The past year showed no shortage of news about new equipment—flatbeds, roll-feds, and hybrids—upgrades to existing technologies, and even inks. Profitability is a deciding factor for both the print service provider and the manufacturer. "Digital technology has begun to excel in its ability to increase run sizes, for which a shop can improve the cost of production, and hence, profitability. Of course, profitability for smaller print runs—and flexibility to provide variable data within signs—also favor digital inkjet technology," explains Heather Kendle, director or marketing, Inca Digital Printers.
Agfa introduced three new iterations of its popular :Anapurna brand. "Among our greatest achievements is the ability to print at photo quality with the new :Anapurna XLS printer, which is very fast," notes Mike White, wide format manager, Agfa Graphics Industrial Inkjet Systems. "To enable photo quality at production speeds, we created innovative technology, including the transport belt, to move the media."
"The technology found in our :Universal Print Head (UPH) inkjet heads is also of great benefit to our customers in high-demand graphics and packaging applications," White says. "It all adds up to an extraordinary degree of reliability for the printer."
Summa, Inc.’s technologists were hard at work improving upon its existing product line over the past year.
"Summa’s line of outdoor, durable, thermal transfer printers have seen numerous enhancements, including improvements in dpi—doubling output resolution, added print speeds to increase throughput while reducing output cost by introducing a wider range of low-cost materials, and expanding application possibilities," explains Royce Owen, marketing manager, Summa, Inc.
Responsible for rolling out three new digital print engines in the past year alone, "Inca Digital Printers continues to focus on improvements addressing one of the most important requirements for sign and display companies—productivity," asserts Kendle. "Quality is a given necessity for shops to do business, and Inca printers demonstrated the ability to provide extraordinary print quality, registration, and accuracy."
Kendle continues, "With the launch of the Inca Onset last year, Inca helped change the face of wide format digital printing in the graphics market by offering a machine that has a remarkable ROI/business model, while providing extremely attractive, high-quality point of sale materials. It’s a case where better and faster can also result in less expensive—and more profitable," Kendle confides.
Inca Digital Printers teamed up with Fujifilm Sericol to unveil a new solution. "Our partnership with Inca Digital and the introduction of the Acuity HD 2504 flatbed in 2007 enabled sign shops to dramatically lower their production costs and enter new markets," shares Terry Amerine, segment manager, wide format graphics, Fujifilm Sericol.
In addition to widespread enhancements to print-engine performance, wide format manufacturers are focused on improving ink performance.
"All our Océ CS9000 printers, and our Océ Arizona 250 GT flatbed printer, utilize Océ VariaDot imaging technology, which can reduce ink usage by up to 35 percent, compared to six color ink systems," notes Randy Paar, marketing product manager, Océ Display Graphics, Océ North America. "Our Océ IJC930 eco-solvent inks allow users to enjoy the benefits of solvent printing but without the volatile organic compounds and odors."
Crystal Baus, assistant marketing manager, Mutoh America, Inc., remarks, "Mutoh created a patented way of laying down ink to eliminate banding. We call this process Intelligent Interweaving."
"We also have our new MUBIO ink, which is approved by the EPA’s Design for Environment Program," Baus adds. "It is a corn-based ink that is composed of renewable resources; ventilation is not required, and prints last up to two years outdoors. Even with our Eco-Ultra ink, no ventilation is required, which saves our end users money."
DuPont is also busy developing a number of inkjet inks for use in a wide variety of large format and grand format printers. "New DuPont inkjet ink and dispersion technologies continue to enable printing color any way you want, with a growing number of substrates and even wider variety of applications," notes Craig T. Reid, director of marketing, inkjet inks and dispersions, DuPont. "Direct jetting of the ink to the substrate to produce the finished goods continues to reduce production steps, provide faster turnaround, and further enable digital adoption rates."
This year wide format printer manufacturers have certainly been busy. Between additions to existing product lines, debuting entirely new product lines, product upgrades, and ink developments, manufacturers succeeded in keeping a steady stream of quality products available to print shop providers.