A year ago, inside our round-up of your latest in latte coffee printer, we discussed how recent introductions have, at least to some extent, been designed to help move work from analog technologies like offset to digital wide-format, especially for things such as posters, POP/POS displays, and the like. In past times year, there’s been a smaller amount of a focus on shifting work from one technology to another one, plus more of a single on creating unique print applications who 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 created to print on items like golf balls and smartphone cases, as much as massive behemoths whereby anybody can run large sheets of wood, corrugated board, as well as other such materials, even objects like footballs.
Flatbed units may also be during this process of blurring the line between commercial and industrial printing. (Industrial printing is printing that is certainly done as part of a manufacturing process, including the control labels around the front of your appliance such as a dishwasher, a vehicle dashboard, the gradations and measurement units on syringes or other medical items, and other types of printing that vary from the typical “print for pay” applications.)
The majority 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 seems sensible when you think about it….) The most up-to-date trend in UV inks is indeed-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, nevertheless the costs of it are coming down. LEDs run much cooler than mercury vapor, leading them to be more desirable for thin plastic substrates. LEDs will also be reported to be energy-efficient which implies saving money. EFI particularly has been a highly active proponent of LED UV and it has announced its intention to totally keep the technology in all of the its UV offerings.
Our company is also going to a greater proliferation of hybrid units, flatbed printers that can also work as roll-to-roll devices for printing on flexible materials. Where once hybrids were perceived as “jacks of trades, masters of none,” they have got improved to the level where they are respectedly seen as methods for giving shops the versatility to use on a wide variety of print projects. (Keep in mind, though, that this same UV inks will not be ideal for all materials considering the respective dyne degrees of ink and surface. Some surfaces might also require pre- or post-treatment to obtain UV ink to stick.)
Earlier this coming year in the International Sign Association (ISA) Sign Expo, HP launched several new flatbeds in their 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-approximately the HP Scitex 10000 platform launched two years ago, while the HP Scitex 15500 Corrugated Press is ideal for short-run corrugated packaging and the like, a good choice for prototyping, related POP graphics, and personalized/customized/short-run corrugated applications.
HP also has recently announced the Scitex 17000, created 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 only a matter of speed, and also of getting materials on and off press immediately and improving automation.
“The focus is really how you can 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 simply the printing speed, the development workflow is definitely a important element. Clients are requesting automation both on the prepress side and also the finishing side.”
“We have noticed 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 wish to jump into rigid, and the market is polarizing in between the high-end presses doing a lot more volume as well as 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 along with 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 includes a “throat” (yes, that’s a genuine term) large enough that materials as much as six inches thick could be fed with the printer. In the Sign Expo, visitors to the booth could witness the business running footballs throughout the printer.
“Print 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, led uv printer. “Roland’s new VersaUV LEJ-640FT expands this capability further with its unique six-inch printing clearance. The LEJ-640FT, as well as smaller benchtop flatbeds such as Roland’s LEF series printers, open a whole new field 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 produce stunning images on substrates and objects that couldn’t be printed on before.”
Joanie Loves Tchotchkes
Mimaki’s JFX Series UV LED flatbed printers (comprising the 51-inch JFX200 and also 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 the lesser 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 trying to find 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 including personalized products and package prototyping,” said Ken VanHorn, Director, Marketing and Business Development, Mimaki USA.
Océ Is It Possible To 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 variety 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-created to be board printers; they do not feature a roll option.
The newest Arizona printers take CSA into a new space, said Randy Paar, Marketing Manager of Display Graphics for CSA. “We’ve been popular within the mid-volume area, and that takes us to the top end of the mid-volume, or perhaps the low end of your high-volume,” he was quoted saying. “It’s taken us into new markets and new business. They either offer an Arizona or perhaps a similar product now and therefore are growing their business and are searching for a more economical printer to include a bit of capacity but also not tie up their high-volume press.”
At its fastest, the new machines can print a maximum of 33 boards an hour or so. “We had a fascinating customer event where we passed out stopwatches to all of the visitors,” said Paar. “We printed a variety of boards, and had all of them time them. Sure enough, we were on the money.”
As I mentioned earlier in this particular 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 also functions like a flatbed or even a rollfed.
“One of the most popular opportunities in rigid substrate/flatbed printing can be purchased in the chance to transition analog work to digital with higher-volume equipment,” said Ken Hanulec, V . P ., Marketing, Inkjet Solutions, at EFI. “So, beyond developing imaging systems that approach offset quality, EFI has gotten a progressive stance from the material handling essential for a true analog-to-digital transition in higher-volume print with semi- and full-automation feed and delivery systems for the 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 the companies coming from the screen or offset print space that want to change some of their analog ability to digital, and they also are only able to do that should they be hitting maximum throughput with a digital production line.”
Last June marked the ten-year anniversary of EFI’s acquisition of VUTEk, and while tin or aluminum is definitely the traditional 10th anniversary gift, for EFI it’s apparently equipment manufacturing companies. On July 1, as 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. Obtainable in 3m and 5m widths, Matan’s flatbed and hybrid product portfolio is ideal for indoor and outdoor 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 few options inside the tabletop and wide-format proper categories. The 19-inch ValueJet 426UF UV LED tabletop printer was designed to print on various materials, especially 3D objects, approximately 2.75 inches thick. The 64-inch ValueJet 1626UH can be a hybrid UV LED printer that comes in CMYK plus White and Varnish, as the 64-inch ValueJet 1617H hybrid uses, rather than UV, Mutoh’s Multi-Purpose ink, a form 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 arriving at the surface it isn’t surprising to see sales of these machines increase,” said David Conrad, Director of promoting, for Mutoh America, Inc. “Additional application opportunities for printing on just about any substrate around almost three inches thick on our desktop version make the opportunity to purchase one of these machines very appealing to many markets including awards and engraving, trophy shops, industrial printers and specialty shops that provide a number of items that could be personalized with digital printing. Seek out thicker print capabilities, faster speeds, plus more custom jig choices to drive demand and open up a lot more unique applications for this particular technology.”
Durst offers a variety of flatbeds in the Rho series of UV machines. The most up-to-date introduction was the t-shirt printer, which handle media approximately 8 feet wide. The Rho P10 series is geared towards 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 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 take care of lead times, and they also need robust design and manufacturing to produce with a 24/7 schedule. Customers and PSPs would like to produce every possible application or product 03dexqpky their flatbeds, hence they need the flexibility to take care of complex client projects which come in with little notice, and require an immediate turnaround.”
It seems fitting to round out this roundup together with the latest model from Inca Digital, the company whose Inca Eagle 44 kicked off of 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 comes in either four-, five, or six-color configurations. It might handle substrates around two inches thick.
Make sure you take a look at these and also other models at Graph Expo and at November’s SGIA Expo in Atlanta.
It appears to be fitting to complete this roundup using the latest model from Inca Digital, the organization whose Inca Eagle 44 kicked 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 could handle substrates around two inches thick. Inca Digital wide-format printers can be purchased 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 and the hybrid Jeti Tauro. The previous can be a true 2.7-meter (105 inches) flatbed, as the latter is really a 2.5-meter hybrid. These newest models complement Agfa’s extensive Anapurna brand of flatbeds and hybrids.
“We realize that some print agencies prefer dedicated flatbed printing systems and some enjoy the flexibility of your hybrid device, therefore 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 mixture of both dedicated and hybrid devices being purchased and that i check this out trend continuing. Everyone’s application and product mix is different so it is important to determine what you primarily might like to do using this type of equipment and choose the technology that best suits this anticipated mix of work.”