Gramley reported many manufacturers are working to bring production flexibility, space flexibility and lower price to small shop owners. The very real constraints of such businesses are often budgetary and spatial, “and yet they want to get on the same flatbed gravy trains as everyone else,” she said.
On the other end of the price spectrum, flatbed printer makers are also working to serve customers of $400,000 to $1 million equipment. Here, the issue is the delivery of quality, productivity and digital capabilities to a truly high-volume production-oriented space formerly occupied by screen printing, Gramley said.
Screen printing’s drawback is that set up is involved for each image. With digital, every page can be different, and set up isn’t needed before each job. “So now you can do short runs, with everything different, and get fast turnarounds, which you couldn’t easily do in an analog screen prOcéss,” Gramley said.
Few manufacturers inhabit this price range, among them HP, Durst and Inca, she adds. These manufacturers are allowing print shops with sufficient production to switch from screen printing to the efficiencies of flatbed printing.
At Océ North America, display graphics product manager Randy Paar reported incremental improvements have been seen over the past year in all aspects of technology from inks to print heads and curing systems.
The biggest improvement from Océ, he reported, has been the company’s implementation of a new printhead in the Océ Arizona 550 Series printers. The printhead features a double row of nozzles, providing greater productivity. Océ also has an improved curing system with a new reflector/shutter system that delivers more curing energy, less heat and is only half the price, he said.
Another manufacturer, Durst US, has been involved in the flatbed market since the first UV printer was unveiled at the dawn of the new millennium. It has always focused on the industrial-scale, high-end market, reported senior vice-president of sales and marketing Chris Howard with Durst US in Rochester, NY.
All of its machines are in the half-million-dollar range and above, he says.
In the past year, Durst US has introduced new platforms that increase print productivity, or sheets per hour, through both printing speed and continuous workflow. On its new models, such as the Rho 1000 and Rho 900, an automatic continuous production system allows the machine to feed boards and run in continuous printing mode, with no loading or unloading time. “The machine’s literally printing on two different boards at the same time,” Howard said.
A new print system features a greater number of nozzles in the Quadro Array, translating to higher printing speeds. This new print system is found on the Rho 1000, Rho 900 and Rho 800HS, Howard said.
Gerber Scientific Products’ new CAT|UV printer is differentiated by its Gerber Cat cationic ink, Luck reported. It offers superior adhesion and scratch resistance, a vibrant color gamut, quicker curing, great print accuracy and registration, and unattended operation and ease of use. “For someone with a solvent printer looking for a flatbed printer, this is a great option,” Luck said, noting the printer is ideal for sign making, point of sale and other applications.
Gerber Scientific Products’ trademarked technology called Cold Fire Cure cures the ink at a very cool 65 to 65 degrees Fahrenheit, allowing users to print on the widest array of substrates in the market without damaging the substrates.
Lower operational costs are another benefit, because the printer’s UV lamps use 40 percent less energy than traditional mercury vapor lamps. The result is up to 4,000 hours of use before the lamps have to be replaced.
In addition, the printer comes crated and can fit through standard 36-inch-wide doors. “A lot of solvent printers take up considerable space,” Luck said. “[Users] don’t have to do any construction if they have the room for the printer. There is no special ventilation required, which can be an added cost. Also, a lot of solvent printers require a great amount of venting, but because this uses cationic inks, there’s very little odor.”