The other day, we kicked off 2017 with a review of the roll-to-roll latte coffee printer landscape. This week, we’ll do the same for flatbed printers. There hasn’t been quite as much action in flatbeds as in rollfeds; textile printing has largely been driving rollfed printers, not so much flatbeds. (Actually, it is possible to print textiles over a flatbed UV device, but flatbeds usually are not designed or sold specifically for fabric printing.)
Flatbed devices almost universally use ultraviolet (UV) inks, or inks that cure by exposure to ultraviolet light. Traditionally, UV curing continues to be done using mercury vapor lamps, nevertheless the past many years have seen an “ink migration” to cold curing, or UV inks that cure under exposure to LED lamps. Some great benefits of LED UV curing are less heat (mercury vapor lamps can run hot), and fewer energy necessary to run them, energy that’s wasted such as everything that heat. LED also enables printing on very thin plastic materials which could warp or discolor when in contact with hot curing lamps, although an excellent vacuum system will help avoid warpage when you use thin substrates regardless of heat.
The latest models which have appeared out there lately boast faster speeds-like almost any new equipment-as well as some degree of automation. We’re also beginning to see more models appearing from the mid-volume range, and many more entry-level machines. There is also a greater proliferation of hybrid flatbed/roll-to-roll machines. (We’ll look specifically at hybrids in the 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, in addition to orange and green or orange and violet, hitting the gamut of brand name and Pantone colors. The 1012/1312 boast higher resolution compared to 1030/1330, whilst the latter ups the rate to as fast as 1,250 square meters each 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 which include CMYK plus light magenta and light cyan, white, as well as a “Process Colour Addition (PCA),” and so are targeted toward outdoor and indoor signage and POS/POP, as well as packaging and backlit applications.
The Durst Rho 1030 offers fully automated production.
Historically, Inca Digital launched the flatbed printer category a lot more than 16 years back with the Eagle, and introduced the Inca Onset X flatbed inkjet printer line in Fall 2015. The subsequent fall saw the launch of the 127-inch (3.2-meter) Inca Onset X3, the fastest model yet in the Onset series, said to print as much as 9,600 sq . ft . (180 boards) per hour. Colorwise, it supports CMYK plus white or orange.
Inca Roads-The Onset X3 is the fastest Onset yet.
Inca flatbeds are distributed by Fujifilm, which features its own longstanding group of flatbeds, namely the Acuity series. The latest entry, introduced this past year, will be the 49.6-inch (1.25-meter) Acuity Select HS 30, believed to print at speeds up to 620 square feet per hour. It may print on a wide array of substrates up to 2 ” thick. It print six colors (CMYK plus light cyan and light magenta, plus white or clear). A year ago, Fujifilm also introduced the newest from the Uvistar line, the Uvistar Hybrid 320, a 127-inch (3.2-meter) phone case printer with speeds reported to be around 2,100 square feet an hour, and supports CMYK plus light cyan, light magenta, and orange.
The Select HS 30 is the latest in Fujifilm’s Acuity group of flatbeds
As of late, Fujifilm continues to be touting its new Fujifilm Inkjet Technology (FIT), a variety of inkjet printheads, fluids, and software based on the company’s Samba single-pass piezo printheads and Uvijet inks. Employing a broad assortment of inks and color management software, the aim of FIT is image optimization, speed, and suppleness.
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 as much as four colors, the 1260 around six colors, and the 1280 up to eight colors. The Arizona 1200 series printers are mid-volume flatbeds targeted toward sign and display shops, specialty printers, and photo labs.
Also within the mid-volume production category, CSA also introduced the Océ Arizona 2200 series, available too in GT (49-inch/1.2-meter) and XT (121-inch/3.1-meter) models. The 2260 is really a six-color machine and also the 2280 is an eight-color machine. The primary distinction between the 1200 and 2200 series is speed; the 1200 XT units top out at 377 sq . ft . hourly as well as the 2200 XTs at 691 sq ft per hour.
These new mid-volume printers fit between the entry-level 318 GL and 365 GT, and also 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 each hour.
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, which include gloss and white for special effects and textures. It might print on flexible or rigid substrates up to 63.2 x 98 inches (1.6 x 2.5 meters) and 5.9 (.15 meters) inches thick. Attendees for the SGIA Expo in 2015 could 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
A few years ago, Mimaki launched the 82.7-inch (2.1-meter) JFX500-2131 flatbed LED UV unit, believed to print as much as 675 square feet each hour. A year ago, it absolutely was joined from the JFX500-2131, a lesser footprint version. Both can print CMYK plus white, clear, and a primer for substrates which require it. Last year, Mimaki announced the 98.4-inch (2.5-meter) JFX200-2531, which doubles paper part of its predecessor, the JFX200-2513.
Mimaki’s JFX200-2531 is really a dual-zone flatbed that allows for printing in one area of the bed as the other is now being prepped
Agfa Graphics’ latest UV flatbeds are definitely the 106.3-inch (2.7-meter) Jeti Mira MG 2732 HS as well as the 98.4-inch (2.5-meter) Jeti Tauro H2500, the latter in which gained an autoboard feeder a year ago, as the former gained a whole new roll-to-roll option. In other Agfa hybrid flatbed/roll-to-roll news, the Anapurna H3200i LED UV printer is also a hybrid; other Anapurnas add the Anapurna H2500i and H2050i (in Agfa nomenclature, H is short for hybrid and RTR for roll-to-roll.) You may recall from last November that I was very much taken with Agfa 3D Lenses, an easy method of printing lenticular images on the Jeti Mira employing a software suite and clear varnish.
Agfa’s Jeti Mira prints in six-color plus white or clear, and varnish can be layered to generate lenticular effects
EFI has had a lot of irons inside the fire lately-especially post-Reggiani-and has been focusing on the hybrid market. In 2015, the business 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 posseses an extensive variety of within its entry-level EFI and mid-range and-volume VUTEk lines. EFI has become a strong proponent of LED curing and virtually its entire portfolio has become LED-based.
EFI’s H1625-SD UV printer can print on plastic substrates meant for thermoforming applications
I use in the flatbed printer category “benchtop” or “tabletop” UV printing units, which are designed for specialty printing applications, for example 3D objects like pens, golf balls, smartphone cases, and even cylindrical objects like water bottles and YETI cups.
Roland has long offered its tabletop VersaUV LEF-12 and LEF-20 UV printers, and just last year the company introduced a major brother: the VersaUV LEF-300 Benchtop UV Flatbed Printer, which could print directly on 3D objects up to 3.94 inches thick and 30 x 13 inches wide. Additionally it is effective at higher-capacity runs than its smaller siblings. Last week, Roland announced the subsequent-generation of LEF-20, the VersaUV LEF-200, a 20-inch benchtop UV printer that prints CMYK plus white and gloss. The gloss channel can be replaced from a new primer option, for those unusual substrates that require it. Roland also upgraded the LEF-12 using the new 12-inch VersaUV LEF-12i, that adds the brand new primer option.
Roland also recently added its RotaPrint add-on accessory to the VersaUV tabletops, which supports printing on cylindrical objects.
The Roland VersaUV LEF-300 is designed for printing on 3D objects including golf balls, smartphone cases, and lots of other considerations
A year ago, Mimaki launched the UJF-7151 flatbed printer intended for specialty printing onto substrates and 3D objects up to 28 x 20 inches (.71 x .51 meters) and up to 6 inches thick. This unit joins the UJF-3042HG along with the UJF-6042 tabletop units that, having an accessory termed as 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 provides a line of tabletops, for example the 19-inch ValueJet 426UF UV LED, effective at printing on many different 3D objects up to 2.75 inches thick and aimed towards 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, even though the latter two use LED UV inks.
HP has been fairly quiet on the Scitex flatbed front as of late, 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 in the flatbed printer category, but do wish to no less than mention in passing that this HP Scitex 15500 and 17000 are a couple of HP’s corrugated inkjet presses, while at last year’s drupa, EFI announced its own 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 develop the BHS Corrugated Inline Digital Printing Solution.
Flatbed printers are some of the most exciting aspects of the wide-format market since their killer app is because they can print on just about any surface (although, it must be stressed, not “right out from the box”; sometimes the top must be pre- or post-treated) making them perfect for all types of high-margin specialty printing on unusual substrates.
Ink layering and varnishes can impart textures or other 3D effects, in addition to print Braille. You’ll want to get a sense of the ink cost and printing time before embarking on these types of projects, however.
As always, the first question to inquire about when shopping for a flatbed is, what would you like to print? Large POP as well as other rigid display graphics? Smaller ad specialties like smartphone cases? A mix of several different product types as is possible? That may determine what size machine you’ll need. Remember, you don’t require a specific benchtop unit if you want to print 3D objects; any flatbed will do, you’ll just need additional accessories, which will be less costly than getting a whole separate unit.
Perhaps the biggest question before you even take a look at models is, have you got room for the flatbed with your current shop? If not, is it possible to justify acquiring extra space to house it? Interestingly, we found in our WhatTheyThink Business Conditions Survey (the final results in which are supplied in your new Forecast 2017 special report) dexmpky54 15% of mid-size printers planned to get textile printer, and 14% said that they were planning to purchase “additional space/new location.” Correlation will not be causation, naturally, and we don’t know from what extent they’re a similar 14% to 15%, but, you understand, these devices can get pretty big. Just sayin’.
Another question to question is definitely the flip side of a single I suggested when examining rollfeds: do you need roll-to-roll printing too? Hybrids are perfect options if you are planning to experience a combination of flexible and rigid substrates, but get a feeling of precisely what the ink costs could be. UV inks may be more expensive than other sorts of inks, so if you have a higher number of things like vinyl graphics, you could be happier with the ecosolvent machine.
As I had advised in last week’s rollfed roundup, focus on “under the hood” forms of issues, for example the specifics of the warranty, just what it covers, how long it lasts, and in case you will find stuff 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, find what sort of training may be involved.