Industry’s Widest Line
Flatbed printing is one of the strengths at Elmwood Park, NJ-based Agfa Graphics, says Larry D’Amico, vice president of digital imaging. The entry-level Anapurna line, which is priced from $80,000to $150,000, handles from 5 to 15 boards an hour. The mid-range Jeti line, priced from $200,000 to $600,000, will turn out 15 to 30 boards an hour. And the top-line M-Press, priced from $1.2 to $2.5 million, produces from 60 to 180 boards an hour, according to D’Amico.
“There are all kinds of products within those groups, and we have the broadest line of flatbed printers,” D’Amico says. Our inks, which we manufacture ourselves, offer the lowest cost per square foot in the industry. With that ink, we have the thinnest laydowns. They lay down a smaller, thinner layer of ink, which provides more of an aesthetic benefit, and feels more like an offset sheet.”
The ultimate Agfa Graphics selling point is breadth of product. “Because our line is so broad, we can fit the product to your application,” D’Amico says.
At Atlanta’s CET Color, flatbed and belt-driven hybrid UV cure printers are the sole focus. “We are among the few manufacturers that offer both,” says Jack Skidmore, director of sales, adding four flatbeds are in CET Color’s line.
“We also offer an industry leading program of field upgradeability,” he adds. “A customer can purchase our entry-level printers, and can field upgrade with more printheads to increase printing speed or printing capabilities. A PSP can purchase a printer with just CMYK at an entry-level price, and in the field, their printer can be upgraded with additional capabilities like light cayenne, light magenta, and white and clear varnish printheads to meet their productivity needs. By adding another row of printheads, you’re adding the capability of an entirely new machine, at a cost less than half that of a new machine.”
Phoenix-based Mutoh America Inc. offers the ValueJet line, which features the 1608HS hybrid printer with roll-to-roll and flatbed capabilities.
Priced at less than $50,000, it’s the lease expensive hybrid flatbed solution on the market, according to marketing manager David Conrad. “If you want to make money, you’ve got to save money,” he observes.
The ValueJet 1608HS is ideal for those shops with limited space as well as limited budgets, Conrad adds. “The hybrid capability of running roll-to-roll media or rigid materials gives the shop flexibility if they can’t afford to bring in dedicated equipment to support both applications,” he says.
Additional advancements in flatbed printing are just around the corner, experts say. Cain believes the future of flatbed will be larger and faster.
“It’s all about how many boards per hour the sign shop or graphics shop can produce,” he says. “It’s all about productivity.”
For his part, Van Horn says PSPs are looking for equipment with better image quality, faster throughput and greater cost efficiencies.
“As we move the bar forward from an analog to a digital standpoint, we will bring higher efficiencies to more print service providers,” he predicts.
Paar believes trends are already in place, and they will continue as flatbed printing evolves. “Machines will get faster, be lower cost, and incorporate additional features, whether additional ink channels or different types of inks for different applications,” he observes. “The general population of end users does not even know what a flatbed printer is. So I think there’s still a lot of opportunity for this segment to grow, as more people become aware of its capabilities.”