Wide Open Possibilities
Oce North America offers the Arizona platform, with a number of models built on that platform, Paar says. The GT supports a 4-by-8 full bleed print size, while the XT supports an 8-by-10 full bleed size. The GT is the everyday production model for shops that don’t need to handle over-sized materials and don’t have a need for high volume. The XT is the high-productivity model. The 8-by-10 area of the XT can be split into two 4-by-8 vacuum zones, letting PSPs print one sheet while setting up the next one, for a non-stop process, Paar says.
What’s possible? “It’s pretty much wide open,” he responds. “The possibilities are pretty much endless in what you can print on to. For instance, you can take a pre-manufactured item and customize it with a name, logo or graphic to increase the value of that item. We’re creating a high-margin application, compared to someone just doing traditional printing on foam board. It becomes a specialty graphic application, which tends to result in higher-margin products, compared to traditional graphics like foam board.”
The Arizona platform is a stationary flatbed. Substrates stay stationary during the printing process, for very accurate registration printing on both sides of the material. “If you had to print on two sides of, say, a piece of cardboard, it would be more difficult to get it aligned mounting roll prints,” Paar says.
Because it’s a digital process, industrial applications that are moving to digital, become new profit opportunities for PSPs. One application is membrane switch overlay printing of, for instance, pushbuttons on a microwave oven.
“It’s a totally new business, which is nice,” Paar says.
Another new opportunity will likely be found in retail. PSPs have always served that market with posters and banners, but flatbed printing allows them greater labor efficiencies. What’s more, with the Arizona platform, image quality is extremely high, allowing PSPs to sell point-of-purchase materials that will be seen at a shorter distance, making them higher-end, more profitable items.
More Rigid, Durable Material
Jim Cain, director of sales for the digital imaging group of Polytype America in Mahwah, NJ, says flatbed printing’s ascendancy results from the desire to print oversized materials that are rigid. “Customers are now requesting more rigid material, more durable material and the use of UV inks that allow for greater outdoor durability,” he observes. “There’s also better productivity, more versatility, reduced labor costs and increased automation.”
Polytype America is a manufacturer of the Swiss-made Virtu product line and is also the North America distributor of the Swiss-made swissQprint line, consisting of the 2.5-meter Oryx and Impala, and the 3.5-meter Nyala.
Within the Virtu line, the Abacus is a 30 pl. or 80 pl print head in 2.5 or 3.5 meters. Just introduced is a new product called the Quantum, which will be unveiled at the SGIA Show in Las Vegas in mid-October. That is a 10 pl. unit offered in 2.5 and 3.5 meter configurations, Cain reports.
The Virtu line encompasses six machines that are pure roll-to-roll, flatbed, or can run a combination of roll or flatbed, handling materials up to 3.75 inches thick and ranging in size from 98 to 126 inches wide by any length, he adds.
“We can run paper, vinyl, banner material, glass, metals, woods, stone, concrete, basically anything you want to run through the printer,” Cain says.
“The way the heads are configured, they are very lean on ink consumption. The printer runs on speeds that are equal to or better than the competition. And the machines are very easy to use and easy to run.”
Those who are using the machines are turning out banners, trade show materials, posters, and event products. They’re producing exhibit displays, in-store design, outdoor awnings and virtually anything imaginable in the signage and graphics industries. “And they’re also doing interior design work, such as tile, acrylics and decorative glass,” Cain says.