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Canon Solutions America Examines How to Measure the Real Productivity of a UV Flatbed Printer

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Press release from the issuing company

MELVILLE, N.Y. – When looking to purchase a new flatbed printer, buyers encounter claims of high productivity. Manufacturer’s specification sheets will often state very impressive top speeds, but how do you know if that is a usable mode as it relates to real world production of saleable prints? You really need to dig deeper.

Canon Solutions America, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Canon U.S.A, explains how to measure the true productivity of a large format technical document system to help you select the right printing solution for your workflow requirements.

Evaluate All Print Modes

The highest print speed is often referred to as “draft” mode, which may be useful for producing simple line drawings but may not produce adequate enough quality for many graphics applications or image content. Few printers are able to provide enough ink density at these higher speeds to produce saleable quality areas of solid colors. To evaluate print modes, prospective printer buyers should ask to see a range of test prints of the same image produced across all print modes (e.g., draft, production, quality, fine art). The criteria should be “what is the fastest speed where I can still sell this,” rather than focusing on slower modes where everything looks better but overall throughput is impacted.

Consider the Impact of Print Area on Speed and Quality

Quoted print speeds are calculated using the entire print area. So if you are only printing an eight-foot-wide board on a ten-foot-wide printer, your optimization is only going to be 80 percent of the quoted speed. Additionally, some manufacturers will quote a particular speed but then demonstrate at trade shows (or produce benchmarks and samples) in unidirectional mode to maximize image quality. Unidirectional printing lays down the ink in only one direction of carriage travel, cutting the quoted productivity in half. Always ask to see the prints produced in bi-directional mode.

Consider the Entire Print Cycle

There are other factors that impact the real productivity of a system such as the time required to load the board, the time between hitting the print button and the first drop of ink being produced, and the time required to unload the board. This “print cycle” can also vary depending on the design of the printer.

A true stationary flatbed with two-up, four-by-eight-foot capability allows loading of a second board while the first board is still printing. This means the printer never has to stop printing and the only overhead is in the loading for the first board. Other systems featuring hybrid or moving table designs require the print to be nearly or completely printed before the next board can be loaded. As a result, the best test for how many boards-per-hour a printer will produce is to actually print and time with a stopwatch a successive number of boards.

Productivity is also not just limited to the printer. Consider what the labor component is to operate the printer. If the operator can hit “print” and walk away to perform other tasks, then this can benefit overall shop productivity allowing for more running time on the device and/or lower labor costs.

Finishing mistakes can also often result in wasted substrate, and the need for reprinting, which then reduces net productivity and increases cost. If the printer can print onto irregular shaped, pre-cut substrates—easily accomplished with a stationary flatbed—then finished “blanks” which could be cut in advance and used instead. This allows for greater flexibility and cost savings in the workflow.

Look Beyond the Spec Sheets

Before you sign an order for what you think is a good deal, make sure you’ve done your homework. Go see, in person, your prints being produced in the various print modes. Insist they be printed bi-directionally and successively print multiple boards timed with a stopwatch. Only then can you get an apples-to-apples comparison on real productivity.

To learn more about selecting a wide format printer, please download Canon Solutions America’s UV Flatbed  Printer Buyer’s Guide.


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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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