The Manufacturers’ Perspective
Flatbed printer makers, of course, have a lot of good ideas about how to expand services using flatbeds. At Fujifilm North America Corporation Graphic Systems Division, product marketing manager, inkjet, Steve Cutler notes the only restriction on uses is your imagination.
“You are able to print on doors, various household products, [and] basically any finished goods under two inches thick can now have high-end graphics applied. With our ink formulation technology, we are able to print many different types of substrate, and you are not limited to foam core, styrene, and the like. We’ve printed on cutting boards for samples at trade shows. We’ve also printed three-dimensional die cut wind chimes, and the effect is spectacular. We are always thinking beyond paper-based products.”
The Acuity Advance Select HS-6 printers can alternatively be configured with white and clear ink channels, he says. Adding white and clear ink channels allows PSPs to print on a range of non-white substrates and add a spot or flood coat varnish effect in a single operation, all on one printer.
One of the key features incorporated into the new Acuity Advance Select HS-6 and HS-6 X2 models is the inclusion of six independent ink channels, Cutler adds. “For printers that focus on retail signage or other standard graphics applications requiring the highest throughput, channels five and six can be configured to enhance print speed by adding extra cyan and magenta nozzle capacity,” he reports.”
Moving to the flatbed printers of HP, many sign shops, franchised operations, and smaller in-house printing centers choose the mid-range platform, the HP Scitex FB500 Industrial Printer and the HP Scitex FB700 Industrial Printer. So says Ken Van Horn, Americas category manager with HP Scitex Industrial Presses. “They will choose that printer to give them the ability to do roll-to-roll, sheet-fed, and also cut sheets and rigid materials,” he says. “It gives them high-quality printing at speeds for small or short-runs. They can also do a lot of prototyping on them as well. A couple pieces of a prototype for a one-off or shelf ready can be done with this machine.”
On the industrial side, HP offers the HP Scitex FB7600 Industrial Press and the HP Scitex FB10000 Industrial Press. These machines are for the longer, more industrial types of runs, Van Horn says.
What HP noticed with the FB7600 is that screen printers embraced the machine and bought it to replace their screen printer, he adds.
“It gave them high quality, lower cost per copy, comparable speeds, and versatility,” he says, noting the market shift to multiple-piece, short runs averaging 2,000 pieces has enabled the move from screen printing and made it much more economical to run a digital device. “We’re seeing the same shift with the 10000 in the offset market. Those large runs are becoming short runs, and becoming very localized or regionalized. A lot of variable data is going through, and is enabled by using digital devices.”
Van Horn envisions the digital market taking over more of the traditional analog business in the years ahead. “You see a lot of analog users migrating to digital, because of the price pressures they face and the desire for quicker turns,” he observes. “And the digital machines are getting much more economical to run. You’re getting much higher quality as well. That near-offset quality from a digital device was the last hurdle that had to be overcome.”
A final bit of advice is offered by G. Scott Wood, product manager for EFI Wide-Format Printers, including the flatbed EFI T1000 UV-curable printer and the EFI H652 hybrid printer. Print professionals must consider the applications, market, and margin opportunities to sell wide-format flatbed printing, he says.
“It might not be all one type of work, so a company has to keep an eye out for the different types of wide-format print jobs it can sell,” he observes.