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SGIA Highlights Forecast Changes

Fabric printing, enhanced technology, cost savings and racecar-like print speeds led the show.

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On November 4, at the 2015 SGIA Expo (Atlanta) digital-print-affiliated exhibitors offered highly upgraded, digital-print devices that are faster, better and cheaper, and can produce many profitable, end-product choices — signs, posters, banners, POP and vehicle graphics.
Most interesting, however, was the 2015 SGIA Expo exhibitors’— and visitors’ — intense interest in fabric printing.
Fabric printing?
Printed fabric, when transformed into fitted, tradeshow-display signage, reduces freight costs and quickens on-site assembly work.
Tradeshow exhibitors love it.
A 2012 Pricewaterhouse Coopers study reports 284,600 conventions, conferences and tradeshows in the U.S., with 87 million attendees. It also said its investments in the expanding venue will push global tradeshows revenue to $39.99 billion by 2019, up from $31.83 billion in 2014.
There are, of course, other types of fabric applications work — fabric-based indoor graphics, museum, event and theater graphics, and flags, banners, street signage, apparel and custom-print jobs.
Stepping up — unique print machines
Roland DGA (Irvine, CA) displayed its 64-in.-wide, Texart™ XT-640 dye-sublimation printer for textile printing that comprises advanced printhead technology, a reinforced frame structure, and precise, ink-drop placement that, Roland says, delivers vibrant, colorful sublimated prints at speeds up to 1,098 sq. ft./hr. The XT-640 applies Roland’s Texart inks, which are formulated for sublimation applications; it also features an ErgoSoft Roland Edition RIP.
For Mac OS X users, Roland has released its 64-bit, Rolandprintstudio™ (RPS) RIP software that, in addition to Mac-controlling a Roland printer, printer-cutter or stand-alone cutter, allows effective management of the entire print-production process. Featuring the Adobe PDF print engine and native Adobe functionality, the software meets demands from print-service providers (PSPs) who prefer the Mac OS X interface and architecture. RPS can simultaneously RIP, print and cut on two devices and also handle specialty ink colors (www.rolanddga.com).
Roland also introduced its 64-in.-wide, SOLJET EJ-640 eco-solvent inkjet printer that, the company says, optimizes productivity, and quality, while minimizing operating costs. The printers features dual, staggered printheads; an integrated, tri-heater system; an industrial-drive system; and high-capacity, one-liter ink cartridges that apply Roland’s cost-effective EJ inks. It’s available in two configurations: a mirrored, CMYK ink configuration (that can achieve print speeds up to 1,098 sq. ft./hr.) or a seven-color, broad-gamut configuration that comprises CMYKLcLmLk ink colors. Either printer package includes Roland VersaWorks® Dual RIP software that processes both PDF and PostScript files.

The SolJet EJ-640 neatly fits a current manufacturing trend to develop systems that optimize productivity, and print quality, while minimizing the machine’s overall operating costs. Today’s savvy print-machine manufacturers are selling more than superior machines and images – they’re also selling overall operating costs as an added advantage feature, to help PSPs make buying choices. Several popular, industry-wide approaches have evolved. Most prevalent are ink-savings systems that either disperse ink in more effective patterns, or monitor (and predict) ink use, or substitute less-expensive inks (as fill) whenever possible. An example is found in Roland’s EJ-640 eco-solvent inkjet printer’s quality-enhancing, staggered printheads and its use of Lk (light black, i.e., gray) ink that effectively acts as a print fill and gradation reducer.

Many other printer devices also offer gray and light gray, which, again, are less-expensive inks that can be used as fill and gradation-nuance reducers in color prints.

Mimaki USA (Suwanee, GA) displayed its TS300Pm dye-sublimation, dedicated-transfer printer and the TX300P direct-textile printer, along with its TS500 production model and the MJF-500 industrial, media-roll packaging and custom goods printer. Also on working display were the UJF-7151 production UV-LED flatbed printer, the CFL-605RT compact flatbed cutting plotter, the ArtiosCAD DS packaging software, the UJF-6042 UV-LED tabletop flatbed printer and the JFX200 UV-LED, 4 x 8-ft. flatbed printer. The company also displayed its JV300 production, eco-solvent printer; the CJV300 production, cut-and-print device; the CJV150 cut-and-print unit with white- and silver-ink printer; the JV400LX latex printer with orange, green and white ink and, finally, the UJV500 roll-based, UV-LED printer (www.mimakiusa.com ).

Mimaki also sponsored six, in-booth seminars, participated in the Digital Textile Printing Zone and presented four speakers at SGIA educational conferences. The company also sponsored and completed its Print with Compassion series of educational sessions (and hands-on training with Mimaki products. Also at SGIA, Mimaki arranged with industry suppliers to wrap a vehicle for the Georgia Lions Lighthouse Foundation. Earlier this year, at the 2015 ISA Sign Expo, Mimaki’s Print with Compassion effort provided and decorated furniture for a local kindergarten class.

Most interesting is that Mimaki and other sign-industry manufacturers are offering ancillary products to produce related, but non-signage products that could easily be adapted into a secondary profit center for entrepreneurial signshop owners. Mimaki’s CFL-605RT compact flatbed cutting plotter, the ArtiosCAD DS packaging software; and the UJF-6042 UV-LED tabletop flatbed printer could provide an entire new profit realm for signshop owners.

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Fast and faster
Canon USA (Melville, NY), displayed its second-generation, 42-in.-wide, single-pass, Océ ColorWave 810 and 910 print systems that, the company says, prints up to 10,000 sq. ft./hr. Canon said the ColorWave devices are designed for both in-house printers and PSPs, and are especially suited to serve dynamic retail environments. Other benefits are instant dry, sharper lines, increased resolution, grayscale printing and a larger range of media-handling capabilities. Recent hardware updates comprise a high-capacity controller, high-performance CPU and an Adobe PDF Print Engine, an intuitive touchscreen, and low ink usage (www.canonusa.com)

In the past, single-pass systems’ primary imperfection was printhead failure, but Canon has bested such drawbacks by providing a fail/bypass software system and easily replaced printhead units.

Agfa Graphics (Elmwood Park, NJ) has released its Anapurna M2540i FB high-speed, UV-cure, flatbed, inkjet-printing system that features six ink colors (plus white) and print speeds up to 1,001 sq. ft./hr. It can print on most rigid and sheet material and will process such uncoated rigid media as corrugated boards, rigid plastics, Plexiglas© acrylic, mirrors, exhibition panels, wood, aluminum, MDF, stage graphics, advertising panels and more (www.agfagraphics.com).

The machine excels in speed and product diversity, but it also cuts operating costs via Agfa’s Asanti automated workflow software that controls (and automates) such processes as prepress, production and finishing.

Novus Imaging (Moultonboro, NH) presented its NASCAR-bred, industrial-grade, UV-cure, ULTRA flatbed printer line (available in three models) that features grayscale print quality and up to 1,340 sq. ft./hr. print speed. Novus said the U.S.-built machine also features long-lasting LED lamps and an auto-mask system that increases productivity. Novus also offers an optional, auto-load/unload system (www.novusimaging.com).

Durst Image Technology (Rochester, NY) displayed its 98-in.-wide, Durst Rho 1312 that prints up to 6,600 sq. ft./hr., (which links buyers to a production-shop category). It features Durst s Quadro Array printhead technology that produces 12pL droplets, which, Durst says, enables the super-fast print speeds without compromising print quality. The 1312 also incorporates Durst’s “Gradual Flow Printing” for smoother tones over large areas, a high gloss finish and excellent media handling.

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Durst also presented its 126-in.-wide, Rhotex 322, an industrial-grade, high-production, soft-signage, industrial-inkjet printer that produces a drop size of 7-21 pL. Designed to produce printed textiles for use in home, commercial wall coverings, domestic textiles and interior design, as well as fashion applications, the Rhotex 322 is the ideal solution to digital printing of the widest range of soft signage (www.durstus.com).

Durst features the most gorgeous shaft and bearing systems in the industry. Such attention goes beyond looks, however, because inexpensive pillow-block bearings, when worn, contribute to shaft vibration (shaft-axis runout, bearing wear and overall looseness), which can affect both media tracking and the relationship between the printheads and media.

Inca Digital’s (Hanover Park, IL) 126 x 63-in., Inca Onset X large-format series of flatbed, UV-cure, inkjet printers comprises a common, scalable-architecture platform and features a 25-zone vacuum table and UV-control system to eliminate masking, and a carriage that can incorporate up to 14 ink channels. The Onset X1 base unit will process 6,027 sq. ft./hr.; the X2 unit reaches 7,803 sq. ft./hr., and the X3 will process 9,687 sq. ft./hr. (www.incadigital.com).

Sea changes

EFI — EFI featured its 3.2-meter-wide, EFI VUTEk HS125 Pro inkjet press, hybrid, roll and flatbed printer that, EFI says, approaches offset production speeds, with automated, material-handling options. It also presented the new, 3.2-meter-wide, hybrid, EFI VUTEk GS3LX Pro LED-cure printer that comprises grayscale imaging, and its entry-level production, 1.65-meter-wide EFI H1625-SD, a UV-cure hybrid printer that can produce near-photographic imaging direct to thermoformable substrates.

EFI also displayed the 1.8-meter-wide, EFI Reggiani ONE 180 soft-signage printer for direct-to-textile or transfer paper printing that offers speeds up to 3,336 sq. ft./hr. four-color printing with a wide color gamut, 2,400 dpi and four-level grayscale imaging. It also operated the EFI Reggiani PRO 180 for printing transfer work on sublimation paper. The PRO model prints up to 6,458 sq. ft./hr. for soft signage applications (www.efi.com).

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EFI presented its newly expanded, inkjet-production technology portfolio and, like OKI, it raised a few questions with its announcement of acquiring Reggiani Macchine (Bergamo, Italy), a notable maker of soft-signage textile printers, which followed soon after its Matan purchase in July. Both companies now have “EFI” prefacing their names. The purchase signals a new focus into fabric printing for EFI, part of which will reach into the PSP industry, but I suspect it will also focus on the fashion and apparel market ($225 billion in 2014) and home-décor industries (more than $40 billion in 2013). In July, EFI spent $50 million to buy Matan Digital Printers (Rosh HaAyin, Israel). It said the acquisition “… gives EFI an even broader range of products to help our customers capture important opportunities in super-wide-format display graphics printing.” EFI also said Matan’s strong R&D capability will further accelerate EFI’s inkjet innovation, which indicates that Matan had patents and technologies EFI wanted, and a strong South American market presence.

OKI Data Americas (Mount Laurel, NJ) offered the ColorPainter H3-104s; the OKI proColor™ digital-production, printer line; and Teriostar line of LED-lamped, multifunction printers. The 104-in.-wide ColorPainter H3-104s high-productivity printer images in eight colors (CMYKLcLm, gray and light gray), features speeds up to 609 sq. ft./hr. and images with high-gamut, low-odor, eco-solvent inks that feature three-year outdoor durability, without lamination. (www.okidata.com).

OKI Data Americas is owned by Tokyo-based OKI Electric Industry, a $4.5 billion multinational corporation. The OKI-Seiko purchase and OKI’s notable presence at SGIA raised more than a few questions, but my conversations with its staff assured me the company plans to continue the eco-solvent, ColorPainter line. Additionally, because OKI is an international corporation with a high-count customer foundation, I believe it plans to market the ColorPainter products to its established, worldwide base. Another question asks why the company would buy an eco-solvent printer line when UV-cure and polymer (latex) inks are on the rise is answered in the above sentence — worldwide. Non-U.S. users — and U.S.-based vehicle wrap firms — often prefer such inks because of cost, ease-of-use and higher durability in more aggressive environments.

HP (Palo Alto, CA) showcased its HP Latex 310, HP Latex 360 and HP Latex 370 printers that feature third-generation, HP-latex technology; and the recently introduced HP Latex 3500 printers that feature unattended operation, heavy-duty roll handling and 10-liter ink cartridges. The firm also displayed the HP Scitex FB550 and FB750 industrial printers, for production imaging on rigid and flexible media, and a new tabletop, flexible-substrate, roll holder for short-run printing. Further, the company displayed its 3M™ Screen Print UV Gloss Clear 9760LX ink and the HP Latex Mobile tablet application.

HP’s new, Foster, low profile on-a-roll media lifter®, designed for use with the HP Latex 3000 printer series, enables a single operator to safely and efficiently handle heavy or oversized media in tight production spaces. It can be used with all spindles and will load 16-ft.- long media weighing up to 661 lbs.

Note to manufacturers: Because of space, and without bias, we may not have mentioned your company and its products. If you have technology products you’d like mentioned in ST, please contact me at [email protected] Thanks.

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