Last year, inside our round-up from the latest in latte coffee printer, we discussed how recent introductions have, at least to some extent, been created to help move work from analog technologies like offset to digital wide-format, particularly for such things as posters, POP/POS displays, and so forth. In past times year, there’s been a smaller amount of an emphasis on shifting work from one technology to another, and much more of merely one on creating unique print applications that 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 things like golf balls and smartphone cases, as much as massive behemoths through which one could run large sheets of wood, corrugated board, and also other such materials, even objects like footballs.
Flatbed units may also be at the same time of blurring the line between commercial and industrial printing. (Industrial printing is printing that is certainly done as an element of a manufacturing process, like the control labels in the front of an appliance such as a dishwasher, a car dashboard, the gradations and measurement units on syringes or some other medical items, and other kinds of printing that vary 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: what exactly is the one substrate that UV inks-thus far-can’t print on? Teflon. It makes sense when you think about it….) The latest trend in UV inks is very-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, although the costs than 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 said to be energy-efficient which suggests saving money. EFI in particular is a huge highly active proponent of LED UV and has announced its intention to totally support the technology in all of the its UV offerings.
We have been also going to a greater proliferation of hybrid units, flatbed printers that will also serve as roll-to-roll devices for printing on flexible materials. Where once hybrids were perceived as “jacks of all the trades, masters of none,” they already have improved to the level where they are now respectedly viewed as methods of giving shops the versatility to consider a multitude of print projects. (Keep in mind, though, that the same UV inks is probably not ideal for all materials considering the respective dyne degrees of ink and surface. Some surfaces may also require pre- or post-treatment to obtain 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 a couple of years ago, whilst the HP Scitex 15500 Corrugated Press is designed for short-run corrugated packaging and stuff like that, helpful for prototyping, related POP graphics, and personalized/customized/short-run corrugated applications.
HP has additionally recently announced the Scitex 17000, intended for short- and medium-run corrugated printing. Additionally, 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 merely a subject of speed, but also of getting materials off and on press as quickly as possible and improving automation.
“The focus is absolutely 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 probably the reasons we developed the 17000 press. It’s not simply the printing speed, the production workflow is an extremely important element. Customers are seeking automation both about the prepress side as well as the finishing side.”
“We have also 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 would like to jump into rigid, as well as the marketplace is polarizing in between the high-end presses doing increasingly more volume as well as the smaller devices that happen to 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 might be fed with the printer. With the Sign Expo, people to the booth could witness the company running footballs throughout the printer.
“Print agencies are researching ways to differentiate and expand their businesses-opportunities that flatbed printers certainly provide,” said Jay Roberts, Roland DGA’s Product Manager, phone case printer. “Roland’s new VersaUV LEJ-640FT expands this capability further with its unique six-inch printing clearance. The LEJ-640FT, along with smaller benchtop flatbeds for example Roland’s LEF series printers, start a whole new field of printing possibilities for PSPs. Now, the question isn’t a whole lot ‘What can you print on?’ but ‘What can’t you print on?’ We’re constantly excited by the creativity of these using our technology to create 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 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 few. Mimaki also provides smaller tabletop UJF Series UV LED printers for your 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 like personalized products and package prototyping,” said Ken VanHorn, Director, Marketing and Business Development, Mimaki USA.
Océ Could You See
The most recent 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 many of its brethren, the Arizonas are designed for printing on a wide range of rigid media applications, multi-layer and double-sided prints, and big prints tiled over multiple boards. They also support edge-to-edge printing. These new printers are purpose-built to be board printers; they are doing not have a roll option.
The brand new Arizona printers take CSA right into a new space, said Randy Paar, Marketing Manager of Display Graphics for CSA. “We’ve been popular within the mid-volume area, which takes us to the high-end in the mid-volume, or even the low end in the high-volume,” he said. “It’s taken us into new markets and new clients. They either provide an Arizona or even a similar product now and so are growing their business and are looking for a far more economical printer to incorporate a small amount of capacity but in addition not tie up their high-volume press.”
At its fastest, the latest machines can print a maximum of 33 boards an hour or so. “We had an interesting customer event where we given out stopwatches for all the visitors,” said Paar. “We printed a number of boards, along with each one time them. Sure enough, we were on the money.”
Because I mentioned earlier with this story, EFI has become dedicating itself to LED curing technology due to its UV lines, especially the company’s latest product, the EFI H1625 LED, a mid-level production printer that functions like a flatbed or possibly a rollfed.
“One of the biggest opportunities in rigid substrate/flatbed printing will come 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 brought 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 your VUTEk HS100 Pro hybrid inkjet press. Companies that enter into high-volume digital require the most ROI from automated materials handling. These are companies from the screen or offset print space that want to switch a selection of their analog capacity to digital, and they could only do this when they are hitting maximum throughput on a digital production line.”
Last June marked the 10-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, since 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. For sale in 3m and 5m widths, Matan’s flatbed and hybrid product portfolio is ideal 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 several options within the tabletop and wide-format proper categories. The 19-inch ValueJet 426UF UV LED tabletop printer is made to print on many different materials, especially 3D objects, as much as 2.75 inches thick. The 64-inch ValueJet 1626UH is actually a hybrid UV LED printer that 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 type of eco-solvent ink derived largely from plant-based materials and built to be an environmentally friendly ink option.
“The niche for flatbed and hybrid printing remains strong and because of so many applications coming to the outer lining it isn’t surprising to find out sales of those machines increase,” said David Conrad, Director of promoting, for Mutoh America, Inc. “Additional application opportunities for printing on just about any substrate as much as almost three inches thick on our desktop version make the opportunity purchase one of these simple machines very appealing to many markets including awards and engraving, trophy shops, industrial printers and specialty shops offering many different items that can be personalized with digital printing. Look for thicker print capabilities, faster speeds, and a lot more custom jig choices to drive demand and unlock more unique applications just for this technology.”
Durst offers a number of flatbeds in the Rho number of UV machines. The most up-to-date introduction was the textile printer, which handle media approximately 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 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 when it comes to having the ability to quickly switch between materials and jobs to manage lead times, and so they need robust design and manufacturing to generate on a 24/7 schedule. Customers and PSPs wish to produce every possible application or product 03dexqpky their flatbeds, so they need the flexibility to take care of complex client projects that can come along with little notice, and require an instant turnaround.”
It appears to be fitting to complete this roundup with the latest model from Inca Digital, the business whose Inca Eagle 44 kicked 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 is available in either four-, five, or six-color configurations. It could handle substrates approximately two inches thick.
Be sure to have a look at these as well as other models at Graph Expo and at November’s SGIA Expo in Atlanta.
It appears to be 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 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 can handle substrates up to 2 ” thick. Inca Digital wide-format printers are available through Fujifilm, its global distribution partner.
The Return in the Jeti
Also in the ISA Sign Expo last spring, Agfa Graphics introduced the flatbed Jeti Mira along with the hybrid Jeti Tauro. The former is a true 2.7-meter (105 inches) flatbed, whilst the latter is a 2.5-meter hybrid. These newest models complement Agfa’s extensive Anapurna type of flatbeds and hybrids.
“We discover that some print service providers prefer dedicated flatbed printing systems and some take pleasure in the flexibility of your hybrid device, so we carry both technologies,” said Larry D’Amico, Vice-President Digital Imaging, Agfa Graphics. “We offer roll-to-roll choices on a number of our true flatbed equipment so a substitute is offered with many of our printers. Currently, I see a mixture of both dedicated and hybrid devices being purchased and that i see this trend continuing. Everyone’s application and product mix is distinct so you should understand what you primarily want to do using this equipment and select the technology that best fits this anticipated mix of work.”