Commentary & Analysis
Drupa 2012, the Inkjet Drupa…again? A closer look at MGI
In this twelfth article of the series, David looks at MGI, its production inkjet offerings and applications.
By David Zwang
Published: June 4, 2012
Now 30 years old, MGI Digital Graphic Technology was founded in 1982. Its global headquarters and R&D center is located in Ivry-sur-Seine, just south of Paris. The company also has offices in the U.S., Germany, and Singapore. MGI has 160 employees, is a global presence in over 70 countries via a worldwide distribution network and has experienced 35% growth over the past 5 years.
MGI’s core expertise is grounded in electronics, IT, micro-mechanics, colorimetry, chemistry and inkjet. In early 2012 it acquired majority ownership of KÖRA-PACKMAT Maschinenbau GmbH. KÖRA-PACKMAT was founded in 1966 in Stetten Germany, it was formed to produce packaging production equipment. However, its product lines also include separating and feeding systems for flat products, through friction, vacuum and sliding. This combined expertise and partnership has been invaluable to the success of MGI’s uniquely designed product line. In addition, KÖRA-PACKMAT manufactures film wrapping machines for wrapping mailings, prepaid telephone, smart cards, optical media, and other similar products.
MGI has designed an manufactured their own equipment for 30 years, and at times they work with key sub-contractors (like KÖRA-PACKMAT) for production. In an effort to support the increased demand of product and accelerate growth, they made the strategic decision to acquire them.
MGI is a rather unique company in that it produces most of its inkjet products for specialty applications. In fact, MGI has defined itself by creating print production products that focus on value added benefits. This expertise can be seen in its Meteor line of electrophotographic toner based printers, which were designed to print on an extremely wide range of media, besides paper. Its multi substrate presses can also print on envelopes, PVC, PET, polycarbonate, vinyl, canvas, etc. MGI is currently on its 12th generation of digital toner press and its 3rd generation of inkjet press. And this focus and expertise has translated into interesting applications for production inkjet technology.
A primer on MGI Production Inkjet technology
The cornerstone of the MGI inkjet system is the use of a variety of single pass piezoelectric drop on demand (DoD) printheads combined with MGI technology. Its first inkjet product was the JETvarnish press that was shown at drupa 2008. It was the first digital spot UV coater in a B2 format. The printheads for JETvarnish can print at a resolution of up to 720 x 2160 dpi, which translates into a UV varnish line as fine as 0.5mm, and can hold registration of ± 200 microns at 1000 sheets per hour. There is an optional extra inkjet unit available to support a second color ink or second varnish. At drupa 2012, MGI introduced its next version, the JETvarnish 3D, which features new 3D embossing capabilities as well as increased speed for traditional flat spot UV coating at 3000 B2 sheets per hour. It a new engine technology and uses printheads that can print 1200 x 1200 dpi at 3000 sheets per hour. At drupa it was shown printing a flat coating at 10 microns, and 3D at a thickness of 50 to 70 microns. The JETvarnish 3D will be available for delivery in the Fall 2012.
MGI’s second production inkjet device was the JETcard, a production card factory. Using the same scalable inkjet print engine technology and its ink and chemistry expertise, MGI developed a production system that takes blank paper or plastic cards (with smart chips, magnetic strips, or RFID) and prints, personalizes, spot or flood UV coats, encodes the magnetic stripe and verifies the final cards at speeds up to 8,000 cards per hour. It prints 6+ colors (with hexachrome options in the works), including images, micro text, security inks for black light reveal, Guilloché patterns, and more with full variable data.
MGI’s third production inkjet press, the JET 7540, was designed as a calendar press. It produces personalized calendars from preprinted and bound calendar shells. This was created to facilitate personalized calendar orders. Supporting a format of 74 x 65cm, it uses the same 720 x 2160 dpi printheads and ink technology as the JETcard machines.
At drupa 2012, MGI showed its new ALPHAJET B2 production UV inkjet press. It uses the 1200 x 1200 dpi printhead, and can print full variable data with 6+ colors plus inline spot or flood UV coating at 3000 sheets per hour.
Furthermore, thanks to MGI’s scalable inkjet engine technology, a specific solution may host multi-brand and head formats…based on what the product or client needs to accomplish and the final application.
Unlike many other manufacturers’ production inkjet systems, if properly maintained, the MGI inkjet printhead technology is designed to last for the life of the device. Should the system need attention, an operator notification would be triggered and for most issues, the operator can perform a simple “washup process” that is designed to have the machine back in production within about 15 minutes. Redundancy is also a key component of the design.
The inks used in the MGI production inkjet systems are all UV based pigment inks, developed and manufactured by MGI. The integrated UV lamps are an Ozone free system that completely dries the media at machine speed. The JETvarnish 3D and ALPHAJET use low energy LED UV for drying. The MGI inks are solvent free, and are packaged in 6 liter containers.
The Press Transport(s)
One of the key aspects of the MGI equipment is that is designed for specialty production, whether it be the wide variety of media, bound calendars or plastic cards. This requires a special expertise in transport systems.
The MGI production inkjet presses use systems that includes both friction and vacuum feed and transport. All of the machines have a unique media registration system that automatically senses and adjusts the media feed, including skew, currently to a registration of ±200 microns. Since they can print on such a wide media range, the printheads are automatically height adjustable to support 135gsm to 600gsm (50 to 220lb).
MGI Front End(s)
As you can imagine, the unique print applications require a unique front end to control them. One of the many areas of expertise at MGI is IT and software development. This has enabled the company to create very specific machine control systems to support those applications. For example, the JETcard doesn’t just need to print, it also needs to encode the magnetic strips on the cards and verify each one of them since they are the equivalent of currency when distributed. It also needs to keep track of and reprint any defective cards. Add to that the fact that the machine can support printing on two sides, all at machine speed, and you can see that this is a formidable task.
The current offering of MGI inkjet DFEs are built on top of the EFI Fiery XF platform. The new MGI DFE for the ALPHAJET will feature new technology with a lot of the core development done by MGI.
Putting it to use
I had an opportunity to speak with Mark Lamb the CEO of Optimum Card Solutions. They offer a full range of services to the gift card industry in their 30,000 square foot manufacturing facility in Addison IL. When Mark first saw the machines at a card expo, he was immediately taken by the design and saw the fit in his operation.
They installed 2 MGI JETcard machines July of 2011, and after some testing went into full production at the end of the year. Prior to getting these machines, Optimum would purchase preprinted CR80 cards from local suppliers and then personalize and encode them. With the new machines, they can now print variable personalized and encoded cards in one process. This not only saves time, but increases their flexibility and allows them to create new product offerings.
In the next article, I will continue this production inkjet educational series by looking at Impika production inkjet offerings and applications. In each subsequent article we will look at a different vendor’s offerings, and how they are being used in production.