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Grand Stands Its Ground

Grand Format Is a Mainstay Thanks to UV Inks and New Applications

By Melissa Tetreault

When we spoke in January 2006 with market leaders in the grand format printer industry, they foresaw an upswing in UV printing as well as changes in application usage, primarily fabric. Today, we are experiencing those predications. "UV products are playing a larger and larger role in the development of grand format printing," shares Chuck Dourlet, VP of marketing, EFI/VUTEk. "They are helping to drive new applications and UV inks adhere to a wider range of substrates and deliver greater ink yield in terms of square feet per liter of coverage."

Textile manufacturers are realizing UV printing benefits and demanding printers meet their product requests, "rather than tailoring their products to meet the printer’s capabilities," suggests Richard Codos, executive director, North American development, Leggett & Platt Digital Technologies. "This includes working with their everyday non-coated textiles and printing highly saturated designs at production speeds."

UV printers make it possible to print on any surface and material. Variety allows smaller print shops to invest in grand format printers, knowing full well that options for customers mean profits for them. By utilizing these profitable devices, a different type of print shop is evolving. "We are seeing a new breed of shop that is catering to all customers’ digital printing needs—from traditional signage and banners of all sizes to vehicle wraps, soft signage, and even building wraps," points out Rick Scrimger, VP & GM, color products division, Roland DGA Corporation.

Many grand format printers are designed with the customer in mind. Whether you are looking for a roll-to-roll or flatbed printer, UV or solvent inks, the following distributors and manufacturers have a device that fits your needs.

With two grand format UV-curable inkjet printers and a high-speed, flatbed digital press, AGFA has the grand format market covered. The :M-Press, a flatbed digital press, prints up to 102 inches and is used for a variety of screen printing applications. This device was co-developed with Thieme. The :Anapurna XL and :Anapurna XL2 print at widths up to 98.5 inches. Used for indoor and outdoor applications, these printers are ideal for posters, billboards, POP displays, exhibition panels, and more. Both are used with rigid substrates up to 1.77 inches thick or as roll-to-roll. In 2008 AGFA plans to add a new product to its :Anapurna family.

The VUTEk 3360, a DPI Product of the Year in the grand format solvent category at SGIA, is a four, six, or eight color 125-inch solvent printer. The Fusion ink caddy option makes changing between dye sublimation and solvent inks a snap. Solely used for dye sublimation, the VUTEk FabriVu is a 125-inch oil-based device. The PressVu and QS families are roll-to-roll/flatbed devices that come in 80- and 126-inch print widths. Thanks to the success of the steadily emerging roll-to-roll market, VUTEk announced the QS3200r at SGIA. Strictly an UV roll-to-roll machine, the device is targeted toward fleet graphics, bus wraps, and car wraps. It was awarded the DPI Product of the Year award in the grand format UV category at SGIA.

Grand format printing is all about the application, according to Craig T. Reid, director of new business development, DuPont. "UV cure, while previously growing strong for rigid board applications, is now popular for flexible and roll-to-roll applications as well." The DuPont CromaPrint is a 145-inch UV-curable printer used primarily for graphics and signage applications, although, Reid says it is also becoming widely used in decorating and packaging. The Artistri 3320 is a 130-inch direct to textile device used for clothing, interior design, and soft signage.

Durst Image Technology US, LLC
his past Spring at FESPA Durst introduced two new UV inkjet printers—the Durst Rho 800 Presto Flatbed and the Durst Rho 351R Roll-to-Roll. At 98 inches, the Durst Rho 800 Presto offers high productivity with continuous board printing. It is compatible with Durst’s heavy-duty roll feed/take-up accessory that handles roll media up to 80 inches wide and 440 pounds. The 138-inch-wide Rho 351R can print up to 2,500 square feet per hour (sf/h). Additionally, it is capable of simultaneously printing on two, 63-inch-wide rolls of different material. Both printers are suited for indoor or outdoor grand format applications.

Fujifilm Sericol
Speed is one advancement in grand format printers. This can be seen in many of the products available from Fujifilm Sericol. "The Inca Onset is a UV flatbed unit that will produce over 5,000 sf/h. Its scale in terms of speed, design robustness, and reliability is truly unmatched in the industry," shares Terry Amerine, segment manager, wide format graphics, Fujifilm Sericol. The Inca Onset is the newest addition to the Inca flatbed line, joining the Spyder 320 and Columbia Turbo. Both of these units print up to 63 inches in width and 126 inches in length and utilize a vacuum bed. In addition to UV flatbed equipment, Fujifilm Sericol also sells the Vybrant range of solvent production printers. The Vybrant is a roll-to-roll device and is available in 76-, 102-, and 130-inch widths.

At Graph Expo, Gandinnovations showcased its new and improved Jeti 3148-X2 flatbed printer, with 48 print heads, creating a new level of speed. With an ink designation of eight heads per color, six color combinations are created. Gandinnovations also has a new textile printer with a built-in heater. The Jeti 3324 Aquajet is a three-meter roll-to-roll printer that features 24 special edition print heads. A variety of applications including banners, textiles, dye sublimation, and rigid material, are created with both printers.

GCC America, Inc.
The GCC StellarJET 250UV roll-to-roll/flatbed prints media up to 98.4 inches wide. It has a continuous ink supply system, dedicated white ink, and a hybrid media handling system. Both the handling system and the media thickness capability of two inches allows for a variety of media from foam board, acrylic sheets, glass, wood, aluminum, steel, carpet, leather, and tile. Another selling point is its dual UV lamps and dual white feature for industrial production strength. Although, Kathy Lu, GCC marketing specialist, believes LED lamps, bio ink, and high speed printing are the way of the future. LED lamps live up to 20 times more than regular UV lamps. "The cost may be higher, but with no power output degenerated over time and instant on/off, it can save much more on energy cost and increase production power."

Graphtec America, Inc.
Out of Graphtec’s SignJet Pro Series, their JS310-25ES prints on media up to 100 inches. Used for car wraps, banners, and vinyl decals, this printer’s price performance value is what sets it apart from the rest, according to Diana Yamamoto, promotions manager, Graphtec America, Inc. The eco-friendly, low solvent inkjet printer performs at print speeds anywhere from 80 to 296 sf/h.

The HP Scitex XL 1500 comes in 126- and 196-inch models. What makes this printer unique is its infrared drying system that even dries double-sided prints. The TurboJet (TJ) 8300/8500 is a 145-inch device considered the fastest machine in the market. At SGIA, HP announced a double-sided upgrade available for all new and existing HP Scitex TJ 8300/8500 printers. The HP Scitex FB 6700, a flatbed printer, prints media up to 126 inches. An environmentally safe machine, it boasts a two years outdoor durability despite water-based inks. HP Scitex’s XL 2200 model, a 196-inch roll-to-roll UV based printer, debuted at SGIA. "A very advanced machine," according to Ziki Kuly, marketing manager, HP Scitex, North America, it prints 4,300 sf/h and is targeted toward POP and outdoor applications. It will be available in Spring 2008.

Innovative Solutions INX
ISIJet 3400, a 134-inch solvent-based printer, is best suited for the outdoor graphics market. With its high speed and reliable technology, this printer makes for a low cost of operation. Innovative Solutions also offers the ISIJet BlueStreak UV Printer Upgrade. It is a 196-inch UV cured printing system for the NUR BlueBoard. With the upgrade customers bring their non-UV cured printing equipment up to date. This option is one of the newest developments in the grand format printer market. Jay Larsen, director, Innovative Solutions INX, shares, "Being able to effectively print on new materials like polyethylene is one of the biggest changes thanks to UV cured grand format printers."

Keundo Technology Company
Lewis Jun, overseas sales manager, Keundo Technology Company, has one explanation for the sudden dominance of UV printers. "We believe the market shift from solvent machines to UV and dye sublimation machines is due to environmental concerns." Keundo’s prominent grand format printer is the SupraQ3300 series that is manufactured as a solvent, UV, and dye sublimation printer. It also can be strictly roll-to-roll, a flatbed, or roll-to-roll with a flatbed option. All variations have print widths of up to 128 inches. Predominately used in outdoor and indoor advertising, these printers are known for their feeding accuracy, errorless double-sided printing, and high quality finishing.

Leggett & Platt Digital Technologies
L&P Digital Technologies manufactures a 130-inch printer, the Virtu130 DirectUV + Dye direct to textile printing system. It is a high volume industrial printer for textile manufacturers. Their 98-inch flatbed high-speed printer, the Virtu72, is targeted toward commercial printers and screen printers looking to add digital technology to service their customers. This past Fall, L&P introduced its newest device, the Virtu HD8. Unveiled at SGIA, the 98-inch printer won the 2007 DPI Vision Award. The rigid/ roll-to-roll printer can print on a variety of rigid substrates up to 2.5 inches thick, as well as textiles and other rolled media.

MacDermid ColorSpan, Inc.
Displaying an array of 98-inch printers is MacDermid ColorSpan, newly acquired by Hewlett-Packard. The DisplayMaker 98uvx is a roll-to-roll/flatbed hybrid UV-curable inkjet printer and is the lowest cost grand format UV-curable inkjet printer on the market, according to Bruce Butler, director of marketing, MacDermid ColorSpan, Inc. Additionally, they offer the ColorSpan 9840uv, a wide belt-fed flatbed inkjet printer. Both the DisplayMaker 98uvx and the ColorSpan 9840uv are used for printing directly to sign and display boards with the added capability of printing to both rigid and flexible substrates.

Mimaki USA
This past Spring Mimaki introduced its JV5-320s 128-inch printer, having a high-resolution dpi of 1440. The printer can feed heavy media more than 220 pounds thanks to a secure take-up device. It is compatible with Mimaki’s solvent HS ink and ES3 ink series. The HS ink is known for its high scratch resistance and prompt drying capabilities. The safe and minimal odor of the ES3 ink is what makes it so attractive.

Designed for outdoor use, Mutoh’s ValueJet 2606 is a 102.4-inch eco-solvent printer. Its output is guaranteed three-year outdoor durability. Environ- mentally conscious, this grand format printer uses Eco-ultra inks, which can print on any uncoated media with no ventilation required. Mutoh also manufactures two solvent grand format printers from its Toucan line, the PJ-2646NX and PJ-3346NX. The printers are 102.4- and 130-inch, respectively. Like the ValueJet 2606, these two devices are ideal for outdoor printing applications like signage and billboards.

NUR Macroprinters Ltd.
NUR manufactures several grand format printers. Its Expedio 5000 and Expedio Revolution print up to 199 inches. The Expedio 3200, Expedio Inspiration, Fresco III, and Tango all have print widths of 126 inches. Versatile is the one word to describe their products. Applications include POP displays, exhibitions, interior design, billboards, and building covers. Each machine is also compatible with roll-fed and rigid media. Demand for prints on specialty media is high, according to Amir Sheinman, director of corporate marketing, NUR Macroprinters Ltd., "especially on cheaper and recyclable media for billboards."

NuSign Supply, Inc.
Distributed by NuSign Supply, the D-Gen Teleios is both a 74- and 102-inch direct to fabric printer. Similar to printing directly onto paper, the device prints on both coated and uncoated fabrics. Thanks to a built-in heat fixation unit there is no need for heat transfer papers or presses. In addition, the fabric feeding system prevents the fabric from buckling. The D-Gen Teleios is ideal for all types of fabric applications, including flags, banners, and tablecloths.

Roland DGA Corporation
The Roland printer line-up features two grand format models, the 104-inch AdvancedJET AJ-1000 and SOLJET PRO II SJ-1045. The AdvancedJET AJ-1000 can print 968 sf/h and is ideal for short-run and high-volume applications. Using EcoXtreme inks, its ink system is easy to maintain. Ink cartridges can be replaced without pausing the printer. The SOLJET PRO II V SJ-1045 has dual functionality. It uses ECO-SOL MAX ink for coated and uncoated media. But it can also be used as a sublimation unit with Roland HeatWave sublimation inks and transfer paper.

Teckwin International US
Both the TeckPro S3200 and TeckStone printers’ print widths are 125 inches. The TeckPro S3200 is a solvent inkjet, roll-to-roll printer that handles a variety of substrates of up to 120 kilograms with its robust materials transport system. The TekStone is also a solvent roll-to-roll printer that can handle an array of media including banner, flex, vinyl, mesh, and fabric. According to James Pike, VP of sales and marketing, Teckwin, "It is the perfect choice for graphic manufacturers who demand excellent value and wide materials compatibility."

TexPress Inc.
With their parent company, Japan Network Service, TexPress Inc. manufactures the TEX-104. A 104-inch, direct to fabric system, the printer is used for a variety of fabric applications including banners, backdrops, POP, flags, and displays. Fully integrated, it prints, heat fixes, and heat cuts—a major selling point, suggests Charles Sharp, president and CEO, TexPress Inc. "This greatly reduces the labor content of the finished piece while increasing overall productivity. We also have significantly lower operating costs than our competition."

Grand Gets Hotter
The success of UV inks is one important change in grand format printing. Directly related to this is the array of applications that grow daily. Manu-facturers and distributors agree that grand format printers, more specifically flatbed printers, will continue to grow in popularity.

Dec2007, Digital Output

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