Grand Format Printers Advance
By Cassandra Carnes
The advantages of going grand continue to improve as manufacturers provide new products and upgrades. Digital Output considers printers over 95 inches to be grand format. The latest industry advancements in this space are the result of response to customer demand and the continuous push to make products faster, wider, and more affordable to own and operate. Enhanced productivity, versatility, integration capabilities, as well as ink and media advancements are top priorities among grand format print providers and the vendors that serve them.
Customer demand is a large factor driving change in the grand format space. This relates to print service provider’s (PSP’s) requirements as well as customers. The need for speed, productivity, or quality is key to a PSP’s decision to choose one device over a competitive solution. In addition, versatility is essential to better serve a broader range of customers.
Christopher Howard, VP of marketing and sales, Durst Image Technology US LLC, predicts that in the coming years, end user campaigns still be large in scale, but the need for flexibility within the print run will continue to grow with different messaging and materials.
“The grand format area today is dominated by big media companies catering to large corporate clients,” notes Eric Zimmerman, product manager, Roland DGA Corporation. “Alternatively, certain devices play an important role in the market by allowing PSPs to profitably serve small- and mid-sized businesses,” he adds.
The grand format space is continuously advancing, providing increased speeds, higher-quality output, better media handling, evolved curing technologies, and more sustainable solutions. Several factors drive the creation and adoption of such enhancements.
Steve Cutler, marketing product manager, inkjet and Todd Murphy, business development manager, wide format inkjet equipment, graphic systems division, Fujifilm North America Corporation, expect the move from solvent to UV inkjet printers to continue. Additionally, they see customers looking for products that offer better image quality without compromising speed. Driving these trends is the push towards sustainability and the need to reduce volatile organic compounds (VOCs), increased competition, and a stronger demand for high-quality output.
While printhead technology becomes faster and more reliable, Jeff Olson, national sales manager, North American sales, Infotech division, Seiko Instruments USA, Inc., sees the main focus on ink development.
UV LED is another factor in the grand format printing space. Joseph Tsai, inkjet marketing specialist, GCC, says the popularity of UV LED is due in part to its environmental advantages.
“We expect a continuation of the trends towards sustainable production of wide format graphics,” shares Harel Ifhar, strategic marketing manager, Scitex division, Hewlett-Packard (HP). He explains that recent years have brought a shift away from solvent and screenprinting towards solutions with a better environmental profile. “The range of substrates available that offer strong environmental credentials has also grown significantly,” he adds.
Durst’s Howard expects a push towards high-production systems as the benefits of a digital workflow continue to have merit. PSPs are faced with the need to answer quick market turnaround demands, particularly in the retail space. “Customers are changing workflows in order to drive to a more print-to-kit fulfillment model, and with that the need for fast changeovers on a high-speed digital production line are important,” he adds.
Integration and workflow play a major part in productivity. Understanding job costs and profitability is a constant concern for print providers. Through workflow integration, PSPs are able to eliminate unnecessary touch points, reduce waste, improve communication, and provide better visibility into the profitability of every job, explains Ken Hanulec, VP marketing, inkjet solutions, EFI.
Kevin M. Sykes, president/CEO, Novus Imaging, Inc. and CEO, PrinterEvolution, LLC, believes the industry is at a crossroads and looking for the next big thing. “Print providers are increasingly squeezed by customers to provide equal or better quality than they’re providing today at a lower cost per square foot, as well as being asked to provide more sustainable options. The only way to do that is with a new technology and a new way of approaching the business,” he states.
Grand Scale Solutions
Below, printer manufacturers share the latest advancements to their grand format product lines. For a comprehensive look at products in this space, flip to our annual grand format printer Target Chart on page XX.
Agfa Graphics adds to its family of grand format UV-curable inkjet printers with the :Anapurna M2540 FB. The dedicated flatbed engine features quick-change vacuum bed technology, six colors, and white ink. The :Anapurna M2540 boasts a maximum print speed for 484 square feet per hour (sf/h) and print sizes up to 2.54 meters in width.
CET Color offers the X-Press 500 UV flatbed printer, which provides a production printing speed of 480 sf/h. Featuring optional white ink, the printer outputs on transparent and colored media. The customizable print spooler improves imaging workflow with pre-set media settings, a fast RIP, and the ability to change print quality without re-RIPping. The integrated four-zone, reversible vacuum table holds media stationary while printing, eliminating the need for jigs and extra setup time. The X-Press 500H UV hybrid printer utilizes Spectra Polaris 512 nozzle printheads with a 15 picoliter drop size that also uses white ink. The table features a unique alignment system for accurate and consistent rigid media placement and full-bleed printing capability eliminates the extra finishing steps of trimming prints.
d.gen International recently announced its new Teleios Grande 3333TX textile printer, which is compatible with knit fabric without a sticky belt thanks to a patented roll-to-roll feeding system. Teleios Grande performs a variety of applications based on disperse dye and textile pigment ink for soft signage markets as well as professional textile mills printing on materials such as cottons for bed cloths.
Among DGI’s grand format offerings is the PS-3206S. The 126-inch device features Spectra Nova 256 AAA printheads and a high-precision feeding system. Core features of the device include an all-in-one main body and stand, bulk type ink refill system, mesh printing capability, negative pressure with pneumatic pump, and drop control technology.
Digitex Printing Technologies Co. Ltd. offers its Gunsjet R4, E5, and T5 products. The R4 series utilizes new Ricoh GEN4 printhead technology featuring precise intelligent control. The Gunsjet E5 series uses a double Epson DX5 printhead design as well as an infrared heating system. The Gunsjet T5 series utilizes two Epson DX5 printheads.
Dilli Co. provides a range of devices that offer a print width of 98 inches, including the Neo Venus UVV-2506 (GW). The grand format Venus utilizes a Spectra printhead to produce a resolution of 727x800 dpi. Pressure adjustment within the printhead prevents ink leakage.
Durst is focused on bringing productive and efficient printing solutions to the market. Regarding its grand format products, key advancements further automate the Rho 1000 platform with Mirus feeding and stacking units. This addition allows for another step of production flexibility that its highest end platform offers, with the ability to run full automation of thin sheets, boards, pre-cut materials, and roll materials.
EFI manufactures VUTEk superwide digital inkjet hybrid and roll-to-roll printers. Earlier this year, the company announced its new production-level LED UV-curing printer, the VUTEk GS3250LX, which includes continuous board capability. The LED UV-curing technology is available as a field upgrade for existing GS3200 customers, while the continuous board option can be added to the GS2000 and GS3200/GS3250 printers in the field or out of the factory.
Fujifilm introduced a new Uvistar2 line of superwide format UV roll inkjet printers at SGIA. The Uvistar2 is a high-speed, high-quality, UV roll printer. It features new Parallel Drop Size technology, which enables printing both 20 and 40 picoliter drops in the same pass. Coupled with a linear encoder and real-time ink temperature controls, Uvistar2 results in more accurate drop placement and improved fine text quality, especially at fast production speeds. Software improvements include the ability to print multiple rolls of different images with ease, and new on-press, scale-up, and color correction features further enhance productivity.
Gandy Digital offers the 96-inch Pred8tor. Recent advancements to the product include inline white or clear, an automated printhead cleaning system, Apple iPad graphical user interface controls, image layout, and diagnostics.
GCC offers two series of grand format UV printers, the StellarJET K100UV and StellarJET 250UV. The StellarJET K100UV features a new, progressive generation UV-curable inkjet printer that utilizes 16 Konica Minolta piezoelectric printheads, customer-oriented variable color, an anti-crash sensor, and a built in heavy duty roll-to-roll system. The StellarJET 250 UV-curable inkjet printer offers a diverse option of printable media. It also features dedicated white ink, intelligent automatic media calibration, and a hybrid media handling system.
At SGIA, HP introduced the HP Scitex FB7600 Industrial Press, featuring a number of upgrades from its predecessor, the HP Scitex FB7500. Enhancements include a new POP55 print mode, inks that enable improved productivity on plastics as well as a reduced odor, and an updated Print Care package for maximum uptime. Additionally, the company announced the HP Scitex XP5500 and XP2500 Industrial Printers, which offer a new print mode, higher throughput than predecessors, and the ability to print on a wider variety of low-cost media.
Hollanders Printing Systems’ (HPS’) textile-only product platform includes equipment for printing, fixing, washing, and cutting. The company most recently released a new print engine edition that allows for quicker turnaround times, improved screening, and higher speeds. Based on customer feedback, HPS developed new print modes that offer higher speeds on certain materials, as well as ultra-fine, high-quality printing at lower speeds for material that needs time to absorb ink.
Infiniti, distributed by Aeromatrix, Inc., offers a line of high-resolution digital printers including the Fina320SW. The 126-inch solvent-based digital printer is equipped with the Skywalker printhead JA128/50 from Spectra; which provides resolution up to 1,200 dpi.
INX International Ink Co. developed its Evolve MD1000 series for package prototyping, short-run packaging, metal decorating, specialty advertising items, and point of purchase. The solution produces image quality over 1,200 dpi.
M.T.L Print Ltd. MTL 300 series of digital flatbed printers offer true, non-stop production capacity. It features a throughput of up to 250 square meters per hour and an apparent image quality of 1,400 dpi, and workflow that allows for no set up between prints.
Mimaki USA, Inc. recently introduced the JV34-260 superwide format printer. Based on the JV33 series, the new model features a print width of 103.6 inches and incorporates two newly developed printheads in a staggered arrangement to provide a high productivity of up to 323 sf/h. Mimaki’s RIP software is included in the standard package. The JV34-260 also incorporates Mimaki’s automatic media feeder to ensure continuous web tension over the entire width of the substrate. Additionally, the uninterrupted ink supply system enables continuous ink supply. The device features three variable dot sizes and a three stage intelligent heater before, during, and after printing to allow for fast dry times.
Mutoh America, Inc.’s offers the grand format ValueJet 2606-102" printer. The 2606 incorporates Mutoh’s eco-solvent ink, which creates a better working environment than most solvent inks. It also utilizes Mutoh’s Intelligent Interweave print technique, which lays down ink in a wave pattern versus a straight, horizontal pattern to eliminate banding.
Novus is a new entrant into the grand format space. At SGIA, the company announced its flagship product—Synergia H. The hybrid printer is available in two models, UV and aqueous (AQ). The aqueous model produces minimal emissions and no VOCs. The lower cost UV model can be upgraded in both speed and ink type to the Synergia H/AQ. The Synergia H features a minimum ten picoliter drop size for full grayscale capability and continuous tone printing. It has a patent pending belt design that combines enhanced material handling, increased vacuum, and improved step accuracy.
Océ North America offers the Arizona series printers, which target the mid-level market space for UV flatbed printers. Earlier this year, Océ introduced to new grand format models, the Océ Arizona 360 GT and the Océ Arizona 360 XT. The latest entries to the line enable customers to increase productivity and application versatility. The models include a UV curing system—designed by Océ—that provides more UV energy to support difficult-to-cure media while reducing heat at the media surface by 50 percent.
Paradigm Imaging Group, Inc., a distributor of SID Signs International, offers the Xpress grand format printer. The 126-inch Xpress printer boasts speeds of 1,689 sf/h. The versatile bulk ink supply system allows users to choose between one or five liters per color for either solvent or eco-solvent ink. The Xpress features pre, platen, and post heaters; two additional front infrared heaters; and a powerful fan system. It offers eight Seiko printheads and a resolution of up to 720 dpi.
Polytype America Corp. sells and services Polytype’s Virtu UV flatbed/roll and roll-to-roll UV printers throughout North America and also distributes the swissQprint Impala and Oryx UV printers. Virtu printers are Swiss designed and manufactured in Polytype’s Fribourg, Switzerland factory. Virtu RS25 and RS35 UV printers offer a three-in-one combination design that incorporates true flatbed, hybrid belt, and heavy duty roll to roll. The Virtu RR50 provides a heavyweight, stable print platform, producing superior print quality and handing features.
PrinterEvolution is a new company focused on taking solid printer platforms that are no longer competitive in the market and upgrading the technology to current standards. Its first offering is an upgrade to EFI’s VUTEk UltraVu 3360. At SGIA, PrinterEvolution introduced the Evo33 Series. Choices include the Evo33-U, where PrinterEvolution technicians come to the customer’s shop and upgrade components of a current VUTEk 3360, or the Evo33 where technicians install a printer already upgraded at its facility.
Roland offers the AdvancedJET AJ-1000i 104-inch solvent inkjet printer. The grand format device provides an affordable, six-color solution ideal for outdoor banners, billboards, building wraps, awnings, mesh, and backed vinyl, as well as canvas and other fabrics. The company also offers the SOLJET PRO II V SJ-1045 grand format eco-solvent printer, which is a six-color device that achieves 1,400x1,400 dpi image quality.
Screen (USA) provides the Truepress Jet2500UV grand format printing solution. At SGIA, Screen demonstrated the Truepress Jet2500UV’s seven-layer printing technology. With the multiple-layer option, the Truepress Jet2500UV prints up to seven image layers in one pass without feeding the media through a second time. The Truepress Jet2500UV prints exceptional double-sided window stickers and day-and-night backlit displays, along with various special effects, such as embossed graphics.
Seiko recently updated its H series products to include mesh printing, Smart Nozzle Mapping, and higher resolution printing up to 900x900 dpi. Previous models are upgradable. At SGIA, Seiko announced the ColorPainter H2-104s and H2-74s printers. Original H1 owners can upgrade to the H2 printers.
Splash of Color, Inc. specializes in direct-to-fabric printers with on board sublimation units. The company’s grand format offerings include 104- and 132-inch wide systems. It recently introduced the DFP-1320 G4, which is a 3.2-meter direct-to-fabric printer with an on board sublimation unit. Capable of printing at production speeds of 807 sf/h, it features eight Ricoh G4 printheads.
Teckwin International LLC offers the TeckPro UV3200, which is designed to print on a variety of coated and uncoated flexible materials up to 11 feet long and provide double-sided printing. It offers a true 800 dpi print quality with a media handling system that supports rolls up to 750 pounds. TeckPro UV3200 provides multi-roll capability for both indoor and outdoor materials and applications.
Many manufacturers promise success with grand format solutions. Depending on a shop’s need for speed, versatility, or cost of entry, there is certainly a solution designed to help break into or take over the grand format space.
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Dec2011, Digital Output