A year ago, inside our round-up from the latest in coffee printer, we discussed how recent introductions have, at the very least to some extent, been intended to help move work from analog technologies like offset to digital wide-format, particularly for things such as posters, POP/POS displays, and so forth. In the past year, there’s been a smaller amount of an emphasis on shifting work from one technology to another one, plus more of merely one on creating unique print applications which had never before been possible. Printing on atypical rigid substrates and three-dimensional objects is one of 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 in which you can run large sheets of wood, corrugated board, along with other such materials, even objects like footballs.
Flatbed units can also be along the way of blurring the fishing line between commercial and industrial printing. (Industrial printing is printing which is done within a manufacturing process, for example the control labels about the front of the appliance like a dishwasher, a vehicle dashboard, the gradations and measurement units on syringes or another medical items, and other types of printing that change from the usual “print for pay” applications.)
Many of the flatbed units that you can buy use UV (ultraviolet) cured inks, it being the ink technology that has made such versatility possible. (Trivia question: what is the one substrate that UV inks-to date-can’t print on? Teflon. It seems sensible when you think of it….) The newest trend in UV inks is really-called cold-curing UV, or UV inks that cure under contact with LED lamps rather than traditional mercury vapor lamps. It’s not a new technology, although the costs of it are coming down. LEDs run much cooler than mercury vapor, making them more desirable for thin plastic substrates. LEDs may also be reported to be energy-efficient which suggests cost benefits. EFI especially has become a highly active proponent of LED UV and it has announced its intention to fully retain the technology in every its UV offerings.
We are also visiting a greater proliferation of hybrid units, flatbed printers that may also function as roll-to-roll devices for printing on flexible materials. Where once hybrids were regarded as “jacks of trades, masters of none,” they already have improved to the stage where they are respectedly regarded as means of giving shops the flexibility to battle numerous types of print projects. (Bear in mind, though, the same UV inks is probably not suitable for all materials due to the respective dyne quantities of ink and surface. Some surfaces could also require pre- or post-treatment to obtain UV ink to stay.)
Earlier this current year with 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 definitely the follow-as much as 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, ideal for prototyping, related POP graphics, and personalized/customized/short-run corrugated applications.
HP has additionally recently announced the Scitex 17000, designed 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 only a question of speed, but in addition of getting materials off and on press as quickly as possible and improving automation.
“The focus is actually 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 just the printing speed, the production workflow is an extremely important element. Clients are seeking automation both about the prepress side plus the finishing side.”
“We have likewise 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 would like to jump into rigid, and the market is polarizing between the high-end presses doing a growing number of 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 as well as the VersaUV LEJ-640 hybrid printer. Earlier this coming year, Roland launched its first big flatbed, the 64-inch VersaUV LEJ-640FT flatbed UV printer. This new flatbed has a “throat” (yes, that’s a real term) big enough that materials up to six inches thick may be fed throughout the printer. With the Sign Expo, people to the booth could witness the company running footballs with the printer.
“Print providers are researching 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 featuring its unique six-inch printing clearance. The LEJ-640FT, along with 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 whole lot ‘What is it possible to print on?’ but rather ‘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 in past times.”
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 several. Mimaki even offers smaller tabletop UJF Series UV LED printers to the tchotchke-printing market: smartphone covers, pens, lenticular panels, membrane switch panels, wine bottles, and a lot of other novelty and specialty print objects.
“Customers are looking for feature-rich, high-quality versatility that lets them 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 most up-to-date 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 many of its brethren, the Arizonas are designed for printing on a wide array of rigid media applications, multi-layer and double-sided prints, and enormous prints tiled over multiple boards. Additionally they support edge-to-edge printing. These new printers are purpose-built to be board printers; they are doing not feature a roll option.
The new Arizona printers take CSA in to 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 for the high-end of your mid-volume, or perhaps the low end from the high-volume,” he stated. “It’s taken us into new markets and new customers. They either have an Arizona or possibly a similar product now and are growing their business and are seeking an even more economical printer to add a small amount of capacity and also 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 intriguing customer event where we given out stopwatches for all the visitors,” said Paar. “We printed numerous boards, along with each of them time them. Sure enough, we had been on the funds.”
As I mentioned earlier with this story, EFI has become dedicating itself to LED curing technology for its UV lines, particularly the company’s latest product, the EFI H1625 LED, a mid-level production printer that also functions like a flatbed or even 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 taken a progressive stance from 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 own VUTEk HS100 Pro hybrid inkjet press. Companies that go deep into high-volume digital want the most ROI from automated materials handling. These are the companies from the screen or offset print space who want to replace some of their analog ability to digital, and they can only accomplish that should they be hitting maximum throughput on a digital production line.”
Last June marked the ten-year anniversary of EFI’s acquisition of VUTEk, and even though tin or aluminum is 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. For sale in 3m and 5m widths, Matan’s flatbed and hybrid product portfolio is for indoor and outdoor applications. The Matan Barak 8QW was picked as 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 designed to print on a variety of materials, especially 3D objects, approximately 2.75 inches thick. The 64-inch ValueJet 1626UH is 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 sort of eco-solvent ink derived largely from plant-based materials and made to be an environmentally friendly ink option.
“The marketplace for flatbed and hybrid printing remains strong and with the amount of applications arriving at the top it isn’t surprising to view sales of such machines increase,” said David Conrad, Director of Marketing, for Mutoh America, Inc. “Additional application opportunities for printing on almost any substrate approximately almost three inches thick on our desktop version make the opportunity purchase one of these simple machines very popular with many markets including awards and engraving, trophy shops, industrial printers and specialty shops that offer a number of items that may be personalized with digital printing. Seek out thicker print capabilities, faster speeds, and much more custom jig choices to drive demand and unlock a lot more unique applications for this technology.”
Durst offers various flatbeds in their Rho combination of UV machines. The most up-to-date introduction was the textile printer, which handle media as much as 8 feet wide. The Rho P10 series is aimed 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 sturdiness are what printers need,” said Christopher Guyett, sales and marketing coordinator for Durst Image Technology. “They need flexibility regarding having the ability to quickly switch between materials and jobs to handle lead times, plus they need robust design and manufacturing to make on the 24/7 schedule. Customers and PSPs would like to produce every possible application or product 03dexqpky their flatbeds, therefore they require the flexibility to take care of complex client projects which come along with little notice, and require a quick turnaround.”
It seems fitting to round out this roundup with the latest model from Inca Digital, the company whose Inca Eagle 44 kicked off of the flatbed wide-format market 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 is available in either four-, five, or six-color configurations. It can handle substrates around two inches thick.
Make sure you look at these and also other models at Graph Expo as well as November’s SGIA Expo in Atlanta.
It seems fitting to complete this roundup using the latest model from Inca Digital, the corporation 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 can handle substrates around 2 ” thick. Inca Digital wide-format printers can be found through Fujifilm, its global distribution partner.
The Return from the Jeti
Also at the ISA Sign Expo last spring, Agfa Graphics introduced the flatbed Jeti Mira along with the hybrid Jeti Tauro. The former is really 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 type of flatbeds and hybrids.
“We realize that some print service providers prefer dedicated flatbed printing systems and some benefit from the flexibility of the hybrid device, so that we carry both technologies,” said Larry D’Amico, Vice-President Digital Imaging, Agfa Graphics. “We offer roll-to-roll alternatives on many of our true flatbed equipment so an alternate is accessible with a number of our printers. Currently, I see a mixture of both dedicated and hybrid devices being purchased and i also see this trend continuing. Everyone’s application and product mix differs so you should know very well what you primarily wish to accomplish using this type of equipment and choose the technology that most closely fits this anticipated combination of work.”