Changes in inkjet technology in the wide-format industry have altered the way people are doing business. Perhaps the most important change has been the introduction and advancement of durable aqueous inks including latex and resin. The introduction of these inks makes it possible for print providers to increase speed, reliability, and quality over solvent-based inks providing higher revenues and decreased production time. However, these inks are not necessarily for everyone as our experts attest.
The Need for Speed
Greg Lamb, founder and CEO of Global Imaging and PrinterEvolution, states that one of the biggest selling points of new technology—including the improvements in ink—relates directly to speed. However, there are issues with focusing solely on speed when it comes to aqueous-based inks, such as the drying time that may be increased when printing certain items. If a print provider can print at a high speed but does not adhere to proper drying procedures, the entire process could be in jeopardy.
David Conrad, marketing manager at Mutoh America Inc., also discusses the high temperatures required when using aqueous-based products. “You probably don’t want to leave it unattended. And the other thing is that with those high temperatures and printing on different materials, a lot of the materials that you are running through there aren’t printing well. Because of the high temperatures, you see shrinkage of the media which then limits you...”
Regarding focusing solely on speed, Lamb says, “I’m not sure that’s a good thing. On the top end, things are going faster, faster, and faster and it’s really about how much you’re going to output in an hour and how much money you’re going to make.”
Conrad supports the need for speed, but makes it clear that other factors need to be taken into consideration. Mutoh focuses on the addition of process controls which offer additional capabilities.
“The ability to print fast gives you the opportunity to have higher production capability, satisfying what customers want but while you’re doing that at the same time you want to make sure you’re providing them with something that is of more value. The process control and color management tools I think are some of it.”
Conrad offers advice to print providers interested in exploring the market: “Look at the total solution as far as innovation and technology for wide-format inkjet. There’s not a lot that has been going on from an innovation standpoint that makes a lot of difference. Manufacturers are trying to make bigger, better, faster. Faster seems to be what everyone keys in on—how fast does it go?”
Rich Reamer, director of product marketing at Canon USA, discusses the benefits of aqueous ink and the versatility it affords print providers.
“It’s allowed production type facilities to offer other types of prints, Reamer says. “I think it’s added a little bit more versatility to some print shops if they want to eliminate special coatings whether it’s a laminate or spray and things like that. I think it’s a technology that’s still developing. You’ve seen solvent, UV curable, eco-solvent, latex—you’re seeing so many different types of ink hit the market that you’re still trying to see what is for that outdoor and longevity type of prints—what is that real true solution?”
Reamer states that Canon’s introduction of 12-color and eight-color units gives print providers more choices in supplying their clients with options depending on the job at hand.
“Production environments in areas that are printing high volumes, they don’t necessarily require the absolute highest of quality,” Reamer says, “Sometimes they just need to get very good quality and print more within a day to really match their revenues and profitability. By taking out four colors, we’re able to increase the speed over the 12-color by as much as 40 percent. So you still get very good quality, just not as high of a color space as the 12-color product and you still get a very good cost per print.”