Just last year, within our round-up in the latest in latte printer, we discussed how recent introductions have, at the very least partly, 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 stuff like that. In past times year, there’s been less of an emphasis on shifting work from a technology to another, and more of one on creating unique print applications which 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 stuff like golf balls and smartphone cases, as much as massive behemoths through which one could run large sheets of wood, corrugated board, and other such materials, even objects like footballs.
Flatbed units will also be at the same time 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 like a dishwasher, a car dashboard, the gradations and measurement units on syringes or some other medical items, and other types of printing that vary from the usual “print for pay” applications.)
Most of the flatbed units currently available use UV (ultraviolet) cured inks, it being the ink technology which includes 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 most recent trend in UV inks is indeed-called cold-curing UV, or UV inks that cure under contact with LED lamps instead of the traditional mercury vapor lamps. It’s not really a new technology, but the costs than it are coming down. LEDs run much cooler than mercury vapor, causing them to be more suitable for thin plastic substrates. LEDs may also be said to be energy-efficient which implies saving money. EFI especially has been a highly active proponent of LED UV and contains announced its intention to totally retain the technology in most its UV offerings.
We have been also seeing a greater proliferation of hybrid units, flatbed printers that could also serve as roll-to-roll devices for printing on flexible materials. Where once hybrids were perceived as “jacks of most trades, masters of none,” they have improved to the stage where they are respectedly viewed as methods for giving shops the versatility to use on a multitude of print projects. (Keep in mind, though, the same UV inks is probably not suited to all materials because of the respective dyne degrees of ink and surface. Some surfaces can also require pre- or post-treatment to obtain UV ink to stay.)
Earlier this coming year in 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 will be the follow-around the HP Scitex 10000 platform launched 2 years ago, as 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, made 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 subject of speed, but also of having materials off and on press as soon as possible and improving automation.
“The focus is actually steps 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 amongst the reasons we developed the 17000 press. It’s not just the printing speed, the development workflow is a very important element. People are seeking automation both around the prepress side along with the finishing side.”
“We also have noticed 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, as well as the industry is polarizing involving the high-end presses doing a growing number of 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 along with 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 features a “throat” (yes, that’s an actual term) big enough that materials as much as six inches thick may be fed with the printer. On the Sign Expo, visitors to the booth could witness the organization running footballs with the printer.
“Print service providers 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 a little bit more having its unique six-inch printing clearance. The LEJ-640FT, in addition to smaller benchtop flatbeds including Roland’s LEF series printers, open a completely new world of printing possibilities for PSPs. Now, the question isn’t a whole lot ‘What are you able to print on?’ but rather ‘What can’t you print on?’ We’re constantly surprised by the creativity of those using our technology to make stunning images on substrates and objects that couldn’t be printed on previously.”
Joanie Loves Tchotchkes
Mimaki’s JFX Series UV LED flatbed printers (comprising the 51-inch JFX200 and 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 couple of. 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 many other novelty and specialty print objects.
“Customers are looking for 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 for example personalized products and package prototyping,” said Ken VanHorn, Director, Marketing and Business Development, Mimaki USA.
Océ Could You See
The most up-to-date models in Canon Solutions America’s (CSA) Océ Arizona 6100 Series-launched just last year-are 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 variety of rigid media applications, multi-layer and double-sided prints, and large prints tiled over multiple boards. In addition they support edge-to-edge printing. These new printers are purpose-built to be board printers; they generally do not come with a roll option.
The new Arizona printers are taking CSA in a new space, said Randy Paar, Marketing Manager of Display Graphics for CSA. “We’ve been popular from the mid-volume area, and this takes us on the high-end of your mid-volume, or the low end of the high-volume,” he explained. “It’s taken us into new markets and new business. They either provide an Arizona or possibly a similar product now and therefore are growing their business and are trying to find an even more economical printer to include a small amount of capacity but additionally not tie up their high-volume press.”
At its fastest, the brand new machines can print a maximum of 33 boards one hour. “We had a fascinating customer event where we passed out stopwatches to all the visitors,” said Paar. “We printed a number of boards, along with every one of them time them. Sure enough, we were on the money.”
When I mentioned earlier within this story, EFI has been dedicating itself to LED curing technology because of its UV lines, particularly the company’s latest product, the EFI H1625 LED, a mid-level production printer that functions as a flatbed or perhaps a rollfed.
“One of the most popular opportunities in rigid substrate/flatbed printing is available in the opportunity 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 brought a progressive stance from the material handling required for a genuine 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. They are the companies coming from the screen or offset print space that want to replace some of their analog opportunity to digital, and they are only able to do this if they are hitting maximum throughput on 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, because 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 indoor and outdoor 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 inside the tabletop and wide-format proper categories. The 19-inch ValueJet 426UF UV LED tabletop printer is designed to print on a number of materials, especially 3D objects, around 2.75 inches thick. The 64-inch ValueJet 1626UH is actually a hybrid UV LED printer which 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 eco-friendly ink option.
“The industry for flatbed and hybrid printing remains strong and with so many applications coming over to the top it isn’t surprising to see sales of such machines increase,” said David Conrad, Director of advertising, for Mutoh America, Inc. “Additional application opportunities for printing on almost any substrate approximately almost three inches thick on our desktop version make the ability to purchase one of those machines very popular with many markets including awards and engraving, trophy shops, industrial printers and specialty shops that offer many different items which can be personalized with digital printing. Try to find thicker print capabilities, faster speeds, and a lot more custom jig options to drive demand and open up even more unique applications just for this technology.”
Durst offers a variety of flatbeds in their Rho group of UV machines. The newest introduction was the dtg printer, which handle media as much as 8 feet wide. The Rho P10 series is geared towards high-end applications for example 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 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 capacity to quickly switch between materials and jobs to handle lead times, and they also 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, hence they want the flexibility to take care of complex client projects that could come together with little notice, and require an instant turnaround.”
It appears fitting to complete this roundup with the latest model from Inca Digital, the organization whose Inca Eagle 44 kicked from the flatbed wide-format market in the past 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 can handle substrates up to two inches thick.
Make sure to have a look at these as well as other models at Graph Expo and at November’s SGIA Expo in Atlanta.
It seems fitting to complete this roundup with all 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 purchased in either four-, five, or six-color configurations. It might handle substrates as much as 2 ” thick. Inca Digital wide-format printers are offered through Fujifilm, its global distribution partner.
The Return of the Jeti
Also in the ISA Sign Expo last spring, Agfa Graphics introduced the flatbed Jeti Mira along with the hybrid Jeti Tauro. The previous is actually a true 2.7-meter (105 inches) flatbed, as the latter can be a 2.5-meter hybrid. These newest models complement Agfa’s extensive Anapurna line of flatbeds and hybrids.
“We learn that some print providers prefer dedicated flatbed printing systems while some take advantage of 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 options on a number of our true flatbed equipment so an alternate can be obtained with a number of our printers. Currently, I see a mix of both dedicated and hybrid devices being purchased and i also see this trend continuing. Everyone’s application and product mix is distinct so it is very important know what you primarily want to do with this particular equipment and select the technology that best suits this anticipated mixture of work.”