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Commentary & Analysis

Wide-Format at Drupa—Wrapping It Up

Week two of drupa brought few major announcements, but wide-format offerings were hardly inconspicuous.

By Richard Romano and Frank Romano
Published: June 13, 2016

In last week’s report, we noted that, from a wide-format printing perspective, this was very much a corrugated show, with major announcements and product introductions designed to bring inkjet printing to corrugated materials. Week two didn’t see too much in the way of new announcements, although there were a smattering here and there.

At last fall’s SGIA Expo, Oki Data had been showing off the fruits of its acquisition of Seiko’s ColorPainter wide-format printer line, and at drupa Oki Europe was showing off the ColorPainter H3-104s. Launched late last year, it’s a 2.6-meter eco-solvent printer that is said to print up to 56.6 square meters per hour.

More significantly, perhaps, was the launch of Oki’s next-generation wide-format printing technology, which uses aqueous pigment-based ink and is designed to print on a wide variety of materials, including polyester and clear film. Look for it to hit the market sometime in 2017.

On the finishing equipment front, Zünd launched its brand-new D3 digital cutting table, a successor to the S3 and based on the company’s G3 technology. Available in four sizes—ranging from 71 x 126 inches up to 126 x 126 inches, the cutter can essentially double productivity by using a “dual-beam” construction, with each beam (the part with the cutting tools) can carry up to three different tool modules. This construction also enables smoother loading and unloading.

In other cutting-edge news, Esko had announced the new Kongsberg X20 and C24 cutting tables a couple of months ago, but they were officially commercially available as of drupa. The X20 is a 1.68 x 1.27-meter table that is said to run up to 50 meters per minute, and the C24 is a 1.68 x 3.22-meter that is said to run up to 100 meters per minute.

While there may not have been a slew of major product announcements specific to wide-format, this is not to say that wide-format was absent from drupa. Far from it. Wide-format printing was widely displayed throughout the show. New and improved printers were in seemingly every booth, as vendors showcased some of their most recent equipment introductions. The most highly touted features included white ink, extended gamut inks, and extended production features including higher speeds, thicker materials, and a much greater variety of substrates.

Here’s a rundown. Apologies for the mix of metric and English units. You know how it goes.

Agfa Graphics was showing its series of Anapurna LED UV-cured printers with air-cooled 16 watts-per-square-centimeter LED curing lamps. They include Anapurna H2500i, H2050i, and RTR3200i. (H stands for hybrid flatbed/roll-to-roll; RTR is roll-to-roll.) All use six Konica Minolta piezo inkjet heads and six colors: cyan, magenta, yellow, black, light magenta, and white. Speeds are up to 127 square meters per hour. The 2500i has an optional automatic board feeder and the 3200i has dual-roll printing capability.  Agfa’s Jeti Tauro in a three-quarter configuration has an Automatic Board Feeder and unloader system.

Amica Systems was exhibiting its CFL1914 wide-format flatbed for printing sheets and boards up to 74.8 x 56.7 inches. It uses UV-LED curing lamps—LED UV is quickly becoming de rigueur on flatbed printers—and two cooling fans. It prints process colors and white ink.

Canon Solutions America had its Océ ColorWave 910 single-pass inkjet printer which replaces the ColorWave 900. The latest version is said to print up to 1,000 square meters per hour. Canon was also showing its latest imagePrograf Pro inkjet series fine art, photographic and signage, including, the Pro-2000, Pro-4000, and Pro-6000S.

In addition to announcing the Nozomi C18000s corrugated printer, EFI was also showing its very broad product line, including the H1625-SD for direct inkjet printing of thermoformed substrates; printing on thick thermoforming plastics is hot (in more ways than one). EFI was also showing the Vutek HS125 Pro production 3.2-meter printer, and the Vutek LX3 Pro for POP/POS applications. The entire product line was on display. The high-speed B1 corrugated printer is a winner.

As we mentioned last week, Epson introduced its 1.1-meter (44-inch) SureColor SC-P10000, a junior version of the 1.6-meter (64-inch) SC-P20000. It is intended for photo labs, small copy shops, and inplant users.

ESC Practika flatbeds print nano-sized inks on glass, ceramics, leather, and metals. ESC’s inks come in CMYK and other colors. The Practika MIG 64 prints up to 3 x 1.6 meters on substrates 250 millimeters (9.8 inches) thick at 1,440 dpi. The GoTx textile printer series using Epson DX7 piezo inkjet heads print in either dual CMYK or eight-color CMYK plus extended gamut colors such as red, green, and violet. Speeds are said to be 32 square meters per hour up to 95 square meters per hour. GoTx printers feature ESC’s patented media feeding system, which limits fabric shift without an adhesive belt. GoTx printers come in 1.9-meter (74.8-inch) and 2.6-meter (102-inch) print widths. ESC offers optional inline fixation systems and offline pre-treatment station.                      

Fujifilm was exhibiting the Inca Onset X flatbed inkjet printer—which debuted at SGIA last fall—with Fujifilm’s Dimatix printheads and Uvijet inks. Fujifilm also had its latest Uvistar Hybrid 320, a 3.2-meter hybrid flatbed-roll-to-roll inkjet printer with speeds said to be up to 195 square meters per hour.

Mimaki was showing the 3.2-meter UJV55-320, the UJF-7151 flatbed printer, the small-format UJF-6042 UV flatbed for photographic quality print onto rigid substrates, UJF-3042HG and UJF3042FX flatbeds, JFX500-2131 and JFX200-2513 flatbeds, UJV500-160 UV roll-to-roll industrial printer, and JV150-160 and JV300-160 solvent-based production printers. They also showed the CJV300-160 and CJV150-75 print-and-cut systems and their Kebab add-on device for use with UJF-3042HG and the UJF-6042 for direct UV printing onto cylindrical objects 30 to 330 millimeters long and 10 to 110 millimeters in diameter.

Mutoh had its recently introduced Valuejets: 1324X, 1604X, 1624X, and 2638X. They use eight-ink Epson micro piezo inkjet grayscale heads that can print individual drops ranging from 3.5 to 35.2 picoliters. The single-head ValueJet 1324X incorporates high-performance micro–piezo printheads that can produce ink droplets of 3.5 to 35.2 picoliters. Each head has eight channels with 180 nozzles per channel.

Roland DG was showing its VersaUV LEJ-640FT LED UV flatbed, which launched last year. It uses Roland Eco-UV inks, which include gloss and white for special effects and textures. It can print on flexible or rigid substrates up to 63.2 x 98 inches and 5.9 inches thick.

As the bedraggled exhibitors, media folk, and analysts journey home, they can reflect on the fact that wide-format printing has become an essential part of today’s commercial printing industry.

 

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Wide Format Editor

Richard Romano

Richard Romano, Section Editor/Senior Analyst
Richard has written about communication, graphics hardware and software trends for the past 15 years.

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