Photo labs are no longer confined to traditional photo processing machines. Advances in digital printing open a new wave of opportunities—creating cost effective solutions for photo labs on a daily basis. Wide format is taking retail and wholesale photo labs by storm, but UV printing in particular is gaining presence.
Grand Format UV Printing
"There are a number of photo labs that embraced large format right away. Now, more are looking at UV as the next step," explains Michael White, sales manager, Agfa. "UV allows printing directly onto rigid substrates and it’s environmentally friendly."
Take for example Agfa’s :Dotrix. "A single pass UV printer, it produces output 25 inches wide at about 10,000 square feet per hour (sf/h). "The quality of the print is indistinguishable from offset in a lot of ways," continues White. "It produces a nice glossy print."
New presses in the Agfa :Anapurna line range in price from $80,000 to $120,000. "The :Anapurna M is a six color, high resolution printer. It’s being used by full service commercial labs that normally provide a number of services to their clients from prints to photography," explains White.
"I don’t know one ‘commercial lab’ that isn’t into large or grand format printing," states Chris Howard, senior VP, sales and marketing, Durst Image Technology US, LLC. "Many went the digital route around 1990 with the Durst Lambda, which is still an active product for us."
"Most of our Lambda customers eventually got into wide format inkjet printing and grand format UV printing," explains Howard. "Many have Durst Rho printers." The Rho 800 Presto is a 96-inch wide UV flatbed printer. Retail, trade show, event, and museum signage are its primary output. "That’s where the growth is in the commercial lab segment for our customers, as well as in retail and wholesale labs," explains Howard.
Also part of the Rho family, Durst’s Rho 600 Pictor is an entry level, flatbed, roll-to-roll UV ink machine for all substrates—wallpaper, canvas, and specialty surfaces. Finding popularity in photo labs, it comes equipped with proprietary Quadro Array printhead technology for color accurate images at true 600 dpi resolution. Though it was designed primarily for rigid substrates, the unit prints directly onto any surface up to 62 inches wide and 1.58 inches thick at print speeds of nearly 200 sf/h.
Photo Lab Equipment Roundup
Besides the above UV options, the following hardware manufacturers offer these products for use in both retail and wholesale photo labs.
Canon U.S.A.’s imagePROGRAF iPF8100 printer includes 12-color pigment LUCIA ink, which is formulated to reduce graininess, minimize bronzing, and resist scratching and fading. The iPF8100 automatically switches between black and matte black during printing. Users simply select the paper type and the printer uses the correct black to optimize print quality. The black ink produces high quality prints on photo glossy-type media while the matte black ink produces high contrast prints with deep black on fine art paper.
Epson Stylus Pro 7880, which can be added to any Fujifilm Frontier system, creates mounted poster prints up to 20x24 inches. The unit’s footprint is less than seven square feet yet can print images or signs in sizes ranging from 11x14 to 20x30 inches. The Epson Stylus Pro 7880 boasts a newly enhanced eight color ink technology, Epson UltraChrome K3 inks, featuring Vivid Magenta pigments. Fujifilm supplies the complete line of inks and papers for the Epson Stylus Pro 7880, including Fujifilm Inkjet Media Photo Paper Satin 270 and Fujifilm Inkjet Media Photo Paper Glossy 240.
HP’s latest platform is the Z series. The HP Z6100 is the most recent update in the company’s line of Z series printers. "It’s a production capable product," states HP’s Wolf. "About a year ago we came out with a PostScript model of the Z3100, which has found a real fit with photographers for basic design work. It comes with an Advanced Profiling Solution that allows for more accurate profiles with greater detail."
According to HP, the Designjet Z6100 printer series is ideal for print service providers (PSPs) and technical customers looking to create high impact prints. This series of printers produces photo and fine art pieces, exhibition graphics, point of purchase (POP) displays, drawings, maps, presentations, as well as short term outdoor signage. The printer is available in 42- and 60-inch models and delivers more than 1,000 feet of prints in two hours.
Noritsu America Corporation’s LPS-24 PRO large format silver halide printer is designed to print a wide variety of image sizes from five by seven to 24x100 inches for portrait and commercial professional labs. Dual magazine capability allows both 12- and 24-inch magazines to be loaded simultaneously. Processing capacity ranges from approximately 27 prints per hour for a 24x36-inch print to approximately 51 prints per hour for a 12x180-inch print.
Océ North America manufactures the Océ Arizona 250 GT large format flatbed printer with UV curing. "Which allows it to achieve near photographic quality with only four colors," states Tom Giglio, national sales support manager, Océ North America. A roll-to-roll option is now available. With the roll media option, users can print onto flexible media up to 87 inches wide. The machine uses four color CMYK UV curable inks and Océ VariaDot imaging technology with near-photographic image resolution and delivers a true production print speed of 172 sf/h.
Also offered, the Océ LightJet 430, a high speed 50-inch wide format printer that delivers 4,000 dpi apparent resolution. The printer is ideal for photo lab environments with high productivity and fast turnaround projects. In addition, the Océ LightJet 430 has the ability to load and unload both exposed and unexposed media from the same side of the unit, which eliminates the need for operators to travel from one end of the printer to the other for media loading or unloading.
With the variety of wide format solutions available to photo labs it is apparent that the presence of wide format applications in this particular niche is still strong. Next week, learn about various substrates that are compatible with several of the above devices.