2012 Ink Report

Among print media consumables, ink chemistries and innovations continue to change and evolve. A case in point is Landa Labs’ microscopic, nanographic ink technology introduced at drupa three months ago. What will be the next ink breakthrough in the wide- and grand-format market? In this, its fourth Annual Ink Report, Wide-Format Imaging explores the current state of the ink market and examines the trends affecting your business—and related products to look for at Graph Expo in Chicago come October.


Industrial Strength White

Add white ink to HP Scitex FB7500/7600 industrial flatbed presses by installing an upgrade kit and white ink kit. At drupa, Hewlett-Packard announced the FB7500/FB7600 White Ink Kit as an ideal way for printers to realize new opportunities, applications, and revenue streams. The kit allows for expansion into a range of high-value, high-quality, short-run applications, HP said, such as window graphics, backlit production, and even printing directly on corrugated packaging media with no need for litho lamination.

Users can add white to the full set of six process colors to output high-opacity and rich, saturated color on clear or colored materials—all on a single press, without switching inks. The end result is high-value prints with excellent ink flexibility and abrasion resistance. Delivery is faster because there is no loading/unloading or moving between presses. In addition to saving on labor and prepress costs, the kit enables greater efficiency compared to alternative analog solutions.

Meanwhile, HP FB225 White Scitex Ink was designed with the HP Scitex industrial press and tested for optimal performance with its X2 printheads. Operator intervention is minimized thanks to a pair of five-liter ink containers and a large in-system white ink reservoir. The ink is designed with two white channels and a fast curing time to enable high system productivity.


Next-Gen UV Inkjet

And with the growth in single-pass, piezo-electric technology requiring robust UV-curable inks, Agfa has extended its family of Agora inks to bring high-performance benefits to a broader range of applications, including wide-format. Already established in the document and packaging sectors, these inks have now also been formulated for use in industrial applications.

Agfa’s UV-curable inks are now available for system integrators, OEMs, industries, etc. in a variety of different formulations; researched and developed for specific market sectors and print head integration. Each product is designed for optimum productivity, with particular emphasis on offering the best substrate compatibility and reliability according to market sector, along with cost-effective consumption and very high quality results.

Working with print head manufacturers, Agfa has developed stable inks to cater for specific production segments within the inkjet industry. Accurate droplet size with outstanding sharpness and color accuracy is complemented by lowest overall consumption and the ability to generate very fast throughput speeds that exceed 328 fpm and guarantee superior adhesion across a range of substrates.

As more PSPs invest in highly capable inkjet printing devices, the performance of the ink in these systems is becoming one of the key differentiating factors in the production of wide-format print. The result of many years of continuous development, Fujifilm’s Uvijet UV inks offer market leading performance in terms of color vibrancy, image quality, adhesion flexibility, and finishing capability performance. Uvijet OZ, a new high-performance ink system, was launched with new Inca Onset S40i at drupa. The inks are the result of an R&D program focused on improved adhesion performance and post-print finishing properties on a range of media. Uvijet OZ has been designed to give a higher degree of flexibility, enabling users to fold, crease, cut, drive, and route printed media.

Combined with Inca’s software and the ink drop placement of the Fujifilm Dimatix printheads, the end result is 600 dpi print quality with the option of four or six colors. With these enhancements across hardware, software, and consumables, Fuji and Inca say they can prove the Onset S40i can pay for itself in just six months.

Also at drupa 2012 in May, Fujifilm showed Uvijet QN ink running in the new Uvistar Pro8 (available this month). The eight-color ink set delivers improved image quality, enabling superwide print produced by this machine to be used for indoor exhibition and display graphics. One of the major advancements of the Pro8 platform is the inclusion of a complete set of light colors, within the ink set, which increase print quality without compromising on print speed. Together with its unique Parallel Drop Size (PDS) technology, this allows the Pro8 to produce high-definition display POP graphics at speeds in excess of 984 square feet per hour.

Fujifilm also demonstrated the performance advantages of three other new Uvijet ink systems in Dusseldorf:

  • Uvijet KA runs on the Acuity Advance HS X2 hybrid printer. Demonstrations highlighted how this new ink system exhibits excellent adhesion to a range of rigid and flexible media.
  • Uvijet LL is running on the new Acuity LED 1600. This eight-color ink system includes high-opacity white and clear inks tailored to deliver optimum performance with the Fujifilm proprietary LED curing system onboard the printer.
  • In addition, Fujifilm showcased its new cloud-based color management software, XMF ColorPath, and Web-to-print system, XMF PrintCentre, which also can be seen at Graph Expo this fall.

Eco-solvent: Sign of the Times

Epson’s latest solvent ink, UltraChrome GS2, makes its debut in the new SureColor S30670 printer. The ink set includes a newly formulated yellow ink that can produce prints with up to three years of outdoor durability without lamination. In addition, these new inks deliver virtually odorless printing without the need for external dryers, special ventilation, or air purification systems, and do not contain Nickel (Ni) compounds, helping to reduce impact on the environment and potential harm to workers.

Among sign company operators, there also is increased interest in Triangle brand EDX eco solvent inks for Roland DGA printers. The Nickel-free formulation from INX Digital International provides an easy, waste-free conversion while offering media compatibility and super chemical resistance.

Roland DGA users can count on bright, true, and clean colors, said INX. No re-profiling is needed to run HPS, regardless if converting from previous Triangle options or OEM inks. Chemically compatible with the OEM inks, EDX inks offer excellent adhesion to a much wider range of media with superb resistance to alcohol and common cleaning agents. These advanced formula, fast-drying inks also are color compatible with OEM options and provide higher resolution due to more accurate drop placement. They are available in 440-ml. cartridges through INX Digital’s global distribution network.


Partners in Ink

3M Commercial Graphics works continually with printer manufacturers to develop new branded inks that give customers digital printing options for producing graphics backed by the 3M MCS Warranty. Pre-drupa, 3M and Seiko I Infotech Inc. teamed up to introduce GX 3M inks made for use in the Seiko ColorPainter H Series printers. Designed for printing on many 3M brand opaque, translucent, and reflective graphic films, GX 3M inks can be applied in fleet and vehicle graphics, indoor and outdoor signs, and promotional graphics.

The solvent inks have excellent conformability, and are available in eight colors, including cyan, magenta, yellow, black, light cyan, light magenta, and two shades of white. GX 3M inks are suitable for graphic films applied on compound curves, corrugations, and riveted and flat surfaces, offering outstanding versatility to users. When protected with the proper 3M overlaminate, the inks are also durable and weather resistant. “The Seiko ColorPainter H Series has proven to be a successful printer in the wide-format graphic industry; we are excited about the opportunity to offer a co-branded ink for this reputable machine,” said Adam Larson, marketing supervisor, 3M Commercial Graphics.

Additional 3M co-branded inks launched in the past year include the EFI VUTEk GS and GSr inks. One of EFI’s newest printers uses a mild solvent dye sub ink. The VUTEk TX3250r enables soft signage printing, such as on a textile substrate instead of vinyl. The printer’s core technology is a mild solvent dye sub ink that combines high-definition color and high resolution at high production speeds. This T Series ink stands up to the unique demands of textile printing. It is wash-resistant and dryer-resilient for indoor and outdoor graphics so they can be used over and over again. The inks can be infused into fabrics for head-turning color vibrancy and excellent draping qualities.


Night Graphics

Enter the “Night Graphics Market” with the world’s first solvent fluorescent inks for wide-format printers, making their debut this month. Seiko has developed new fluorescent inks in two vivid colors: neon yellow and neon pink. These inks can be used with ColorPainter W Series printers to produce fluorescent graphics that shine bright under normal lighting and glow under blacklight conditions. Neon inks will work in all existing ColorPainter W printers and will be available in September, Seiko said.

Seiko also introduced new, low cost inks for the ColorPainter H2P Series printers. This VX ink set is designed for high-volume banner shops for ’round-the-clock printing. While saving production time, these ink sets also are less expensive and reduce running costs.


Sun-Kissed Print

Consistent brand-perfect color reproduction is always a challenge when producing point-of-purchase (POP) displays for regional and national marketers, or global brands in multiple international venues. Obtaining client approval with minor or no alterations plays a key role in the process. All too often, variable or less-than-ideal lighting and imprecise tools can skew perceptions, resulting in costly, time consuming color adjustments and production delays.

At drupa, the SAKATA INX Group—including INX International Ink Co. and INX Digital International—demonstrated new tools and technologies that can dramatically improve color management and control, reducing if not eliminating major promotional problems en route to the marketplace.

“Our global presence along with cross-platform ink product and application know-how enhances our ability to offer comprehensive consulting services for total color management and quality improvement,” said Kuniyoshi Horimoto of Sakata INX. “Ongoing involvement in this area with users of our inks and related technologies has led to development of two highly practical, effective tools.”

There is no better light than natural sunlight for viewing color output, and now the Natural Light LED viewing box provides the next-best thing.

“The Natural Light LED light source is designed to allow objects to be perceived in their natural color, as it is with sunlight,” Horimoto noted. “drupa visitors [saw] for themselves the difference it makes in an object’s color hue compared to the fluorescent lights frequently used in our industry.”

The Natural Light LED removes subjective guesswork, expressing high color rendering property “by the numbers,” as a general Color Rendering Index (CRI) value of 98. That’s just shy of sunshine’s 100 CRI, indicating the Natural Light LED viewing box’s ability to faithfully reproduce colors in comparison with nature’s own.

“This makes it an ideal light source for color-critical applications which printers and global marketers deal with daily,” Horimoto added. “Natural Light LED closely emulates sunshine in both the breadth and depth of its spectral distribution. In contrast, fluorescent light sources have a much lower CRI and, more importantly, they exaggerate some colors while downplaying others. This significantly impacts what the viewer sees, which makes this viewing box a natural for conventional or digital print operations.”