High-speed industrial inkjet technology is expanding into décor applications including laminate flooring, furniture, doors, and more.
Industrial Inkjet CP562
Konica Minolta and Industrial Inkjet have collaborated to develop a single-pass inkjet printing system that they believe could be competitive with conventional wallpaper printing methods in terms of productivity, production speeds, and cost per roll. At the 2017 Heimtextil show, the companies invited wallpaper producers to see a demonstration of a single-pass inkjet system for digitally printing typical media at linear speeds up to 230 feet per minute.
John Corrall, managing director of Industrial Inkjet, believes digital printing of wallpapers will expand beyond specialized applications such as wall murals: “Our view is that wallpaper printing is about to see a massive shift to digital technology thanks to the improvements in inkjet capability.”
The unit displayed at the Heimtextil show was based on the company’s Print Engine CP562 (its standard color print engine for applications such as wallpaper printing requiring a 22.1-inch print width). The company is also offering a larger 27-inch version designed for the second standard wallpaper width. The CP562 uses Konica Minolta KM1024i grayscale printheads with 360 x 720-dpi resolution. Unlike analog wallpaper printing systems, the repeat length is virtually limitless.
One big challenge in creating the demo system was formulating an ink that would not only work on a wide range of common wallpapers, but would also meet indoor air quality standards and durability tests. Corrall indicates that the solution came through a water-based polymeric formulation that is thermally fixed onto the media after printing.
The unit was displayed printing matte images onto a variety of standard wallpaper media including paper, PVC, and non-woven materials. Textured and pre-embossed media can also be printed on the system. The engines are available as standalone units with media transports, dryers, and image-verification systems, or as retrofit digital modules to be incorporated into existing production lines.
The Long View
It might take years for manufacturers of décor products to fully embrace what might be possible with high-speed, single-pass inkjet printers. “The InPrint Décor Survey and Report” published in 2016 by the organizers of the InPrint Show, I.T. Strategies, TCM Conference Management, and IMI Europe confirmed that décor is poised to be the next big area of growth for industrial inkjet. But the survey also identified factors that may be delaying adoption of inkjet technology. Factors include a lack of expertise by potential users, and concerns about perceived ink costs and the ability to successfully print on challenging surfaces. It may also take time for the manufacturers in these industries to develop business models to leverage such dramatically different production capabilities, though the tile industry offers a compelling example of how quickly a market can embrace these ideas. For now, the one certainty is that we’re just seeing the beginning of single-pass inkjet for décor applications.
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