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Eco-solvent printers : an overview

Large format printing is a booming market and newer innovations in the fields of equipment, ink and media are the in thing. With the new environment friendly legislations coming into force to a greater extent, a new generation of eco-solvent printers are taking a lead.

More and more sign shops  are now planning to  install eco-solvent printers as a part of their expansion plan as light solvent or eco-solvent printers have opened up the outdoor vinyl market to smaller players, allowing sign shops to produce both indoor and outdoor signages. Also, they can print on a large variety of media including uncoated ones. Hence, these printers can be used for varied signage applications such as PoPs, posters, indoor kiosks, outdoor transit shelter graphics, banners, photo reproductions, wall murals, etc. Four years back, Lyra Research, Newton, MA had forecasted that eco-solvent printers will be the fastest growing segment in the wide format digital printer market and it has been proved right.

These eco-solvent printers run on eco-solvent inks which spread less VOCs and fumes into air. They are affordable and do not require any ventilation system.  The eco-solvent inks are specially designed to work with the printers’ multiple heating phases. Firstly, the vinyl is heated which opens up its micropores to accept more ink. The heating also prevents dot gain and maintain dot integrity. Users of eco-solvent printers can adjust the printer temperatures from 35 to 50oC.

During printing, the ink is heated, which flows into the pores of the vinyl. After printing, the curing process starts which locks and binds the ink on the vinyl. During curing, solvent from the ink evaporates, which depends  on time and temperature. Inadequate ink curing can affect vinyl adhesion. It is seen that when the ink cures or solvent evaporates, it shrinks, thereby creating mechanical tension or vinyl’s contraction. Thus, the vinyl undergoes a series of changes in temperature. Specific care is taken that the vinyl does not expands or contracts at a higher rate than the liner as it can cause tunneling.

To meet the growing demand of such eco-solvent printers, many companies are offering various models to choose from. Major range of printers include :

The 8-colour Agfa :Grand Sherpa Universal digital printing system can generate a range of high-quality products, including indoor and outdoor displays, point-of-purchase displays, banners, backlight outdoor signage and more. :Grand Sherpa Universal systems come in 50, 64 and 87 inch sizes to meet specific needs. It has a high-powered engine, for fast printing speeds. Its printheads use piezo-electric, drop-on-demand technology to place each drop of ink correctly on the page. Its specialised Eco-Solvent Plus inks are UV and weather resistant for extra durability, but they release non-toxic chemicals, for cleaner and more cost-effective operation.

Mimaki Engineering also offers JV3-160SP, an affordable, low maintenance, 63” solvent inkjet printer that prints on inexpensive untreated media, at speeds up to 422 square feet per hour at 360 x 360 dpi (4 x 2) and photo quality print modes up to 1440 x 1440 dpi. With features designed for speed and quality, the Mimaki JV3-250SP Baby Grand, delivers big — up to 98 inches wide. Supporting media weight up to 242 pounds, the solvent inkjet printing of the Baby Grand can help you orchestrate outputs at a dazzling 422 square feet per hour. The Mimaki JV3-75SPII is another economical 34″ solvent inkjet printer that, despite it’s smaller size, doesn’t pull any punches. This 4-head machine is capable of printing photo-quality outputs up to 1440×1440 dpi at twice the speed of its competitor’s 2-head printers, and packs up to 6 colours. It’s ideal for sign, banner and silkscreen markets with inks that will stand up to indoor/outdoor displays.

Mutoh’s Rockhopper II high quality production printer offers a wide application versatility: outdoor poster printing, banners, long-term backlit signage, building and construction announcements, vehicle graphics, durable indoor graphics and POS displays. Apart from outdoor applications, Rockhopper II printers are also an excellent choice for durable photo-realistic prints for indoor use. The three different Rockhopper II models (50”, 64” & 87”), equipped with a new set of 360 nozzles/colour piezo-electric drop-on-demand inkjet heads, combine high speed and high quality printing, with top speeds of more than 35 m2 per hour.
Incorporating 8 colour channels, the Rockhopper II printers are set up for both 6- and 4-colour printing. For photo tone output printing, Mutoh offers a 6-colour (CMYK, light cyan & light magenta) Eco-Solvent Plus ink set. Ink comes in 220 ml smart-chip ink cassettes. For high speed, the user can load 2 x 4 CMYK Eco-Solvent Plus ink sets, offering 440 ml ink autonomy per colour and the possibility to double the machine’s speed. The Rockhopper Eco-Solvent Plus inks offer a wider colour gamut, resulting in crisp, clean and photo-realistic prints.

Mutoh’s Falcon Outdoor, large format colour printers bridge the gap between outdoor durability and price. With stepped resolution settings from 360 x 180 dpi, up to 1440 x 1440 dpi (diagonally interpolated), and maximum media widths of 48″ and 62″ the Falcon Outdoor provides for a wide range of output on variety of media. With Mutoh’s Eco-Solvent Plus inks, the Falcon Outdoor can print on uncoated media.

With available print widths of 63″ and 86″, the Falcon II Outdoor incorporates Dynamic Variable Dot Imaging to produce the highest possible image quality in piezoelectric drop-on-demand technology. It also uses the Eco-Solvent Plus ink. Roland solvent inks were developed to provide a high level of UV stability without the need for additional ventilation. Branded as Roland SOL INK, these unique inks bring great colour and ease of use to the outdoor solvent market. Used with a SOLJET printer and SOLJET certified media, Roland offers an affordable and reliable solvent output solution. Roland SOL INK has a very low-volatility formulation. Classified as a mild solvent, SOL INK is virtually odourless and does not require any special ventilation.

It uses pigment particles that are suspended in a solvent carrier fluid at higher concentrations than most solvent inkjet inks – yielding a wider colour space. Roland’s SJ-1000 is a 102-inch printer, which produces billboards, banners and vehicle graphics at a speed of 45m2/h (484 sqft) per hour. The SJ-1000 feeds media with precision for lengthy, unattended printing. A heavy-duty media handling system uses idler bars to maintain proper tension and precise media tracking, even during long continuous print jobs. Loaded with ECO-SOL INK, the SJ-1000 prints with brilliant colour at high resolutions without any need for special ventilation or environmental equipment. The ECO-SOL INK works in conjunction with an integrated media heating system to bond aggressively with both coated and uncoated materials. It is safe to use and virtually odour free. The SJ-1000 runs dual ink sets of CCMMYK to achieve rich, vibrant colours even at high print speeds.

With such a huge variety of printers to choose from, sign manufacturers can choose the one eco-solvent printer which meets their individual needs and preferences, apart from being within the environment regulations.


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