This past year, within our round-up of the latest in latte printer, we discussed how recent introductions have, a minimum of partly, been intended to help move work from analog technologies like offset to digital wide-format, particularly for things like posters, POP/POS displays, and stuff like that. Previously year, there’s been less of an emphasis on shifting work from one technology to another one, and a lot more of merely one on creating unique print applications who 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 run the gamut from small table- or benchtop units built to print on stuff like golf balls and smartphone cases, around massive behemoths by which you can run large sheets of wood, corrugated board, and other such materials, even objects like footballs.
Flatbed units will also be along the way of blurring the line between commercial and industrial printing. (Industrial printing is printing which is done as part of a manufacturing process, like the control labels in the front of your appliance just like a dishwasher, an automobile dashboard, the gradations and measurement units on syringes or any other medical items, and other kinds of printing that are different from the typical “print for pay” applications.)
The majority 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: exactly what is the one substrate that UV inks-thus far-can’t print on? Teflon. It makes sense when you think about it….) The newest trend in UV inks is indeed-called cold-curing UV, or UV inks that cure under exposure to LED lamps rather than traditional mercury vapor lamps. It’s not much of a new technology, nevertheless the costs than it are coming down. LEDs run much cooler than mercury vapor, which makes them more suitable for thin plastic substrates. LEDs may also be said to be energy-efficient meaning cost savings. EFI particularly has become a highly active proponent of LED UV and it has announced its intention to completely retain the technology in most its UV offerings.
We are also seeing a greater proliferation of hybrid units, flatbed printers that can also serve 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 point where they are now respectedly regarded as methods for giving shops the versatility to battle a multitude of print projects. (Remember, though, that the same UV inks might not be suitable for all materials considering the respective dyne amounts of ink and surface. Some surfaces may also require pre- or post-treatment to acquire UV ink to stay.)
Earlier this season with the International Sign Association (ISA) Sign Expo, HP launched several new flatbeds in 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 may be the follow-as much as the HP Scitex 10000 platform launched a couple of years ago, even though the HP Scitex 15500 Corrugated Press is designed for short-run corrugated packaging and so forth, useful for prototyping, related POP graphics, and personalized/customized/short-run corrugated applications.
HP has also recently announced the Scitex 17000, created for short- and medium-run corrugated printing. Furthermore, 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 only a subject of speed, but also to getting materials off and on press as soon as possible and improving automation.
“The focus is actually learning to make digital production more productive, and we’re seeking 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 only the printing speed, the development workflow is definitely a important element. People are looking for automation both around the prepress side and also the finishing side.”
“We also have observed 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 want to jump into rigid, and also the market is polarizing between the high-end presses doing a lot more volume along with 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 an actual term) large enough that materials around six inches thick might be fed with the printer. In the Sign Expo, visitors to the booth could witness the corporation running footballs through the printer.
“Print agencies are searching for 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 further featuring its unique six-inch printing clearance. The LEJ-640FT, along with smaller benchtop flatbeds such as Roland’s LEF series printers, open a new arena of printing possibilities for PSPs. Now, the question isn’t a whole lot ‘What is it possible to print on?’ but instead ‘What can’t you print on?’ We’re constantly surprised by the creativity of these using our technology to produce 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 name but a couple of. 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 enables 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 Can You See
The most recent models in Canon Solutions America’s (CSA) Océ Arizona 6100 Series-launched a year ago-are 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 an array of rigid media applications, multi-layer and double-sided prints, and enormous prints tiled over multiple boards. They also support edge-to-edge printing. These new printers are purpose-created to be board printers; they are doing not include a roll option.
The new Arizona printers are taking CSA into a new space, said Randy Paar, Marketing Manager of Display Graphics for CSA. “We’ve been popular from the mid-volume area, and also this takes us to the high end of the mid-volume, or even 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 so are growing their business and are searching for a much more economical printer to add a bit of capacity and also not tie up their high-volume press.”
At its fastest, the newest machines can print a maximum of 33 boards one hour. “We had an intriguing customer event where we handed out stopwatches to all of the visitors,” said Paar. “We printed several boards, along with every one of them time them. Sure enough, we had been on the cash.”
As I mentioned earlier with this story, EFI continues to be dedicating itself to LED curing technology due to its UV lines, particularly the company’s latest product, the EFI H1625 LED, a mid-level production printer which functions as a flatbed or possibly a rollfed.
“One of the most popular opportunities in rigid substrate/flatbed printing comes in the opportunity to 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 gotten a progressive stance inside the material handling necessary for an actual 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 require the most ROI from automated materials handling. These are companies coming from the screen or offset print space who want to switch a selection of their analog capability to digital, plus they is only able to do this should they be hitting maximum throughput with a 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 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 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 was created to print on various materials, especially 3D objects, approximately 2.75 inches thick. The 64-inch ValueJet 1626UH is really a hybrid UV LED printer which comes in CMYK plus White and Varnish, while the 64-inch ValueJet 1617H hybrid uses, rather than UV, Mutoh’s Multi-Purpose ink, a kind of eco-solvent ink derived largely from plant-based materials and built 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 see sales of these machines increase,” said David Conrad, Director of advertising, for Mutoh America, Inc. “Additional application opportunities for printing on just about any substrate up to almost three inches thick on our desktop version make the opportunity to purchase one of these simple machines very attractive to many markets including awards and engraving, trophy shops, industrial printers and specialty shops that supply many different items that could be personalized with digital printing. Try to find thicker print capabilities, faster speeds, and a lot more custom jig choices to drive demand and open more unique applications just for this technology.”
Durst offers a variety of flatbeds within its Rho combination of UV machines. The latest introduction was the textile printer, which handle media approximately 8 feet wide. The Rho P10 series is aimed 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 accessory for the most 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 capability to quickly switch between materials and jobs to deal with lead times, plus they need robust design and manufacturing to produce on a 24/7 schedule. Customers and PSPs are looking to produce every possible application or product 03dexqpky their flatbeds, so that they require the flexibility to handle complex client projects which come in with little notice, and require a quick turnaround.”
It seems fitting to complete this roundup using 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 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 can handle substrates approximately 2 ” thick.
Make sure you take a look at these along with other models at Graph Expo as well as at November’s SGIA Expo in Atlanta.
It seems fitting to round out this roundup using the latest model from Inca Digital, the organization 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 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 might handle substrates as much as 2 ” thick. Inca Digital wide-format printers are available through Fujifilm, its global distribution partner.
The Return from 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 former is a true 2.7-meter (105 inches) flatbed, while the latter is actually a 2.5-meter hybrid. These newest models complement Agfa’s extensive Anapurna line of flatbeds and hybrids.
“We discover that some print agencies prefer dedicated flatbed printing systems while others 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 options on a number of our true flatbed equipment so an alternate is accessible with many of our printers. Currently, I see a mixture of both dedicated and hybrid devices being purchased and so i see this trend continuing. Everyone’s application and product mix is different so it is important to determine what you primarily want to do using this equipment and choose the technology that most closely fits this anticipated blend of work.”