Just last year, within our round-up in the latest in coffee printer, we discussed how recent introductions have, at least partly, been created to help move work from analog technologies like offset to digital wide-format, specifically things such as posters, POP/POS displays, and so on. Before year, there’s been less of an emphasis on shifting work from a single technology to a different one, and 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 built to print on stuff like golf balls and smartphone cases, up to massive behemoths through which you can 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 may be done within a manufacturing process, like the control labels in the front of an appliance like a dishwasher, a car dashboard, the gradations and measurement units on syringes or another medical items, and other printing that change from the typical “print for pay” applications.)
Most of the flatbed units currently available use UV (ultraviolet) cured inks, it being the ink technology which has made such versatility possible. (Trivia question: exactly what is the one substrate that UV inks-thus far-can’t print on? Teflon. It makes sense when you consider it….) The latest trend in UV inks is very-called cold-curing UV, or UV inks that cure under contact with LED lamps rather than traditional mercury vapor lamps. It’s not really a new technology, however the costs of it are coming down. LEDs run much cooler than mercury vapor, causing them to be a lot better for thin plastic substrates. LEDs will also be reported to be energy-efficient which suggests financial savings. EFI especially is a highly active proponent of LED UV and possesses announced its intention to totally keep the technology in all of the its UV offerings.
We have been also visiting a greater proliferation of hybrid units, flatbed printers that could also work as roll-to-roll devices for printing on flexible materials. Where once hybrids were regarded as “jacks of all trades, masters of none,” they already have improved to the point where they are respectedly seen as means of giving shops the versatility to take on a wide variety of print projects. (Take into account, though, that the same UV inks will not be suitable for all materials given the respective dyne degrees of ink and surface. Some surfaces can 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 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 2 years ago, whilst the HP Scitex 15500 Corrugated Press is designed for short-run corrugated packaging and so on, helpful 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. 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 getting materials on and off press as quickly 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 simply the printing speed, the production workflow is a very important element. Clients 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 low-end,” added Joan Pe´rez Pericot, Marketing Director for HP’s Large-Format Sign and Display Division. “Smaller customers wish to jump into rigid, and the industry is polarizing between the high-end presses doing more and more volume and 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 along with 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 features a “throat” (yes, that’s a genuine term) large enough that materials around six inches thick can be fed with the printer. With the Sign Expo, targeted traffic to the booth could witness the business running footballs through the printer.
“Print service providers are searching 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 even further using its unique six-inch printing clearance. The LEJ-640FT, in addition to smaller benchtop flatbeds like Roland’s LEF series printers, open up another world of printing possibilities for PSPs. Now, the question isn’t a great deal ‘What are you able to print on?’ but ‘What can’t you print on?’ We’re constantly surprised by the creativity of people using our technology to generate 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 call but a couple of. Mimaki also 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 lots of other novelty and specialty print objects.
“Customers are looking for 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 newest models in Canon Solutions America’s (CSA) Océ Arizona 6100 Series-launched this past year-will 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 designed for printing on a variety 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-designed to be board printers; they actually do not feature a roll option.
The latest Arizona printers are taking CSA right into a new space, said Randy Paar, Marketing Manager of Display Graphics for CSA. “We’ve been popular inside the mid-volume area, and this takes us to the top end in the mid-volume, or the low end in the high-volume,” he explained. “It’s taken us into new markets and new clients. They either offer an Arizona or perhaps a similar product now and are growing their business and are trying to find a much 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 given out stopwatches to any or all the visitors,” said Paar. “We printed a variety of boards, along with each of them time them. Sure enough, we were right on the money.”
As I mentioned earlier within this story, EFI continues to be dedicating itself to LED curing technology for the 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 most popular opportunities in rigid substrate/flatbed printing will come in the ability 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 within the material handling needed 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. Companies that go into high-volume digital need the most ROI from automated materials handling. These are the companies coming from the screen or offset print space that want to exchange some of their analog opportunity to digital, and they could only achieve that if they are hitting maximum throughput on the digital production line.”
Last June marked the 10-year anniversary of EFI’s acquisition of VUTEk, even though tin or aluminum is 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 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 indoor and outdoor applications. The Matan Barak 8QW was picked like a Wide Format Imaging magazine 2015 Product of year.
The Jig is Up
Mutoh has a number of options in 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, as much as 2.75 inches thick. The 64-inch ValueJet 1626UH is a hybrid UV LED printer which comes in CMYK plus White and Varnish, even though the 64-inch ValueJet 1617H hybrid uses, in lieu of UV, Mutoh’s Multi-Purpose ink, a kind of eco-solvent ink derived largely from plant-based materials and made to be an eco friendly ink option.
“The market for flatbed and hybrid printing remains strong and with so many applications coming over to the surface it isn’t surprising to find out sales of those machines increase,” said David Conrad, Director of advertising, for Mutoh America, Inc. “Additional application opportunities for printing on practically any substrate approximately almost three inches thick on our desktop version make the chance to purchase one of these machines very popular with many markets including awards and engraving, trophy shops, industrial printers and specialty shops that provide many different items that could be personalized with digital printing. Try to find thicker print capabilities, faster speeds, plus more custom jig choices to drive demand and open much more unique applications just for this technology.”
Durst offers many different flatbeds in its Rho series of UV machines. The most up-to-date introduction was the textile printer, which handle media up to 8 feet wide. The Rho P10 series is targeted at high-end applications such as 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 with regards to having the capability to quickly switch between materials and jobs to handle lead times, and so they 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, hence they have to have the flexibility to take care of complex client projects that can come together with little notice, and require an immediate turnaround.”
It appears fitting to round out this roundup together with the latest model from Inca Digital, the company whose Inca Eagle 44 kicked away from 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 comes in either four-, five, or six-color configurations. It may handle substrates up to two inches thick.
Make sure to check out these as well as other models at Graph Expo and also at November’s SGIA Expo in Atlanta.
It seems like fitting to round out this roundup with all the latest model from Inca Digital, the business whose Inca Eagle 44 kicked away from the flatbed wide-format market 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 purchased in either four-, five, or six-color configurations. It can handle substrates approximately 2 ” thick. Inca Digital wide-format printers can be purchased through Fujifilm, its global distribution partner.
The Return from the Jeti
Also in the ISA Sign Expo last spring, Agfa Graphics introduced the flatbed Jeti Mira as well as the hybrid Jeti Tauro. The previous can be a true 2.7-meter (105 inches) flatbed, whilst the latter is really a 2.5-meter hybrid. These newest models complement Agfa’s extensive Anapurna line of flatbeds and hybrids.
“We realize that some print companies prefer dedicated flatbed printing systems while others enjoy the flexibility of a hybrid device, therefore we carry both technologies,” said Larry D’Amico, Vice-President Digital Imaging, Agfa Graphics. “We offer roll-to-roll options on many of our true flatbed equipment so a different is accessible with a number of our printers. Currently, I see a mix of both dedicated and hybrid devices being purchased and that i check this out trend continuing. Everyone’s application and product mix differs so you should know what you primarily wish to accomplish with this particular equipment and select the technology that best suits this anticipated mixture of work.”