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Innovations of the Year

Leading Vendors Share Unique Products

Part 2 of 3

By Kim Crowley

Several leading equipment and consumables vendors launched exciting new products and portfolio enhancements this year. Although the past 12 months were not marked by an excessive amount of large format hardware sales, that has not halted manufacturers from developing advanced products.

 

From ink and media to hardware, leading vendors developed innovations focused on enhancing workflow, quality, and efficiency.

 

Hardware

Fabric Printing

Multiple sources say that textile printing experienced growth, and many vendors are jumping at the chance to support the market demand. “Europe and some parts of Asia are about five years ahead of the Americas in the maturity of the direct to fabric market,” says Dan Barefoot, president, Graphics One, LLC (GO). “Virtually all of the direct to fabric systems being sold are used in soft signage, rather than the garment industry. We do expect printers specifically for the traditional textile market to be introduced later this year in the Americas.”

 

GO offers the RJ 900 iO indoor/outdoor printer priced at $9,995, with the ability to print both indoor and outdoor images using SEPIAX ink. Addressing momentum soft signage and direct to fabric imaging, the company’s Salsa TX integrated system, priced at $39,995, includes a 64-inch printer, integrated calendar unit, and media handling system, to allow immediate entry into the soft signage market.

 

“The ever-growing attention to textile printing has resulted in media manufacturers creating different materials with specific coatings that allow for a multitude of applications,” says Roland Biemans, sales and marketing manager, Hollanders Printing Systems (HPS).

 

HPS focuses solely on digital textile printing and develops dedicated equipment as part of a production platform. New additions include the ColorBooster XL 320, a 3.2 meter, modular, direct to textile printer. If a customer needs more printheads, different colors, higher speeds, or different specifications, HPS can quickly change the configuration of the print engine, without changing the rest of the hardware. The device is predominantly used by traditional textile printers and sign makers as a flag and banner printer, using high-energy disperse direct inks with high UV resistance and wide color gamut.

Flatbed, Roll-to-Roll, and Hybrid Announcements

Durst Image Technology US LLC products focus on the upper end of the printing spectrum in regards to production speed and quality. The Durst Rho 500R five-meter UV roll-to-roll printer offers unattended printing and a three-roll-up format to print three rolls of material through the machine at once. An independent queue system allows a production shop to load different images into each queue, printing each on each roll. On the flatbed side, Durst’s Rho 1000 continuous UV printer has gained the attention of digital printers and screenprinters for its speed and continuous workflow.

 

After extensive beta testing, EFI made the VUTEk GS5000r five-meter printer commercially available at the end of May 2010. The company has approximately 100 VUTEk GS3200 superwide printers installed as well. The GS3200 3.2 meter is a hybrid flatbed and roll-to-roll. “If shops are just getting into digital, it’s a great first printer because they may not have the demand yet for a dedicated flatbed or roll-to-roll,” suggests Mark Overington, VP of marketing, EFI.

 

Epson’s Stylus Pro GS6000 is a 64-inch roll-to-roll printer with UltraChrome HS ink, a solvent-based product with eight individual colors, including orange and green. UltraChrome HS ink delivers odorless printing, eliminating the need for special ventilation or air purification systems. The printer utilizes new dual-array micropiezo AMC printheads, engineered for the demands of high-production solvent printing.

 

Fujifilm North America Corporation introduced the UVISTAR series of roll printers, available in five or 3.5 meter configurations in October 2009. The printers produce up to 3,800 square feet per hour (sf/h), and they use 32 piezo drop on demand inkjet printheads and Fujifilm Sericol Uvijet QK inks. Users are able to work simultaneously on three rolls to optimize cost effectiveness and deliver jobs on time.

 

Fujifilm also introduced the Acuity Advance HS UV flatbed printer in February 2010. The printer offers photographic print quality with speeds as high as 430 sf/h or 13 beds per hour. It also features an express mode capable of printing over 650 sf/h. The Acuity uses Fujifilm Sericol Uvijet CMYK plus white ink to deliver intense, vibrant colors. A roll media option adds versatility for printing on a variety of flexible materials.

In 2010, Hewlett-Packard (HP) introduced six new large format printers, driving the conversion from solvent to UV-curable and latex-based printing technologies. The HP Scitex LX800 126-inch latex printer features roll-to-free fall, roll-to-collector, and dual-roll capabilities, and it produces 1,200 dpi resolution at speeds up to 947 sf/h for outdoor and 484 sf/h for indoor close viewing applications. The HP Scitex TJ8600 is HP’s newest TJ-series UV printer with full and selective gloss print modes and uses new HP TJ210 Scitex Inks with reduced odor. Also of note, the HP Scitex FB500 UV flatbed printing solution, featuring a 64-inch print width and optional white ink capabilities.

 

Mimaki USA, Inc. brought the UJF-3042 LED UV table-top flatbed printer to market this year. Target applications for the printer include padless printing, and it can be used in lieu of silkscreening for short-run product decoration and personalization.

 

The new Arizona 550 GT UV flatbed printer from Océ North America builds on the successful series launched four years ago. The current series enables companies to print to roll media with the Roll Media Option, and select models  utilize the White Ink Option. With a starting list price of $202,560, the high-speed Océ Arizona 550 GT printer enables companies with smaller capital equipment budgets to enter the high-volume arena without spending $300,000.

 

Roland DGA Corporation’s two new products are the VersaCAMM VS-640 64-inch metallic inkjet printer/cutter and the VersaUV LEC-330 LED-UV inkjet printer/cutter. Developed for Metallic Silver ECO-SOL MAX ink, the VersaCAMM VS-640 features eight colors, CMYK+Lc+Lm+Metallic Silver+White. It prints and then automatically contour cuts images without any steps in between.

 

“The release of the industry’s first and only commercially viable metallic printing inkjet system offers users a range of new applications previously unavailable for short run or one-off output. Customers looking for unique and highly profitable enhancements versus just CMYK prints, we believe metallic printing provides them a competitive advantage and differentiated output,” says Rick Scrimger, VP/GM, Roland.

 

The VersaUV series is the world’s first LED-UV inkjet printer/cutter line and the industry’s only production tool to print CMYK + White + Clear Coat and contour cut designs—all in one device through one seamless workflow. The 30-inch LEC-330 model is enhanced to support Rapid Package Prototyping applications.

 

Seiko I Infotech is improving its low-solvent printing solutions, and the company is working on new products for late this year and 2011. A product highlight of the past year is the ColorPainter V-64s printer, targeted for vehicle wraps, outdoor banners, graphics, signs, and point of purchase (POP). The printer uses LX low-solvent ink. It features new industrial piezo printheads with automated maintenance, advanced SmartPass Technology, and a blower and takeup are included.


Consumables

New media and ink also entered our industry. Media types include both vinyl and fabric.

 

3M Graphics Market Centers’ materials for vehicle wraps exemplify how film technology can be specifically optimized for an application. Notable releases this year include 3M Scotchcal Graphic Film with Comply Adhesive IJ40C, a calendered, 3-mil, intermediate film for partial vehicle wrap, general sign, point of purchase and floor graphic applications using inkjet or screenprinting with solvent or UV inks. Another new option is 3M Scotchcal Perforated Window Film IJ65, an all-weather solution for flat or simple curved vehicle and POP displays. This 6-mil calendered film with a 50-50 die-perforated pattern stands up to harsh temperatures, and is intended for solvent inkjet and screenprinting.

 

3M also addresses the growing market for digitally printed wall graphics with its Wall Decorating Film IJ86E. The 6-mil product is designed specifically for interior walls on both retail and consumer applications and is printed on with UV inkjet or screenprinting ink. The product is also environmentally preferred, as the non-PVC film is made with less solvent in manufacturing. Installation is simplified, since the product can repositioned and applied without bubbles.

 

Fisher Textiles, Inc. recently brought three new products to market. GF 9101 Equality is a 124-inch wide stretch product for pop up displays that require stretch equal in all directions and opacity to cover up framework. GF 8725 Crepe 125-inch wide fabric features a unique texture and excellent wrinkle resistance, making it ideal for trade show displays, table covers, and banners. GF8874 Tri Poplin is a 122-inch wide backlit fabric with just enough stretch for use on fabric frames. It also offers wrinkle resistance and is flame retardant to meet the NFPA 701 small scale test.

 

MACtac Graphic Products’ newest additions capitalize on growing market segments, such as wall and floor graphics. The company introduced two new slip-resistant floor laminates—PERMACOLOR PermaFlex PF6400 economy floor laminate, which is a textured polyolefin for short-term applications, and textured vinyl PERMACOLOR PermaFlex PF6500 for longer term applications. MACtac also upgraded slip-resistance standards to the latest ASTM ratings to ensure that the products are the most compliant and the safest choice for customers.

 

Under the SEAL brand, Neschen Americas launched Print Shield Anti-Graffiti and Print Shield Xtreme in March at the International Sign Expo. Both products are pressure-sensitive laminates. The Print Shield Xtreme is a premium grade laminate ideal for high-end digital graphics, and works well with photographic work and UV flatbed prints. Print Shield Anti-Graffiti is a PCTFE film, which protects UV and inkjet prints from a wide variety of stains and chemicals, such as paint and permanent markers. It is ideal for protecting and increasing the longevity of graphics in graffiti-targeted areas, such as subways and bus shelters.

 

Pacific Coast Fabrics (PCF) created an entire line of performance apparel textiles this year, for use in high-tech workout gear, yoga clothing, and cycling wear. The line also includes sweatshirt and jacket fabrics with soft-brushed reverse sides. “This has proven to be a breakout year for quality, digitally printed sports apparel. This market segment expanded from inexpensive soccer and paintball jerseys to state-of-the-art moisture management fabrics,” says Jeff Sanders, digital sales manager, PCF.

 

Sanders highlights major improvements on the part of ink providers in the area of developing digital pigments. “Once this technology is perfected it will open up significant new markets for the use of the many cotton fabrics we stock,” he shares.

 

There is an increased demand for UV and LED curable ink solutions. “We assume that this increase stems from industry trends such as reducing the use of hard solvents and energy waste, continuous improvement of UV-curable print quality, the smaller footprint of UV printing machines, price drops, and the expanding range of UV-curable printable substrates,” states Moshe Zach, CEO, Bordeaux Digital PrintInk Ltd.

 

In response, Bordeaux offers its new PLASMA PLMF, flexible LED curable inks for Mimaki LED printers, with high elongation rate and high gloss. They support rigid media printing. PLASMA PLMF is one of Bordeaux’s Mix & Match products, which is seamlessly interchangeable with Mimaki’s original inks. Bordeaux is evaluating new market opportunities, and plans to further expand into UV and LED curable inks, as well as adding Mix & Match options for the Epson Stylus Pro GS6000 and the Roland AdvancedJET AJ1000.

 

GO offers its SEPIAX ink, a water-based resin targeted to users looking to print on standard or unique, uncoated substrates.

 

This year INX Digital International Co. launched color- and chemistry-compatible MLD mild-solvent inks for wide format machines. Eco, bio, and true solvent versions will launch before the end of 2010. Customers change out one cartridge at a time, saving on shipping costs. “The customer base is trying to save every dime they can, and they don’t want to throw away half-empty cartridges,” says Karla Witte, VP of business development, INX Digital. The company aims to save customers 35 to 50 percent over OEM ink.

 

Workflow/Software

Sébastien Hanssens, VP, marketing, Caldera Graphics, notes the importance of the new Adobe PDF Print Engine. “The Adobe PDF Print Engine option enables integrated, end-to-end PDF workflows for printing graphically rich content, including variable content for personalized publishing. Solutions such as Caldera V8 software version powered by Adobe PDF Print Engine allow PDF files to be rendered natively, without conversion to Postscript, helping to ensure that complex designs and transparency effects are efficiently and reliably reproduced,” he states.

Caldera also offers its new i1Prism engine that enhances color separation and matching in the print workflow, and the Flow+ business workflow solution that centralizes all of the information needed to make business more profitable.

 

ONYX Graphics, Inc. recently announced version X10 for its ProductionHouse, PosterShop, and RIPCenter. “To create version X10 we not only talked with print providers, but watched how they worked in production,” says Dean Derhak, product director, ONYX. Main improvements in version X10 are based on improving workflow automation and reducing production costs. For example, with new print and print-and-cut workflow in X10, shops can save hours of time a day, while the new media profiling process and unattended printing capabilities help reduce costs.

 

In the last year ONYX also introduced a production tracking tool. ONYX PrintMetryx is a subscription-based Web service predicts, manages, and reports print costs. “We built this because we observed many print shops that could not easily view job costs and production trends for all of the printers in their workflow,” explains Derhak. ONYX PrintMetryx JobView is included as part of ONYX Version X10 with add-on reporting capabilities available through a service agreement.  

 

Applications of the Year

From hardware to workflow, manufacturers invested the time and money in research and development to create unique, innovative solutions. The advancements shown here power the industry in 2010. Without these additions, we would not be experiencing the beginning of the upswing many feel is currently occurring.

 

The last part in the State of the Industry Web series looks at several projects that personify the revitalization of the graphic arts in 2010.

Click here to read Part 1 of this exclusive online series, State of the Industry.



Click on the link above to get more information on the vendors mentioned in this article.

Jul2010, Digital Output StateoftheIndustry10

 

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