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Flatbed UV printers: a boon for the signage industry

With UV printers, you can print on anything and everything… this is just one of the benefits. Others include better quality, durability, ease-of-use, cost-effectiveness etc…to name a few. Little wonder then that new UV flatbed printers are launched frequently. Here’s an update on some of the latest UV printers introduced lately in the market.
 Flatbed UV printers have revolutionized the signage industry, enabling them to print on virtually any surface, both rigid and flexible. They can directly print on rigid substrates without the need of any coating. So, you can easily print on plastic, wood, glass, ceramic, stone, foamboard, metal, plyboard, etc. Besides, these printers are cost-effective as they are more durable. The prints dry up immediately as these printers use UV light to cure (dry) the ink. Another benefit is that since ink does not dry on the heads like solvent inks, the heads generally remain clean. Furthermore, they eliminate the step of pasting printed sheet onto rigid/thicker substrate, thereby saving time and increasing the smart look of the printed products. The quality of UV flatbed printers is simply outstanding. They are thus used for a number of applications such as indoor/outdoor signs, POPs, bubble wrap printing, posters, vehicle graphics, etc.

Seeing the demand and advantages of UV printers, a lot of large format printer manufacturers are focusing on bringing out newer and advanced UV printers. Here’s some information on some of these UV printers: Inca Digital Printers has introduced the Inca Onset, which the company claims is a revolutionary breakthrough in large format UV digital flatbed printing. Handling print sizes up to 10.5×5 feet and printing at speeds of 5382 sqft/hr, this automated Inca Onset delivers 100+ full bed sheets an hour. The Inca Onset’s speed and quality is delivered by a massive array of 576 Spectra printheads addressing a total of 73,728 inkjet nozzles in easy plug-in Inca print bars, supported by innovative camera alignment systems and a vacuum bed with accurate hairline registration. Inkjet printer quality is determined by inkjet nozzle performance and, while output from other printers can be affected by occasional nozzle failure, the Inca Onset has been designed with a high level of fault tolerance to ensure maximum print quality. For all its sophistication, the Inca Onset is extremely easy to operate by one operator with a minimal 20-minute setup time at the start of each day. It includes a fully automatic load/unload system as standard, however it is designed to allow users to move to manual mode within seconds if required for immediate fast proofing or production of single prints. Edge-to-edge printing enables images to be printed in bleed on substrates up to 10mm thick at full speed, providing enormous versatility in terms of what can be printed as well as the ability to proof a job on the material on which it needs to be produced.More recently, Inca Digital Printers has launched the Spyder 320 Q fine quality digital UV flatbed printer for high end and closely viewed printing at Fespa 2007. This printer features a new printhead, designed for and unique to Inca, that accurately delivers a fine resolution 10-picolitre drop size at production speeds of up to 37 sqm/hr.

The Spyder 320 Q fine quality is ideal for applications where a crisp image, fine lines and sharp text is critical such as high fashion graphics, gaming machine panels and closely viewed prints. Reversed out text as small as 4pt has smoother edges producing easier to read prints at all viewing distances.

According to Bill Baxter, MD of Inca, “This new Spyder machine allows even smaller format size work to be effectively tiled up and with small drops delivering excellent reversed text and quality prints and an ideal choice for companies wishing to get very high quality at a sensible production speed.”

 Fespa 2007 also witnessed Inca Digital and Fujifilm Sericol’s launch of an enhanced Columbia Turbo that features new levels of speed, quality and a new formulation of Fujifilm Sericol Uvijet inks.

Fujifilm Sericol’s vast experience in innovative UV digital ink formulations, and understanding of the needs of the market has been central to the development of the Onset. Simultaneously, Fujifilm Sericol has been developing a new range of its industry leading Uvijet UV digital ink for use in the Inca Onset. Using patented Micro-V dispersion technology, the Uvijet UV digital inks for Inca Onset are formulated with automotive grade pigments that deliver exceptional density to create vibrant, durable, light-fast colours and, for the first time, the system can offer either a satin or gloss finish. Uvijet inks also provide superior adhesion to many different materials, including paper and board, wood, flexible and rigid plastics, and metal.

Also, MacDermid has come up with ColorSpan 5400UV series of multi-functional inkjet printers, which combine the ultra high quality of an aqueous thermal inkjet printer, and the outdoor durability of a solvent printer, with the media flexibility of a UV-curable inkjet printer. Designed to fit the needs of big and small print shops, they feature a compact design that is big on performance. These fast and affordable 54-inch-wide UV printers can produce ultra-high-quality images directly onto an endless variety of inexpensive uncoated materials from rigid display boards to roll-fed media, without the need of lamination. All four models have a 54-inch (137cm) print width and feature a set of integrated tables that fold up and can extend outward to accommodate rigid media up to 8-feet (244 cm) in length. The tables fold down and are out of the way for printing on roll-fed media while conserving precious floor space. These printers boast a top print speed of 388 sqft/h (36 m2/h) in their 600×600-dpi billboard quality print mode or their 600×300-dpi production quality print mode. The ColorSpan 5440UV and 5460UV using one printhead per colour are one-half the speed of the other two models.

Then, Agfa has recently launched Anapurna XL2, a 250-cm wide (98.4 inches) printer, which offers very high-image quality, excellent text reproduction, smooth tints, vivid colours and good solids, and white ink option. It features dual-board printing (two images at the same time) for increased productivity, borderless printing and comes standard with two rigid tables and the Agfa Edition Wasatch SoftRIP. The 6-colour system features print heads with a 28 pl calibrated drop size.

The company has also announced a new addition to its Anapurna range of industrial wide-format inkjet systems. The 160 cm (63 inch) wide Anapurna M industrial wide-format inkjet printer uses state-of-the-art 14 picoliter printheads and Agfa-made UV-curable Anapurna ink to make photo quality UV technology available to graphic screen printing and sign making shops at an affordable investment cost. It is capable of resolutions up to 1440 dpi and printing speeds up to 15 sq m/hr (161 sq ft/hr).

Another introduction is of the VUTEk QS3200, which combines EFI’s production and workflow management technologies with the market-leading digital print capabilities of its VUTEk superwide format printers. Recognizing customer needs for wider printer widths, the VUTEk QS3200 printer offers superior image quality on both rigid and flexible substrates up to 126 inches (3.2 meters) wide and up to two inches (5.08 cm) thick, offering customers the opportunity for increased profit through a greater range of applications and services. Additionally, it features the ability to change between rigid and flexible substrates in less than one minute to produce output up to 900 square feet (84 square meters) per hour – or up to 22 – 4’ x 8’ boards per hour – allowing users to meet demanding turn-around times while producing greater quantities of high quality product than ever before.

 The latest from the Zund is the UVjet 250-Combi, which is designed to meet the requirements of the future graphic market. It can also print on a wide range of materials such as heat sensitive, moisture absorbent or charged with static electricity. Designed for industrial use, the UVjet 250-Combi guarantees continuous production and minimum downtime. Other features include standard 4 colour printing (CMYK) with 400 dpi addressable resolution, optional 6 colour printing (CMYKLcLm) with 600+ dpi apparent resolution for smoother gradients, better skin tones, etc. With the addition of white ink and selective varnish, it offers unlimited opportunities.

Teckwin UV curable printer is yet another offering from China which is available in both “hybrid” and “true flat” configurations to suit your requirements. TeckSmartUV and TeckUV lead the market for quality UV printers without the expensive price tag. TeckSmartUV is suitable for both roll-to-roll and sheet-to-sheet. TeckUV printers are industrial strength and meet high production schedules where precise alignment and repeatability is essential. The “True Flat” table allows for large, heavy and thick rigid sheets. TeckSmart UV1600/2500 printers offer resolution up to 720dpi at printing speed up to 183 sqft/hr (17m2/hr). It can be configured for 5 or 7 colours: C/M/Y/K + white or C/M/Y/K/Lc/Lm + white.

Italy-headquartered Neolt SpA is all set to launch the new generation of its UV printers, the SuperJet M-Series. This machine, which will start shipping in September 2007, will be a four-colour printer upgradeable to six colours, for which white ink and varnish will be available. Printing on both rigid and flexible materials with a maximum width of 2050 mm or 2500 mm at a max resolution of 600×800 dpi and a max productivity of 44 sqm/h, the SuperJet-M series will offer a professional, printing solution at a highly affordable price.

 Last but not the least introduction is by Gandinnovations, which has now officially released its new economical Jeti 1224 True UV flatbed printer to worldwide sales. The printer was launched earlier this year at the International Sign Expo in Las Vegas, NV, USA, and won the industry professionals’ hearts at once. As per Hary Gandy, president of worldwide sales for Gandinnovations, “The new Jeti 1224 is a compact and economical flatbed specifically designed to give print shops the versatility they need.”

The new Jeti 1224 features a 4ft x 8ft “bed” that is purposely designed for North American standard rigid material sizes and it will also have a standard safetyhood that raises and lowers automatically and covers the full printing area for ventilation purposes. It uses 24 Spectra printheads to produce high-speed graphics in 6-colours, with 1200 dpi to achieve 40 sqm/hr (450 sqft/hr) in best quality mode. The Jeti 1224 with 6-colours, 1200 dpi prints not only on rigid materials such as acrylics, corrugated board, lenticular, wall murals,

poster board, tile, drywall, blinds and glass but other materials like fabrics, vinyl and many other plastic films.

These are just a few of the UV printers launched recently; there are quite a few more and the list is increasing continuously, owing to their various advantages over solvent and water-based printers. The applications of these printers are also growing in the signage industry due to their ability to print on virtually any surface. Wooden doors, panels, tiles…infact anything can be customised and personalised with these UV flatbed printers.

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