Last week, we kicked off 2017 with a review of the roll-to-roll latte printer landscape. In the week, we’ll perform the same for flatbed printers. There hasn’t been as much action in flatbeds like rollfeds; textile printing has largely been driving rollfed printers, not much flatbeds. (Actually, you can print textiles with a flatbed UV device, but flatbeds are certainly not designed or sold specifically for fabric printing.)
Flatbed devices almost universally use ultraviolet (UV) inks, or inks that cure by contact with ultraviolet light. Traditionally, UV curing continues to be done using mercury vapor lamps, however the past several years have experienced an “ink migration” to cold curing, or UV inks that cure under being exposed to LED lamps. The main advantages of LED UV curing are less heat (mercury vapor lamps can run sizzling hot), and much less energy found it necessary to run them, energy that’s wasted such as everything heat. LED also permits printing on very thin plastic materials that could warp or discolor when subjected to hot curing lamps, although a good vacuum system might help avoid warpage when working with thin substrates no matter what heat.
The brand new models that have appeared in the marketplace recently boast faster speeds-like almost any new equipment-as well as some degree of automation. We’re also starting to see more models appearing within the mid-volume range, and many more entry-level machines. Additionally there is a greater proliferation of hybrid flatbed/roll-to-roll machines. (We’ll look specifically at hybrids inside a future feature.)
Durst Imaging’s Rho 1000 flagship series comprises the 282-inch (7.2-meter) Rho 1012/1312 and 1030/1330, UV flatbeds whose ink sets include CMYK plus light magenta and light cyan, as well as orange and green or orange and violet, going to the gamut of brand name and Pantone colors. The 1012/1312 boast higher resolution compared to the 1030/1330, whilst the latter ups the speed to as quickly as 1,250 square meters per hour. The 1000 series complements the industrial-level Rho P10 series, consisting of the 200/250 and hybrid 200/250HS, the HS models being hybrids. These 154-inch (3.9-meter) machines offer ink sets including CMYK plus light magenta and light cyan, white, plus a “Process Colour Addition (PCA),” and are targeted toward outdoor and indoor signage and POS/POP, and also packaging and backlit applications.
The Durst Rho 1030 offers fully automated production.
Historically, Inca Digital launched the flatbed printer category more than 16 years back together with the Eagle, and introduced the Inca Onset X flatbed computer printer line in Fall 2015. These fall saw the launch from the 127-inch (3.2-meter) Inca Onset X3, the easiest model yet from the Onset series, believed to print around 9,600 sq . ft . (180 boards) an hour. Colorwise, it supports CMYK plus white or orange.
Inca Roads-The Onset X3 will be the fastest Onset yet.
Inca flatbeds are distributed by Fujifilm, which possesses its own longstanding number of flatbeds, namely the Acuity series. The latest entry, introduced a year ago, is the 49.6-inch (1.25-meter) Acuity Select HS 30, believed to print at speeds up to 620 sq . ft . an hour. It could print on a wide array of substrates around two inches thick. It print six colors (CMYK plus light cyan and light magenta, plus white or clear). Just last year, Fujifilm also introduced the most recent inside the Uvistar line, the Uvistar Hybrid 320, a 127-inch (3.2-meter) phone case printer with speeds reported to be approximately 2,100 square feet each hour, and supports CMYK plus light cyan, light magenta, and orange.
The Select HS 30 is the latest in Fujifilm’s Acuity number of flatbeds
As of late, Fujifilm is touting its new Fujifilm Inkjet Technology (FIT), a combination of inkjet printheads, fluids, and software based on the company’s Samba single-pass piezo printheads and Uvijet inks. By using a broad variety of inks and color management software, the aim of FIT is image optimization, speed, and adaptability.
In 2016, Canon Solutions America (CSA) launched two new Océ Arizona combination of wide-format UV flatbeds. The Océ Arizona 1200 series includes the 49-inch (1.2-meter) GT and 121-inch (3.1-meter) XT models. The 1240 prints approximately four colors, the 1260 approximately six colors, and the 1280 approximately eight colors. The Arizona 1200 series printers are mid-volume flatbeds targeted toward sign and display shops, specialty printers, and photo labs.
Also in the mid-volume production category, CSA also introduced the Océ Arizona 2200 series, also available in GT (49-inch/1.2-meter) and XT (121-inch/3.1-meter) models. The 2260 is really a six-color machine and the 2280 is undoubtedly an eight-color machine. The main distinction between the 1200 and 2200 series is speed; the 1200 XT units top out at 377 square feet hourly and also the 2200 XTs at 691 sq . ft . per hour.
These new mid-volume printers fit in between the entry-level 318 GL and 365 GT, as well as the top-of-the-line 98.4-inch (2.5-meter) Océ Arizona 6100 series, comprising the six-color 6160 XTS and seven-color 6170 XTS. The 6100 series can print up to 1,668 square feet hourly.
The Océ Arizona 6100 series is Canon Solutions America’s top-of-the-line flatbed line.
In 2015, Roland launched its first flatbed model, the VersaUV LEJ-640FT LED UV flatbed. It uses Roland Eco-UV inks, including gloss and white for special effects and textures. It can print on flexible or rigid substrates around 63.2 x 98 inches (1.6 x 2.5 meters) and 5.9 (.15 meters) inches thick. Attendees on the SGIA Expo in 2015 may have seen it printing on footballs. Roland now offers the 64-inch (1.6-meter) hybrid VersaUV LEJ640.
The VersaUV LEJ-640FT is Roland’s entrée into the UV flatbed market
Some time ago, Mimaki launched the 82.7-inch (2.1-meter) JFX500-2131 flatbed LED UV unit, believed to print approximately 675 square feet an hour. This past year, it had been joined with the JFX500-2131, a lesser footprint version. Both can print CMYK plus white, clear, along with a primer for substrates which need it. Last year, Mimaki announced the 98.4-inch (2.5-meter) JFX200-2531, which doubles the print area of its predecessor, the JFX200-2513.
Mimaki’s JFX200-2531 is actually a dual-zone flatbed that allows for printing in just one portion of the bed whilst the other is being prepped
Agfa Graphics’ latest UV flatbeds will be the 106.3-inch (2.7-meter) Jeti Mira MG 2732 HS along with the 98.4-inch (2.5-meter) Jeti Tauro H2500, the latter which gained an autoboard feeder just last year, whilst the former gained a new roll-to-roll option. In other Agfa hybrid flatbed/roll-to-roll news, the Anapurna H3200i LED UV printer can be another hybrid; other Anapurnas range from the Anapurna H2500i and H2050i (in Agfa nomenclature, H stands for hybrid and RTR for roll-to-roll.) You could possibly recall from last November that I was significantly taken with Agfa 3D Lenses, an easy method of printing lenticular images on the Jeti Mira utilizing a software suite and clear varnish.
Agfa’s Jeti Mira prints in six-color plus white or clear, and varnish might be layered to generate lenticular effects
EFI has experienced plenty of irons from the fire as of late-especially post-Reggiani-and possesses been focusing on the hybrid market. In 2015, the company launched the 126-inch (3.2-meter) hybrid VUTEk HS125 Pro also launched the entry-level 64.9-inch (1.65-meter) hybrid EFI H1625-SD UV printer, which comes with EFI SuperDraw UV ink for near-photographic imaging on thermoformable substrates. EFI comes with an extensive amount of in its entry-level EFI and mid-range and-volume VUTEk lines. EFI is a huge strong proponent of LED curing and virtually its entire portfolio is already LED-based.
EFI’s H1625-SD UV printer can print on plastic substrates designed for thermoforming applications
I include in the flatbed printer category “benchtop” or “tabletop” UV printing units, which are designed for specialty printing applications, including 3D objects like pens, golf balls, smartphone cases, and also cylindrical objects like water bottles and YETI cups.
Roland has long offered its tabletop VersaUV LEF-12 and LEF-20 UV printers, and this past year the business introduced a huge brother: the VersaUV LEF-300 Benchtop UV Flatbed Printer, which could print directly on 3D objects as much as 3.94 inches thick and 30 x 13 inches wide. Also, it is effective at higher-capacity runs than its smaller siblings. The other day, Roland announced the following-generation of LEF-20, the VersaUV LEF-200, a 20-inch benchtop UV printer that prints CMYK plus white and gloss. The gloss channel might be replaced by a new primer option, for anyone unusual substrates that need it. Roland also upgraded the LEF-12 with the new 12-inch VersaUV LEF-12i, which adds the new primer option.
Roland also recently added its RotaPrint add-on accessory for your VersaUV tabletops, which supports printing on cylindrical objects.
The Roland VersaUV LEF-300 is for printing on 3D objects including golf balls, smartphone cases, and a lot of other considerations
A year ago, Mimaki launched the UJF-7151 flatbed printer made for specialty printing onto substrates and 3D objects approximately 28 x 20 inches (.71 x .51 meters) and up to six inches thick. This unit joins the UJF-3042HG and also the UJF-6042 tabletop units that, with the accessory called a Kebab, can print on cylindrical objects from 30 to 330 millimeters long and 10 to 110 millimeters in diameter.
Mimaki’s Kebab accessory enables printing on cylindrical objects like bottles
Mutoh also offers a brand of tabletops, like the 19-inch ValueJet 426UF UV LED, competent at printing on a number of 3D objects around 2.75 inches thick and targeted at the packaging prototyping market. These join Mutoh’s hybrid UV LED printers, the 64-inch (1.6-meter) ValueJet 1617H, ValueJet 1626UH, and ValueJet 1638UH printers. The former uses Mutoh’s UV Alternative Bio-Based Ink, whilst the latter two use LED UV inks.
HP has become fairly quiet in the Scitex flatbed front recently, but also in 2015 launched the 64-inch (1.6-meter) HP Scitex FB550 and 120-inch (3.-meter) FB750. The HP Scitex 11000 series industrial press has replaced the 10000 platform.
I’m not inclined to include corrugated equipment from the flatbed printer category, but do want to no less than mention in passing that the HP Scitex 15500 and 17000 are a couple of HP’s corrugated inkjet presses, while finally year’s drupa, EFI announced its unique Nozomi C18000 single-pass corrugated press, while Durst announced the Rho SPC single-pass corrugated and label solution. Also at drupa, Screen and BHS Corrugated announced a partnership to build up the BHS Corrugated Inline Digital Printing Solution.
Flatbed printers are among the most exciting regions of the wide-format market since their killer app is that they can print on just about any surface (although, it must be stressed, not “right out from the box”; sometimes the top has to be pre- or post-treated) causing them to be well suited for all types of high-margin specialty printing on unusual substrates.
Ink layering and varnishes can impart textures or other 3D effects, along with print Braille. You’ll have to get feelings of the ink cost and printing time before starting these kinds of projects, however.
As usual, the first question to question when shopping for a flatbed is, what would you like to print? Large POP along with other rigid display graphics? Smaller ad specialties like smartphone cases? A mix of as much different product types as you can? Which will evaluate which size machine you’ll need. Remember, you don’t need a specific benchtop unit if you want to print 3D objects; any flatbed will do, you’ll only need additional accessories, that will be less expensive than purchasing a whole separate unit.
Probably the biggest question even before you look at models is, do you have room for any flatbed in your current shop? Or even, could you justify acquiring more space to accommodate it? Interestingly, we present in our WhatTheyThink Business Conditions Survey (the outcomes in which are given in your new Forecast 2017 special report) dexmpky54 15% of mid-size printers planned to purchase textile printer, and 14% said that they were planning to invest in “additional space/new location.” Correlation is not causation, of course, so we don’t know as to what extent they’re the identical 14% to 15%, but, you know, these products will get pretty big. Just sayin’.
Another question to inquire about is definitely the flip side of one I suggested when examining rollfeds: do you want roll-to-roll printing also? Hybrids are good options if you intend to possess a mixture of flexible and rigid substrates, but get feelings of exactly what the ink costs could be. UV inks may be more pricey than other kinds of inks, so if you have a higher volume of things like vinyl graphics, you may well be better off with an ecosolvent machine.
While I had advised in last week’s rollfed roundup, focus on “under the hood” forms of issues, like the details of the warranty, just what it covers, just how long it lasts, and in case there are items that might nullify it, like using third-party inks, replacing a printhead, or damaging the heads by printing on unusual or downright wacky materials or objects. Particularly with flatbeds, learn what sort of training might be involved.