This month, Greene presents research data about corporate buying practices that reveal some interesting inclinations and give an up-to-date look at the market for wide-format graphics.
By Tim Greene
The greater need for speed, quality, and lowest available price are the primary developments that bring us to this point, which I call the dawn of automation in the wide-format market. We’re seeing more and more manufacturers develop systems that have new automation features that increase productivity while reducing operator intervention. Some examples:
Onset In 2007, Inca Digital launched the Onset, which has either semi- or fully-automatic media load/unload capability. Also launched at SGIA ’08, Inca Digital launched the lower-end Onset S20 with “semi-automated” feeding. The Onset has a ra-ted speed of 6,458 square feet per hour while the lower-end S20 has a rated speed of 2,690 square feet per hour.
DS-series EFI launched the DS-series at drupa in the summer of 2008. The first printer in the DS-series, the DS8300, has an optional automated material handling system which the company promises improves productivity and dramatically reduces loading and unloading times. The DS8300 has a rated speed of 6,000 square feet per hour.
FB-7500 Launched at SGIA ’08, the HP-Scitex FB-7500 features what the company calls three-quarters automated loading, which the company indicated reduced idle time between sheets by 85 percent. The maximum rated speed of the FB7500 is 5,380 square feet per hour.
HAL In the first quarter of 2009 Gandinnovations introduced its Highly Automated Loading (HAL) system. The HAL system is supposed to be able to load and unload the media for two Gandi flatbed printing systems. Gandi’s literature on the HAL system indicates that it could keep two Gandi flatbeds running on a 24 x 7 basis.
All of these are high-speed, wide-format, UV inkjet printers that sell for more than $1 million. To be sure, many companies—particularly RIP companies—offer tools that automate production at the front end. Color calibration, color management, tiling, previews—all of these are designed to minimize re-works or maximize each job, thereby improving productivity. In no way do I mean to slight any other manufacturers or equipment developers by failing to mention any other features, but I show these in order to compare these high-end printing systems and watch as their rated speeds drive upward partly based on their new level of hardware automation.
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