca Digital, the corporation whose Inca Eagle 44 kicked away 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 comes in either four-, five, or six-color configurations. It might handle substrates around two inches thick.
Make sure you check out these and also other models at Graph Expo as well as at November’s SGIA Expo in Atlanta.
It appears fitting to round out this roundup together with the latest model from Inca Digital, the company 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 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 could handle substrates around two inches thick. Inca Digital wide-format printers are offered through Fujifilm, its global distribution partner.
The Return of your Jeti
Also at the ISA Sign Expo last spring, Agfa Graphics introduced the flatbed Jeti Mira and the hybrid Jeti Tauro. The former can be a true 2.7-meter (105 inches) flatbed, whilst the latter is actually a 2.5-meter hybrid. These newest models complement Agfa’s extensive Anapurna collection of flatbeds and hybrids.
“We realize that some print companies prefer dedicated flatbed printing systems although some benefit from the flexibility of the hybrid device, so that we carry both technologies,” said Larry D’Amico, Vice-President Digital Imaging, Agfa Graphics. “We offer roll-to-roll options on a number of our true flatbed equipment so a substitute is available with a number of our printers. Currently, I see a mix of both dedicated and hybrid devices being purchased and i also see this trend continuing. Everyone’s application and product mix is different so you should determine what you primarily need to do with this particular equipment and select the technology that meets this anticipated blend of work.”