Just last year, inside our round-up of your latest in latte coffee printer, we discussed how recent introductions have, a minimum of to some extent, been intended to help move work from analog technologies like offset to digital wide-format, especially for things such as posters, POP/POS displays, and stuff like that. In the past year, there’s been a smaller amount of an emphasis on shifting work from a single technology to a different, plus more of 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 designed to print on items like golf balls and smartphone cases, as much as massive behemoths whereby you can run large sheets of wood, corrugated board, and also other such materials, even objects like footballs.
Flatbed units may also be during this process of blurring the fishing line between commercial and industrial printing. (Industrial printing is printing that is done as part of a manufacturing process, for example the control labels on the front of your appliance similar to a dishwasher, a vehicle dashboard, the gradations and measurement units on syringes or other medical items, and other printing that are different from the standard “print for pay” applications.)
A lot of the flatbed units that you can buy use UV (ultraviolet) cured inks, it being the ink technology which has made such versatility possible. (Trivia question: what is the one substrate that UV inks-thus far-can’t print on? Teflon. It seems sensible when you think about it….) The newest 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 much of a new technology, nevertheless the costs of this are coming down. LEDs run much cooler than mercury vapor, which makes them considerably better for thin plastic substrates. LEDs can also be said to be energy-efficient which suggests financial savings. EFI particularly is a huge highly active proponent of LED UV and has announced its intention to totally secure the technology in all of the its UV offerings.
Our company is 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 perceived as “jacks of all the trades, masters of none,” they may have improved to the level where they are respectedly considered as ways of giving shops the flexibility to battle numerous types of print projects. (Remember, though, the same UV inks will not be suitable for all materials given the respective dyne levels of ink and surface. Some surfaces may also require pre- or post-treatment to obtain UV ink to keep.)
Earlier this coming year on 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-around the HP Scitex 10000 platform launched 2 yrs ago, even though the HP Scitex 15500 Corrugated Press is ideal for short-run corrugated packaging and so on, 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. In addition, it 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 only a question of speed, but also of getting materials on and off press immediately and improving automation.
“The focus is actually learning to make digital production more productive, and we’re attempting 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 amongst the reasons we developed the 17000 press. It’s not merely the printing speed, the production workflow is certainly a important element. Consumers are requesting automation both on the prepress side as well as the finishing side.”
“We have also 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, and also the marketplace is polarizing in between the high-end presses doing increasingly more volume and the smaller devices that are 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 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 real term) big enough that materials around six inches thick can be fed from the printer. With the Sign Expo, visitors to the booth could witness the corporation running footballs throughout the printer.
“Print companies 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 even more having its unique six-inch printing clearance. The LEJ-640FT, together with smaller benchtop flatbeds such as Roland’s LEF series printers, open another realm of printing possibilities for PSPs. Now, the question isn’t a lot ‘What could you print on?’ but instead ‘What can’t you print on?’ We’re constantly astonished by the creativity of people using our technology to create 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 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 name but a few. Mimaki also offers smaller tabletop UJF Series UV LED printers to the tchotchke-printing market: smartphone covers, pens, lenticular panels, membrane switch panels, wine bottles, and several 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 including personalized products and package prototyping,” said Ken VanHorn, Director, Marketing and Business Development, Mimaki USA.
Océ Could You See
The newest models in Canon Solutions America’s (CSA) Océ Arizona 6100 Series-launched just last year-would be 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 range 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 do not feature a roll option.
The new Arizona printers are taking 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, and also this takes us on the top end of your mid-volume, or perhaps the low end in the high-volume,” he was quoted saying. “It’s taken us into new markets and customers. They either offer an Arizona or perhaps a similar product now and they are growing their business and are searching for a more economical printer to incorporate a little bit 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 1 hour. “We had an interesting customer event where we handed out stopwatches to any or all the visitors,” said Paar. “We printed a number of boards, and had every one of them time them. Sure enough, we had been right on the funds.”
Because I mentioned earlier within this story, EFI continues to be 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 also functions being a flatbed or possibly a rollfed.
“One of the most popular opportunities in rigid substrate/flatbed printing comes 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 is taking a progressive stance within the material handling necessary for a genuine 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 go into high-volume digital require the most ROI from automated materials handling. Those are the companies coming from the screen or offset print space who want to replace some of their analog opportunity to digital, and so they are only able to do that should they be hitting maximum throughput on the digital production line.”
Last June marked the ten-year anniversary of EFI’s acquisition of VUTEk, and although tin or aluminum is definitely 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 it 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 ideal for outdoor and indoor applications. The Matan Barak 8QW was picked like a Wide Format Imaging magazine 2015 Product of the season.
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 was designed to print on many different materials, especially 3D objects, as much as 2.75 inches thick. The 64-inch ValueJet 1626UH is really a hybrid UV LED printer that 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 sort of eco-solvent ink derived largely from plant-based materials and created to be an eco-friendly ink option.
“The marketplace for flatbed and hybrid printing remains strong and with the amount of applications coming over to the surface it isn’t surprising to view sales of those machines increase,” said David Conrad, Director of Marketing, for Mutoh America, Inc. “Additional application opportunities for printing on almost any substrate around almost three inches thick on our desktop version make the ability to purchase one of these brilliant machines very attractive to many markets including awards and engraving, trophy shops, industrial printers and specialty shops that provide a number of items that may be personalized with digital printing. Look for thicker print capabilities, faster speeds, and more custom jig choices to drive demand and start much more unique applications with this technology.”
Durst offers a number of flatbeds in its Rho combination of UV machines. The newest introduction was the t-shirt printer, which handle media as much as 8 feet wide. The Rho P10 series is geared towards high-end applications such as backlit displays for windows or light boxes, particularly for luxury goods, outdoor and indoor 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 in terms of having the ability to quickly switch between materials and jobs to deal with lead times, and they also need robust design and manufacturing to make on the 24/7 schedule. Customers and PSPs wish to produce every possible application or product 03dexqpky their flatbeds, therefore they need the flexibility to deal with complex client projects that could come along with little notice, and require a sudden turnaround.”
It appears fitting to complete this roundup with all the latest model from Inca Digital, the company whose Inca Eagle 44 kicked off the flatbed wide-format market way 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 can be found in either four-, five, or six-color configurations. It may handle substrates up to two inches thick.
Make sure you look at these as well as other models at Graph Expo and also at November’s SGIA Expo in Atlanta.
It seems fitting to complete this roundup with all the latest model from Inca Digital, the business 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 comes in either four-, five, or six-color configurations. It can handle substrates around two inches thick. Inca Digital wide-format printers can be found through Fujifilm, its global distribution partner.
The Return of the Jeti
Also with the ISA Sign Expo last spring, Agfa Graphics introduced the flatbed Jeti Mira and the hybrid Jeti Tauro. The first kind is really 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 type of flatbeds and hybrids.
“We learn that some print agencies prefer dedicated flatbed printing systems and some take pleasure in the flexibility of a hybrid device, and then 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 different is offered with many 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 different so it is important to know what you primarily want to do with this particular equipment and choose the technology that best fits this anticipated combination of work.”