“There are very specific requirements for matching those colors, and they can be very difficult with CMYK. Orange gives PSPs a better opportunity to match those colors. We first introduced it as an option when the printer was introduced a year ago. Now the product will be commercially introduced at the end of the year.”
One of the biggest trends is the search for better quality and much higher speed, two goals that conflict with one another, Cain says. “What you're seeing is that most UV printers are coming out with smaller ink droplets, meaning you have to put more droplets on the print. If you drop the picoliter, which you're doing with smaller droplets, the printer tends to slow down, because you have more ink being put down on the print. People are looking for higher quality at closer range, but that cannot be achieved along with faster speeds.”
Ten years ago, he adds, the typical grand-format UV printer featured 30-picoliter and above print heads, but the client base has demanded higher quality, Cain notes.
“Therefore, printer manufacturers have gone to printers with smaller drop sizes, down to 10 and some even to 10 picoliters,” he adds.
At this year's SGIA show, Polytype America, a manufacturer and distributor, unveiled two new printers, Cain says. The first is a Polytype America-manufactured printer called the Quantum, a 10-picoliter grand-format unit in 2.5 and 3.5-meter-wide configurations.
“This is what we call a combination printer, which you can use as a pure flatbed, as a roll-to-roll unit, for oversized materials, for heavyweight materials, and materials up to 3.75 inches thick,” Cain says. “And you have the ability to automate the machine for industrial use. It's simple to switch from one application to the next. What's more, since it features 10-picoliter heads, the quality is much higher than traditional UV printers.”
Polytype America is also the North American distributor for a company called SwissQprint, enabling the company to introduce SwissQprint's new Nyala, a 3.2-meter flatbed UV printer. “It's a 14-picoliter, high-quality print head,” Cain says. “You can do oversized five-foot-wide-by-any-length boards on the unit. It does have roll-to-roll capability, and it's easiest to describe by saying it has many other functions to increase productivity for the PSP.”
At HP, the entry-level UV printer is the HP Scitex FB 500, Gasch reports. It is a 64-inch printer to which can be added a roll-to-roll function, extended tables and white ink printing capability. “This is great for package proofs, as well as display and signage printing,” he says. “It has a very efficient workflow, because it has a belt-driven mechanism that allows you to load while printing. There's no need for media masking. That's particularly relevant when you're doing multiple copies. You can load media on the input side, and collect the finished prints on the output side. And you do that while it's printing, for uninterrupted workflow.”
This is an excellent solution for PSPs who want to start out small and add capabilities like roll-to-roll printing, a second set of tables or white ink as profits grow. “Because they are all attachable and detachable, you have a footprint advantage,” Gasch adds. “You don't have to have a permanently large footprint. For people starting out, that's a very suitable solution. It reflects the unlimited possibilities from even this entry level machine.”
The FB 700, a slightly bigger, 98-inch printer with the same capabilities described above, is particularly apropos for PSPs with higher volume and need to produce greater numbers of copies, Gasch says. At the top of the line, the FB 7600 responds to the trends for shorter runs and smaller numbers of copies. It allows PSPs to turn out jobs of 200 to 500 copies in “a reasonable amount of time, and cost effectively,” he reports.
The installed base is also benefiting from technology advancements, he adds. “For instance, we introduced a new ink, Scitex FB 225, used on the FB 7600. That improves adhesion in plastic-based substrates. It is the first UV ink that is GreenGuard certified. That's a certification more institutions are requesting of their prints. We've also produced a white ink that allows PSPs to do white on their current machines and not have to buy new equipment.”