Last week, we kicked off 2017 with an introduction to the roll-to-roll latte coffee printer landscape. This week, we’ll perform the same for flatbed printers. There hasn’t been as much action in flatbeds like in rollfeds; textile printing has largely been driving rollfed printers, not so much flatbeds. (Actually, you may print textiles over a flatbed UV device, but flatbeds are certainly not designed or sold particularly for fabric printing.)
Flatbed devices almost universally use ultraviolet (UV) inks, or inks that cure by exposure to ultraviolet light. Traditionally, UV curing has become done using mercury vapor lamps, nevertheless the past many years have experienced an “ink migration” to cold curing, or UV inks that cure under contact with LED lamps. The advantages of LED UV curing are less heat (mercury vapor lamps can run hot), and much less energy found it necessary to run them, energy that’s wasted such as all of that heat. LED also allows for printing on very thin plastic materials that may warp or discolor when in contact with hot curing lamps, although an excellent vacuum system may help avoid warpage when you use thin substrates no matter heat.
The newest models who have appeared out there as of late boast faster speeds-like just about any new equipment-and also some degree of automation. We’re also starting to see more models appearing inside the mid-volume range, and a lot more entry-level machines. Additionally there is a greater proliferation of hybrid flatbed/roll-to-roll machines. (We’ll look specifically at hybrids in 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-weight cyan, in addition to orange and green or orange and violet, going to the gamut of brand and Pantone colors. The 1012/1312 boast higher resolution in comparison to the 1030/1330, while the latter ups the speed to as quickly 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, along with a “Process Colour Addition (PCA),” and they 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 using the Eagle, and introduced the Inca Onset X flatbed laser printer line in Fall 2015. The following fall saw the launch from the 127-inch (3.2-meter) Inca Onset X3, the fastest model yet from the Onset series, said to print up to 9,600 square feet (180 boards) each hour. Colorwise, it supports CMYK plus white or orange.
Inca Roads-The Onset X3 may be the fastest Onset yet.
Inca flatbeds are distributed by Fujifilm, which has its own longstanding group of flatbeds, namely the Acuity series. The most up-to-date entry, introduced this past year, will be the 49.6-inch (1.25-meter) Acuity Select HS 30, thought to print at speeds as high as 620 sq . ft . per hour. It might print on an array of substrates up to two inches thick. It print six colors (CMYK plus light cyan and lightweight magenta, plus white or clear). A year ago, Fujifilm also introduced the most up-to-date in the Uvistar line, the Uvistar Hybrid 320, a 127-inch (3.2-meter) uv printer with speeds said to be up to 2,100 sq ft an 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 continues to be touting its new Fujifilm Inkjet Technology (FIT), a mix of inkjet printheads, fluids, and software based around the company’s Samba single-pass piezo printheads and Uvijet inks. Employing a broad selection of inks and color management software, the goal 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 around four colors, the 1260 up to 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, made available in GT (49-inch/1.2-meter) and XT (121-inch/3.1-meter) models. The 2260 is a six-color machine and the 2280 is an eight-color machine. The key difference between the 1200 and 2200 series is speed; the 1200 XT units top out at 377 sq ft an hour along with the 2200 XTs at 691 sq ft per hour.
These new mid-volume printers fit involving the entry-level 318 GL and 365 GT, along with 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 approximately 1,668 square feet an 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 may print on flexible or rigid substrates as much as 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 possibly have seen it printing on footballs. Roland also offers the 64-inch (1.6-meter) hybrid VersaUV LEJ640.
The VersaUV LEJ-640FT is Roland’s entrée to the UV flatbed market
Not too long ago, Mimaki launched the 82.7-inch (2.1-meter) JFX500-2131 flatbed LED UV unit, thought to print approximately 675 sq ft an hour. Last year, it was actually joined by the JFX500-2131, a smaller footprint version. Both can print CMYK plus white, clear, plus a primer for substrates that need it. Just last year, Mimaki announced the 98.4-inch (2.5-meter) JFX200-2531, which doubles the print region of its predecessor, the JFX200-2513.
Mimaki’s JFX200-2531 can be a dual-zone flatbed that enables for printing in just one section of the bed whilst the other has been prepped
Agfa Graphics’ latest UV flatbeds would 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 last year, whilst the former gained a fresh 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 might recall from last November that I was quite definitely taken with Agfa 3D Lenses, a method of printing lenticular images in 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 produce lenticular effects
EFI has received lots of irons within the fire as of late-especially post-Reggiani-and has been centering 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 will come with EFI SuperDraw UV ink for near-photographic imaging on thermoformable substrates. EFI comes with an extensive amount of within its entry-level EFI and mid-range and high-volume VUTEk lines. EFI has been a strong proponent of LED curing and virtually its entire portfolio is now LED-based.
EFI’s H1625-SD UV printer can print on plastic substrates suitable for thermoforming applications
I include in the flatbed printer category “benchtop” or “tabletop” UV printing units, which are equipped for specialty printing applications, such as 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 a year ago the corporation introduced a major brother: the VersaUV LEF-300 Benchtop UV Flatbed Printer, which may print right on 3D objects around 3.94 inches thick and 30 x 13 inches wide. It is additionally able to higher-capacity runs than its smaller siblings. The other day, Roland announced the next-generation of LEF-20, the VersaUV LEF-200, a 20-inch benchtop UV printer that prints CMYK plus white and gloss. The gloss channel could be replaced by a new primer option, for people unusual substrates which require it. Roland also upgraded the LEF-12 with all the new 12-inch VersaUV LEF-12i, which also adds the newest primer option.
Roland also recently added its RotaPrint add-on accessory for that VersaUV tabletops, which supports printing on cylindrical objects.
The Roland VersaUV LEF-300 is made for printing on 3D objects including golf balls, smartphone cases, and a lot of other items
This past year, Mimaki launched the UJF-7151 flatbed printer made for specialty printing onto substrates and 3D objects as much as 28 x 20 inches (.71 x .51 meters) or higher 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 has a brand of tabletops, like 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, as the latter two use LED UV inks.
HP has become fairly quiet around the Scitex flatbed front lately, nevertheless 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 incorporate corrugated equipment within the flatbed printer category, but do wish to at the very least mention in passing that the HP Scitex 15500 and 17000 are a pair of HP’s corrugated inkjet presses, while at last year’s drupa, EFI announced their 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 produce the BHS Corrugated Inline Digital Printing Solution.
Flatbed printers are among the most exciting areas of the wide-format market since their killer app is they can print on practically any surface (although, it must be stressed, not “right out of the box”; sometimes the top should be pre- or post-treated) rendering them suitable for a myriad of high-margin specialty printing on unusual substrates.
Ink layering and varnishes can impart textures or some other 3D effects, along with print Braille. You’ll need to get feelings of the ink cost and printing time before starting these sorts of projects, however.
As always, the first question to ask when buying a flatbed is, what do you need to print? Large POP along with other rigid display graphics? Smaller ad specialties like smartphone cases? A mix of as many different product types as possible? 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 is going to do, you’ll only need additional accessories, which will be less costly than buying a whole separate unit.
Possibly the biggest question before you even have a look at models is, do you possess room for the flatbed within your current shop? Or even, are you able to justify acquiring extra space to house it? Interestingly, we present in our WhatTheyThink Business Conditions Survey (the outcome of which are offered in our new Forecast 2017 special report) dexmpky54 15% of mid-size printers planned to invest in dtg printer, and 14% said they were planning to get “additional space/new location.” Correlation is just not causation, naturally, and we don’t know from what extent they’re exactly the same 14% to 15%, but, you know, these devices could get pretty big. Just sayin’.
Another question to question will be the flip side of a single I suggested when examining rollfeds: do you require roll-to-roll printing as well? Hybrids are great options if you are planning to experience a mixture of flexible and rigid substrates, but get feelings of exactly what the ink costs are likely to be. UV inks can be higher priced than other kinds of inks, when you have a higher volume of stuff like vinyl graphics, you may well be more satisfied by having an ecosolvent machine.
While I had advised in last week’s rollfed roundup, focus on “under the hood” sorts of issues, including the details of the warranty, just what it covers, the length of time it lasts, and if you can 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 kind of training can be involved.