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Digital Doings @ Drupa

While commercial printing was the primary focus of Drupa 2008, the show has also become a major event for debuting new digital printing products. This overview provides details about key innovations in inkjet technology that were unveiled there.

So big, it only occurs once every four years. That’s a good way to sum up Drupa, the quadrennial gathering of the commercial printing industry in Dusseldorf, Germany. Drupa 2008, which took place during two weeks early in June, showcased the offerings of nearly 2000 exhibitors representing literally every printing technology and product available. The city-like exhibition complex was populated by approximately 400,000 visitors, primed to learn what new equipment and supply offerings might propel their companies to increased profits.

The manufacturers didn’t disappoint, making the event a launching pad for innovative new products that raise the bar on productivity and versatility. For screen printers on this side of the pond, the most important developments revealed at Drupa were those made in digital printing technology, particularly in wide-format inkjet. Here we’ll take a look at several of the most significant systems unveiled at the show, some of which are still under development, but all of which will eventually be available in North America.

 

Agfa Anapurna XLS, Anapurna Mv, and Anapurna M4f

The Anapurna XLS, the Anapurna Mv, and the Anapurna M4f are the latest additions to Agfa’s line of UV inkjet printers. Designed as a high-speed, photographic-quality printer, the combination flatbed/roll-fed XLS outputs images at resolutions up to 1400 x 720 dpi on roll and rigid substrates up to 100 in. wide and 1.77 in. thick. The machine offers a top printing speed of 474 sq ft/hr.

The heart of the Anapurna XLS is the Agfa Universal PrintHead, a piezo printhead with 764 nozzles per head. It deposits CMYK Anapurna UV inks in droplet sizes of 8 pl. The machine’s eight printheads are configured for 2 x CMYK printing on a variety of indoor and outdoor media. The XLS supports borderless printing, as well as printing of two rigid panels simultaneously.

The device includes a three-lamp UV-curing system with external chiller to keep temperatures down. The ink system features 5-l ink containers for each color, plus an addition 5-l reserve for each color that allows for automated refilling of the primary container. A Flush Brush maintenance system is built in to remove ink debris and residue from the nozzle plate and nozzle cores. The XLS has a special vacuum-table design with a clamping system to prevent both roll and rigid media from slipping or moving, and a head-positioning device keeps the nozzle plate of all heads 100% parallel to the printing plane. The machine is said to be ready for printing within 15 minutes of startup. It is driven by an Agfa Edition Wasatch RIP.

Based on Agfa’s Anapura M platform, the Anapurna Mv and Anapurna M4f support media with width of 62.2 in. The Mv handles both rigid and roll media and is a six-color machine (CMYKLcLm) with two extra heads for varnish, while the M4F is a flatbed for rigid stock that prints four colors (CMYK). Both offer 1440 x 720-dpi resolutions and a top print speed of 161 sq ft/hr. Like the Anapurna XLS, they also feature an Agfa Edition Wasatch RIP and support borderless and dual-board printing.

 

Durst Rho 320R UV and Rho SP 60

Two new machines were shown by Durst, including the Rho 320R and Rho SP 60. The 320R is an industrial roll-fed machine for media up to 10.5 ft wide and 2 mm thick. The CMYK printer—which has optional channels for white, Lc, Lm, spot-color, and varnish printing—offers a top print speed of 1400 sq ft/hr and a maximum resolution of 600 x 600 dpi with its Quadro Array printheads.

The system uses low-odor Rho Roll UV inks, an acrylic formulated for good color density and adhesion to a variety of coated and uncoated media. The 320R comes with 10-l ink tanks that can be refilled while the machine is operating. Inks for refilling are offered in 5-l containers.

Other features of the printer include UV lamps with dichroic reflectors. The lamps are adjustable in steps and can be set to cure the inks even on temperature-sensitive media. A magnetic linear-drive system ensures accurate machine movement. The roll support at the loading side of the device allows for the use of pneumatic 3-in.-core or optional 6-in.-core axles. It holds media with an outside diameter of up to 17.7 in. and a weight up to 661 lb.

The printer includes user-friendly LINUX operating software with management functions (ink usage/job, total ink consumption, print-time/job etc) and an interface to external order check software. An external Caldera RIP+ server is included with the system.

Durst’s Rho SP 60 is an industrial inkjet printer for decorating wood panels up to 25 in. wide. It allows the decoration of both flat and uneven panels with a variety of patterns produced with CMYK UV inks. With patented Durst Random De-sign Printing Technology, the machine can create a virtually endless variety of different grain and pattern designs. The single-pass printer operates at a top linear speed of 100 ft/min. (12,400 sq ft/hr), and in addition to wood, it can be used on paper, plastics, and more.

 

EFI VUTEk DS Series

EFI Vutek showed a demo version of its DS Series printer, which is expected to be available in 2009. With the reported ability to print saleable graphics at speeds up to 6000 sq ft/hr at 600 dpi, the machine is being targeted specifically at screen-printing shops, hence its “digital screen” (DS) designation.

A great deal of the machine’s speed stems from its configuration, which comprises a fixed-array printhead and a shuttling vacuum bed that supports substrates up to 63 x 96 in. and 2 in. thick. The bed consists of a user-controllable, zoned vacuum table capable of handling standard single graphics or multiple panels of different sizes. An optional advanced media-handling system is available to automate loading and unloading, and EFI Vutek says the system can add 100% to the printer’s productivity.

Designed to support indoor and outdoor applications, such as signs, P-O-P displays, exhibition graphics, and backlit displays, the DS features a top resolution of 1200 dpi and prints in four (CMYK) or eight (CMYKLcLm) colors. The manufacturer expects to add varnish and white in the future. Ink is delivered through a continuous supply system with a secondary ink reservoir to allow for extended periods of operation. Automatic printhead maintenance further aids in keeping the machine running for long stretches. The machine is driven by the Vutek Print Manager, a combination RIP, job-management, and printer-management program.

 

Gandinnovations Jeti 1224 Nanojet

Gandinnovations identifies its Jeti 1224 Nanojet as a true flatbed for photorealistic printing. Designed to be compact, economical, and versatile, the machine features 24 Spectra high-performance printheads that provide resolutions up to 800 dpi (1600 dpi apparent). The Nanojet incorporates a silicone nozzle plate to deliver 15-pl ink droplets and achieve high print resolution. In photorealistic mode, the Nanojet delivers a print speed of 220 sq ft/hr.

With a print area of 48 x 96 in. and maximum substrate thickness of 2 in., the printer can be used to create displays on glass, acrylics, Dibond, aluminum, wood, steel, Coroplast, foamboard, styrene, and more. It uses Gandinnovations UV inks and prints in six colors (CMYKLcLm). Prints are said to be outdoor durable for one to two years.

Features of the machine include intuitive user interface, high/low vacuum system for the print bed, retractable register pins, automatic safety shutoff, and steel-frame construction. The machine uses a linear motion system to control bed movement and ensure tight registration on both rigid and flexible materials. The Nanojet features Gandi software to improve fine-detail printing and is offered with a choice of RIPs from Onyx, Wasatch, or Caldera.

 

HP Designjet L65500

The first inkjet ever to use water-based latex inks is the new HP Designjet L65500, a roll-fed, six-color printer for producing both indoor and outdoor graphics. The unit features HP Latex Inks, an environmentally friendly alternative to solvent inks, but formulated for similar or better performance characteristics. The inks are odorless and low in VOCs, and they are not labeled as hazardous, require no ventilation or permitting, and don’t create ozone when cured.

Three HP Wide Scan Printheads are incorporated into the system to deliver prints across a wide path and provide fast print speed. Each of the heads delivers two of the system’s six colors (CMYKLcLm) in droplet sizes of 12 pl and resolutions up to 1200 x 600 dpi. Combined, the three heads provide 31,680 nozzles and allow the machine to reach top printing speeds of 800 sq ft/hr with outdoor-quality graphics and 400 sq ft/hr with indoor-quality prints. The printheads are user replaceable.

The machine has two independent heaters, one that preheats the media and another that cures the ink. It supports roll-fed media up to 104 in. wide and rolls up to 9.8 in. in diameter and up to 240 lb in weight. An Optical Media Sensor ensures precise material advance, and a built-in spectrophotometer and color-measurement system automatically checks and corrects for color variances during printing.

Inks for the system are available in 3-l, recyclable containers and can be changed out during printing. Prints produced with the inks are durable for up to 3 years unlaminated outdoors and five years indoors. While the printer is compatible with most standard, uncoated media, HP has developed a media line of 14 materials that are optimized for use on the L65500, five of which are recyclable. HP says that it is working with major vendors including AIT, Caldera Graphics, ColorGate, Ergosoft, Onyx Graphics, SA International, and Wasatch to develop a RIP for the machine, which is slated for release in early 2009.

 

Océ ColorWave 600

Another new eco-friendly digital printing alternative comes in the form of Océ’s new ColorWave 600 printer, a machine designed to print rich, high-resolution color images on plain paper. This machine doesn’t use liquid inks, but rather it uses TonerPearls—solid, marble-sized spheres of Oce’s proprietary CrystalPoint toner that are melted into a gel within the device and then jetted onto the paper surface, where they dry instantly without spreading or smearing. The non-hazardous toners have no odor, emit no ozone, and don’t release dangerous particles. The four toner colors (CMYK) come in 500-g cartridges for each color.

The ColorWave 600 handles roll-fed paper media up to 42 in. wide, and it will hold up to six 656-ft-long rolls with a maximum diameter of 7.08 in. While the printer is designed primarily for paper, it also is compatible with Tyvek, polyester films, and other media. Output is roll-to-sheet. The machine can operate unattended for long periods thanks to a top delivery tray that holds up to 100 completed prints.

Photorealistic images can be printed on the machine at a true resolution of 600 x 600 dpi and a speed of approximately 167 sq ft/hr. Prints produced on the system are said to be durable and waterfast. Additionally, because of the toner’s rapid drying characteristics—brought about by a crystallizing agent included in the toner—the machine supports the printing of very fine lines and text, as well as smooth, even areas of broad color.

Océ is working with sister-company Onyx to develop a RIP to package with the ColorWave for the graphic-arts industry. Currently the machine is designed primarily for the CAD market.

 

Seiko ColorPainter H-104S

The new ColorPainter H-104s is a mild-solvent printer from Seiko Infotech. Aimed at higher-volume shops, the machine is designed for printing high-resolution indoor and outdoor graphics at resolutions up to 720 x 720 dpi and speeds up to 1000 sq ft/hr.

The machine uses eight Seiko “super-wide” piezo printheads that produce variable drop size of 14-29 pl. It can be configured two different ways: eight colors with one head per color (CMYKLcLm + gray + light gray) for maximum image quality, or four colors with two heads per color (2 x CMYK) for maximum speed. The ColorPainter H-104S incorporates the company’s Smart Pass interlacing technology to ensure accure dot placement and prevent banding.

The printer supports media up to 104 in. wide. Other features include a built-in heater/drying systems for pre/print/post heating, auto head-height adjustment, and support for rolls up to 265 lb. Inks are sold in 1.5-l bags, and they can be added on the fly through sub-tanks on the machine. While a RIP is not included with the system, compatible RIPs include products from Onyx, Wasatch, SAi, and Caldera. The schedule for commercial availability of the machine is expected to be released later this year.

 

Other developments

Three additional inkjet printers that are still under development were also previewed at the event. They include a new machine from Fujifilm, temporarily named the Jet Press 720. The machine is touted as a single-pass, high-speed, large-format inkjet. With its fixed-array printhead, it’s capable of printing images up to 28.35 x 20.47 in. (A4 size) at a rate of 180 sheets/min. That translates to appro-ximately 43,500 sq ft/hr. The machine uses water-based inks and is designed for printing primarily on coated papers.

Another inkjet shown at Drupa was a system developed by a new Israeli manufacturer called Meital. Their machine is the Meital 3000-10 UV flatbed printer. It offers variable drop size from 6-42 pl and can reportedly print 360-dpi images at speeds of more than 4400 sq ft/hr. The single-pass printer features dual vacuum tables so that one can be loaded/unloaded while the other is printing.

Finally, Mimaki revealed plans of its new UJV 160, a 60-in. roll-to-roll UV inkjet printer that uses an LED curing system rather than conventional curing lamps. The cool-curing characteristics of the LED lamps make the machine suitable for printing on very thin and temperature-sensitive materials. The lamps also reduce energy consumption.

For those interested in learning more about these machines and possibly getting a first-hand look at them, note that many will be making appearances at various industry trade shows in the months ahead, including SGIA 08 in Atlanta coming this October.

 

 

 

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