By Melissa Donovan
Many dedicated flatbeds are manufactured with media versatility in mind, but attention to this detail goes beyond the hardware and handling mechanisms. In particular, the ink sets found on these devices now incorporate specialty colors in addition to traditional CMYK. Light black, cyan, and magenta; varnish; and white are commonly used. Orange, green, and primer are additional inks seen in flatbeds.
Application trends play a part in all specialty inks’ accelerated usage. Specifically, media buyers continue to learn about the range of substrates wide format flatbeds can print onto, allowing for short-run production of packages and prototypes. Colorful foamboard, corrugated board, and non-traditional rigid substrates like glass require ink beyond basic CMYK to provide the desired high-quality finish.
Ink variety in flatbeds can present challenges, despite providing the ability to cleanly and clearly print onto non-white media, which opens up new application opportunities. Most notably, if an ink isn’t used often, the lines may clog. Hardware vendors address this with various ink circulation systems.
A Special Selection
Utilizing specialty inks such as light black, cyan, magenta; varnish; and white allows print service providers (PSPs) to offer enhanced graphics to their customers. These colors provide features unattainable with just traditional CMYK.
Light black allows for more realistically printed photography, especially for fine art and photography applications. It also facilitates better green shades. Both light cyan and light magenta are ideal for photo-based applications, as they aid in highlighting skin tones and achieving higher levels of quality.
“Varnish delivers print protection and image enhancements. Sign and display and corrugated customers ask for this as a solution to protect exposed media from rub, marks, and wetness; achieve unique visual appearance; increase differentiation from competitors; and to have an on-press versatile solution,” shares Eyal Duzy, marketing segment manager, Hewlett-Packard (HP) Scitex Worldwide.
White ink is ideal for printing on transparent media used in window applications, especially in the point of purchase (POP) space. Used as a spot color, it can create double-sided images on the inside/outside of a retail store. It is also frequently used on non-white, colored substrates. Combined with silver and metallic particles, white ink can create high-end display graphics.
In addition to light black, cyan, magenta; varnish; and white other specialty inks are found on dedicated flatbeds.
Some printers feature spot colors. “Orange and green are popular as well as dedicated Pantone colors of red and blue. Customers use them to more accurately meet logo colors for clients or large areas of solid colors that need to match a particular client need. It has very small usage at present, but as printer manufacturers plan for this and client demand increases, it will surely grow,” foresees Jim Cain, director of sales – digital, Polytype America.
“Brand owners are pushing for accurate color matching to their brand color in order to protect their brand identity. As a result, PSPs are requesting higher accurate reproduction of certain brand colors on digital presses. That leads to increased gamut requirements and we expect a growing demand for adding gamut expansion inks,” agrees Duzy.
Primer is another consideration. With glass, the primer prepares the surface and helps the ink adhere. “This makes it easier to print straight to glass rather than onto media,” adds Larry D’Amico, VP digital imaging, North America, Agfa Graphics.
PSPs constantly look to offer customers unique applications or short runs of traditional applications at better costs and higher quality. Accelerated usage of different media printed on dedicated flatbeds is directly related to the use of specialty inks.
“Most of the new technology in UV flatbed printing gives a printer the opportunity to print on materials such as glass, metal, wood, and other non-traditional media. Gone are the days where you printed only on a white substrate,” explains Claudia Ramirez, product manager – Triangle, INX International Ink Co.
Customer demand drives the usage of specialty inks. “The demand from end users has driven expanded applications and those application demands have required ink manufacturers to develop ink lines suitable for PSPs’ needs,” says Becky McConnell, associate marketing manager, Fujifilm North America Corporation, Graphic Systems Division.
Some of these applications are requested by clients for individual jobs, while others come directly from manufacturers trying to make more feature-rich offerings to potential clients to help increase sales activity, shares Cain.
According to Ruth Zach, marketing coordinator, Bordeaux Digital PrintInk Ltd., there is a constant demand for broader color gamuts and graphics that provide higher definition. She cites these features as critical for fashion advertising, cosmetics, and styling campaigns.
“Invariably, application drives usage. Clients asking PSPs, can you do this, leads our customers to find a way to make it happen. Specialty inks give them the means to meet their needs,” admits Ken VanHorn, director, marketing and business development, Mimaki USA, Inc.
Retail POP drives a good portion of EFI’s light ink demand. “Customers are developing high-end, close-viewing signage for premium brands and the light inks are good at increasing the apparent resolution of the print,” continues Mike Wozny, senior product manager, ink business, EFI.
He also points out that white ink demand is growing in conjunction with the increased usage of both backlit signage and corrugated-based projects. “Customers who are printing flatbed POP displays on corrugated board have a growing need for white, and as more businesses get into digital flatbed package printing and package prototyping, white ink use on corrugated will grow there as well,” adds Wozny.
Printhead issues may occur when using an expanded amount of channels. For example, varnish and white ink might not be used often, meaning there is potential for the lines to clog.
Mimaki prevents the white ink pigment settling problem—typically the cause of clogging—with its Mimaki Circulation Technology (MCT). MCT is an inline system that regularly circulates white ink between the supply and printhead so it doesn’t have the opportunity to settle.
Agfa offers a closed circulation system where the system prevents air from entering and prematurely drying out the ink, causing clogging issues.
Jetrix flatbed printers, distributed by Seiko Instruments, include built-in preventive maintenance measures like an ink mixing device and timed interval ink purge that are automated and provide a worry-free environment for varnish and white ink usage.
Periodic maintenance is key, shares Ramirez. Standard maintenance includes wiping the printheads of residual ink, in addition to running a nozzle test of all colors/channels at least once a day.
Cain notes that clogging is more susceptible with white ink, as it is used infrequently. Varnish or spot color are run more, so clogging isn’t as dire an issue.
“UV printheads do not clog easily even when an ink may not be used often, contrary to solvent-based printers,” adds Kelly Gornick, marketing communications specialist, Seiko.
Hardware and Ink Scene
Several printer/ink manufacturers offer flatbeds that run specialty ink sets. We’ve included a selection of them here.
Agfa’s newest flatbed, with a flat-to-roll option, is the Jeti Titan S/HS with UV inks and it runs a primer as well. Its Anapurna M2540 FB with UV inks also runs specialty ink. Primer and varnish can be added to existing printers in most cases.
For a more traditional PSP, the EFI VUTEk HS100 Pro UV inkjet press is equipped with six color process inks, plus white and multilayer printing. EFI printers that currently exist in the field can be upgraded to include white and/or light ink.
Fujifilm offers a number of devices in its Acuity and Inca Onset lines that work with specialty ink sets including light cyan, light magenta, white, and varnish. These inks are available with purchase of the printer and can also be added onto an existing device. For those presses that have the capability to accept specialty inks, in-field upgrades that increase the number of print channels is possible.
HP’s Scitex FB7600 Industrial Press includes light magenta and light cyan as a standard configuration at purchase. White, light black, orange, and varnish are optional add ons. The company’s HP Scitex FB10000 Industrial Press and HP Scitex FB15000 Corrugated Press also come standard with light magenta and light cyan.
Mimaki’s JFX200-2513, JFX500-2131, and JFXplus series of printers all include white ink. The use of flexible inks, LF-140, in the JFXplus series allows for light cyan and light magenta to be used as well.
Polytype’s NQ and NKM printers and swissQprint Nyala, Impala, and Oryx printers are all equipped with specialty ink sets. Existing devices can be retrofitted to use the ink, with extra channels available depending on how the printer is configured. Changeovers—using existing channels for new ink—is also an option, but more labor and time intensive.
The Jetrix series of flatbeds, available from Seiko, are outfitted with white and varnish options. This includes the Jetrix KX3, KX5, and KX5-R devices, which utilize InkTec UMS UV ink.
Third-party ink manufacturers also offer specialty ink sets for dedicated flatbeds.
Bordeaux offers its Plasma line for UV flatbed printers—Plasma VU, Plasma MK, Plasma AR, and Plasma AC. Plasma VU, for example, is available in light cyan, light magenta, and white. All of these printer-specific inks support the manufacturers’ original color channel configurations.
INX introduced Triangle brand H76 inks in 2014. They are designed for certain HP Scitex printers and include white, light cyan, light magenta, light black, and orange for specialty inks in addition to traditional CMYK. The company also debuted Triangle brand IOS inks for specific Inca Onset printers. This product line includes CMYK, light cyan, light magenta, and white ink.
Marabu North America provides UltraJet DUV-R, a UV ink specifically designed for rigid substrates. It is available in light magenta, light cyan, and light yellow. UltraJet DUV-H is available in light magenta, light cyan, silver, and varnish.
Quite Special Indeed
Specialty inks are found in many a dedicated flatbed. Created to offer higher quality prints, adding a light cyan, magenta, black; white; or varnish to the mix can provide an unlimited number of opportunities for both a PSP and its customer. Beyond traditional CMYK, these specialty hues are an ideal add-on to an existing device—when possible, or an excellent consideration for anyone in the market for a new printer.
Jan2015, Digital Output