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Commentary & Analysis

FESPA 2017 Showcases European Wide-Format Introductions

Last week, FESPA 2017 drew attendees from across Europe and beyond to see the latest in wide-format and specialty printing technology and applications.

By Richard Romano
Published: May 15, 2017

Last week, May 8–12, FESPA 2017 was held at the Hamburg Messe in Germany. With more than 700 exhibitors in 10 exhibition halls, it included many new product debuts that will be headed across the pond over the course of the year.

Anajet announced and was showing the first fruits of its acquisition by Ricoh, the Ricoh Ri 3000 and Ri 6000, the latest generation of Anajet’s direct-to-garment printers. Speed is the hallmark of the new printers, and the Ri 6000 is said to be able to print a full-color 12x10-inch graphic on a light-colored garment in less than 27 seconds. The new printers use a water-based inkjet ink that can print on natural fibers, light polyesters, and dark garments up to 50/50 cotton/polyester blends. Top applications are shirts, socks, and canvas grocery bags. Ricoh’s Anajet devices can also add metallic foil applications and other effects.

Durst launched a spate of upgrades and improvements across its lines of rollfed and flatbed units. Making its European debut is the 3.2-meter Rhotex 325, the replacement for the Rhotex 322. Using Durst’s new Water Technology-based inkset, the Rhotex 325 is a dual transfer-based/direct-to-fabric dye-sublimation printer suited for soft signage, home textiles, and clothing. Elsewhere in Durst’s portfolio, the Rho 512R and Rho P10 250 HS printers have been upgraded to “Plus” versions. The Rho 512R Plus adds a Fine Art printing mode (1200 dpi) and the machine’s Production mode can now reach speeds up to 400 square meters per hour, more than 10 percent faster than the original Rho 512R. The Plus version also adds a V-cut system as well as additional colors. The Rho P10 250 HS Plus offers greater productivity (up to 40 percent of the original version), an ink-saver function, and the ability to do double-sided roll-to-roll printing. On the flatbed side, the Rho WT 250 can now print on thin plastics such as polypropylene, as well as paper and corrugated substrates.

EFI used FESPA to launch a new industrial textile printer, the Reggiani ReNOIR FLEXY, a 1.8-meter printer that is said to have a production speed of more than 400 square meters per hour. The FLEXY was designed as an entry-level industrial textile printer, allowing any print business to enter the industrial textile printing market. It can print via transfer paper or direct-to-fabric, and can accommodate different ink types depending on the fabric being printed. The new machine also includes the new “Dynaplast” technology, by which the machine heats the substrate and applies pressure which then activates an adhesive on the printer’s “sticky belt” feeder. This helps match the unwinding speed with the printer speed and thus allows the FLEXY to print on a wide variety of stretchable and non-stretchable fabrics without distortion. The FLEXY is said to be suitable for both production and sampling.

Not content with announcing just its Latex Print and Cut systems at the ISA Sign Expo last month, at FESPA HP launched two new higher-end Latex units, the Latex 3600 and 3200 printers, two 3.2-meter machines designed for high-production environments producing loads of retail/outdoor advertising, event/exhibition graphics, vehicle graphics, and interior décor. The 3600 is the more productive of the two, capable, the company says, of production peaks of up to 35,000 square meters per month. At the show, HP also announced a flexible signage printing option for the HP Scitex 17000 Press (a corrugated press), as well as HP PrintOS for Latex and Scitex HDR presses. HP also introduced an Advanced Suite for its PageWide XL printers which is said to deliver improved productivity and more versatility via improved loading and alignment algorithms.

Kornit Digital launched the Storm Duo, the latest in its series of direct-to-garment printers, designed for light textile, fashion, and apparel production (output speed is up 190 prints per hour). Not a dye-sub machine, it can print directly on a wide variety of fabrics and other materials, including cotton, polyester, cotton-polyester blends, Lycra, viscose, silk, leather, denim, linen, wool, and more. The Storm Duo also features Kornit’s integrated ink recirculation system, which reduces waste and ink costs. Last month, Kornit had also announced a collaboration with Custom Gateway to offer a web-to-print solution for its direct-to-garment printers, which it had also been demonstrating at FESPA.

At the past couple of domestic shows, Mimaki has been offering increasingly detailed glimpses of its forthcoming 3DUJ-P (a temporary designation), a 3D UV-cure inkjet printer. Said to be the “world’s first full-color modeling machine,” the 3DUJ-P can print up to 10 million colors and a maximum size of 500x500x300mm. The 3DUJ-P printer also features clear inks that can be printed independently or in combination with colored ink to create translucent objects, or to create a glossy finish, enhancing the vibrancy of the underlying colors. At FESPA (as at ISA), Mimaki was showing a prototype machine, with the first beta units heading out this summer and the final machine slated to ship by year’s end.

OKI Data Americas had launched its ColorPainter E-64s Stateside late last year, but OKI Europe gave it its FESPA debut in Hamburg last week. The E-64s is a 1.6-meter entry-level device designed for both indoor and outdoor applications. It can print on front- and backlit materials, textiles, wallpaper, canvas, PVC, and vinyls using low-odor, eco-solvent inks, and is said to print up to about 23 square meters per hour (on banner media).

European shows are great places to learn about unique companies and products that have little or any footprint in North America—yet.

Italy’s ATPColor launched what it says is the world’s first 5.3-meter textile printer, the DFP2000. The grand-format size allows the machine to print on two different size rolls—say, a 1-meter roll next to a 2.6-meter roll. The direct-to-fabric machine also includes in inline calender unit and an optional inline slitter.

Croatian manufacturer Azonprinter debuted its Azon Matrix, a flatbed UV series comprising three sizes (1.9-meter, 2.5-meter, and 3.3-meter) that, the company says, is the only flatbed that can print on objects up to 200mm (7.9 inches) thick. It also comes with the Azon Ritax accessory that allows for printing on cylindrical objects up to 279mm (11 inches) thick.

Italy’s MS Printing Solutions launched the 3.2-meter Impres 4320 and 1.8-meter Impres 4180 and 3180 soft signage printing systems. The dye-sublimation machines can either use transfer paper or run direct-to- fabric. The new units are the first fruits of the collaboration among MS, JK Group (which manufactures the inks), and Caldera Software (the RIP software)—all of which have been recently acquired by Dover Corporation.

Czech Republic’s Qres Technologies launched its Q200 (the first in the Q series), a 2.05 x 3.25-meter UV flatbed targeted at those printing on irregular materials such as wood, shaped plastic, stone, ceramic tiles, and other unusual surfaces, in addition to all the old conventional standbys.

Finally, I confess that substrates tend to get short shrift in these product roundups, and quite unfairly (perhaps I shall dedicate a whole separate feature to recently launched substrates), but one introduction at FESPA that caught my attention was a “self-healing” vehicle film from Mactac. Available in black and three clear varieties, the new vehicle films can “heal” small abrasions, scratches, and other minor damage by applying heat or pressure—or even just by leaving the car out in the sun.

FESPA 2018 will be held next May in Berlin.

Please offer your feedback to Richard. He can be reached at richard@whattheythink.com.

 

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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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