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Since the development of the wide-format printing market within the late 1980s/early 1990s, nearly all the output devices on the market have been rollfed devices, printing on flexible substrates like paper or canvas that unfurled into the device, rather just like a web press. The completed graphic was then often mounted onto a rigid material for display, installation, or other end use.

Since the development of the coffee printer inside the late 1980s/early 1990s, the vast majority of the output devices on the market happen to be rollfed devices, printing on flexible substrates like paper or canvas that unfurled to the device, rather such as a web press. The finished graphic was then often mounted onto a rigid material for display, installation, or any other end use.

It’s not so difficult to see the disadvantages of this type of workflow. Print-then-mount adds yet another step (taking additional time and reducing productivity) and uses more materials (the printed substrate plus the mounting material and adhesive), incurs more consumables costs, increases waste, and decreases productivity. So the solution seems obvious: reduce the middleman and print directly on the rigid material itself. Enter flatbeds.

Flatbed wide-format printers look like a whole new technology, but they are actually greater than a decade old as well as their evolution has been swift but stealthy. A seminal entry inside the flatbed printer market was the Inca Eagle 44, and early limitations of wide-format flatbeds were the typical trinity of speed, quality, and expense. The 4th person in that trinity was versatility. As with most things technological, those limitations were quickly conquered. “Today, the standard of [those initial models] will be subpar,” says Jeffrey Nelson, business development manager, high productivity inkjet equipment, Fujifilm’s Graphic Systems Division. “Ten years back, the very best speed was four beds an hour. Now, it’s 90 beds one hour.” Fujifilm provides the Acuity and Inca Onset combination of uv printer.

The improvements to flatbed printers were largely a combination of printhead design and development and also the evolution of ink technology, in addition to effective methods for moving the substrate beyond the printheads-or, conversely, moving the printheads on the stationary substrate. Other challenges have involved the physical scale of the printers; large flatbed presses dwarf rollfed wide-format printers and also have a substantial footprint. “Manufacturing, shipping, and installation have already been significant challenges,” says Oriol Gasch, category manager, Large Format Sign & Display, Americas, for HP. “Such as the best way to move someone to the next floor of your industrial space.” The analogy is always to offset presses, particularly web presses, which regularly had to be installed first, then your building constructed around them. The Bigfoot-esque footprint of flatbeds is one consideration for any shop hoping to acquire one-and it’s not just the dimensions of the gear. There must also be room to go large rigid prints around. HP’s flatbed offerings range from the entry-level HP Scitex FB500 and FB700 series as well as the high-end HP Scitex FB7600.

And so the killer app for flatbed wide-format printers continues to be the cabability to print entirely on numerous materials while not having to print-then-mount or print on the transfer sheet, common for printing on 3D surfaces that can’t be fed through a traditional printer. “Golf balls, mittens, poke.r chips,” says Nelson, are among the objects his customers have printed on. “Someone went along to Home Depot and found a door to print on.”

“What’s growing is specialty applications using different and unique substrates,” says HP’s Gasch, “such as ceramic, metallic, glass, as well as other thick, heavy materials.”

This substrate versatility have led flatbeds to get adopted by screen printers, in addition to packaging printers and converters. “What is growing is printing on corrugated board for packaging, either primary or secondary packaging for impulse purchases,” says Gasch. “A unique item is wine boxes.” It’s all very intoxicating.

UV or otherwise UV, Which is the Question

It absolutely was advancements in ink technology that helped the flatbed printer market grow, and inks must be versatile enough to print on a wide variety of substrates without a shop being forced to stock myriad inks and swap them out between jobs, which would increase expense and decrease productivity. Some inks require primers or pretreatments to be placed on the surface to aid improve ink adhesion, while some utilize a fixer added after printing. A lot of the printing we’re used to utilizes a liquid ink that dries by a mix of evaporation and penetration in to the substrate, but a number of these specialty substrates have surfaces that don’t allow iaddzf penetration, hence the requirement to offer the ink something to “grab onto.” UV inks are particularly great for these surfaces, because they dry by being exposed to ultraviolet light, so that they don’t have to evaporate/penetrate the way in which more conventional inks do.

Most of possible literature on flatbeds shows that “flatbed printer” is symbolic of “UV printer” and, even though there are solvent ink-based flatbeds, the vast majority of units on the market are UV devices. You will find myriad advantages to UV printing-no noxious fumes, the cabability to print on the wider variety of materials, faster drying times, the ability to add spiffy special effects, etc.-but switching to a UV workflow is not really a decision to be made lightly. (See a future feature for any more descriptive examine UV printing.)

Combos

All of the new applications that dtg printer enable are excellent, there is however still a considerable volume of work most effectively handled by rollfeds. So for true versatility, a store may use one particular device to create both rollfed and flatbed applications because of so-called combination or hybrid printers. These products may help a shop tackle a wider number of work than could be handled having a single form of printer, but be forewarned that a combination printer isn’t always as versatile as, and may lag the development speed of, a genuine flatbed. Specs sometimes refer to the rollfed speed in the device, while the speed from the “flatbed mode” could be substantially slower. Always look for footnotes-and also get demos.

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