The question of how to take the benefit from the speed of screen printing with the convenience and versatility of digital production was answered for Rotherham, UK-based display specialist Bluetree Design & Print when it invested in a UV-curable HP Scitex FB7500 Printer.
Already well-versed in inkjet technology, the addition of this highly productive industrial flat-bed solution now means that the company can produce all run lengths effortlessly at speeds of up to 500m/hr. Additionally, Bluetree is benefiting from the ability to include versioning and variable data into its applications so that customised jobs from short runs up to volumes of several thousand can be output from a single data file.
A former screen printing specialist, Bluetree evolved from producing very high-quality four-color work to wide-format digital in order to cater for shorter runs and greater versatility. The company's initial investment in inkjet technology was the result of an investment plan started in 2004. Since then, it has grown steadily and now incorporates UV-curable printing onto both rigid and flexible materials.
In order to continue this development, the company recognized that further investment into wide format technology was essential to increase its capacity, improve output quality and gain higher throughput speeds regardless of run length. Bluetree moved the majority of its digital production to a new site, continuing its screen printing work at its existing Rotherham base and these original premises now also house its HP Scitex FB7500.
In 2007, with at least 30 percent of its production being output digitally, Bluetree again assessed its future and acknowledged that further expansion of its digital printing capability was essential.
"The company was in a strong position as a leading supplier of high-quality point-of-sale, signs and general displays but we realized that we'd reached the point where we needed to evolve in order to continue on our growth path," said Bryan Shirley, director, Bluetree Design & Print. "This evolution meant that we needed to invest in greater wide-format inkjet capacity."
During Bluetree's next investment phase in 2009, thorough investigations were made into the faster, more productive, versatile wide -format machines coming to market and this coincided with the introduction of the HP Scitex FB7500 Printer. Shirley and his team visited a beta site to see the system in operation as well as viewing demonstrations at its launch at FESPA Digital 2009, and decided this solution was best suited to the company's demanding requirements.
"We looked at the options available which were designed for fast throughput that could match the high-quality of our screen printing, but one of the deciding factors that contributed to our decision to choose the HP Scitex FB7500 was the quality of finish," explained Shirley. "In particular, we preferred the UV-curable ink on this machine and its appearance across a range of different materials."
The automation incorporated into the printer was another important aspect for Bluetree, as the loading and stacking elements are included in this machine. Designed for heavy-duty production cycles and fast change-over, the company's FB7500 often runs 24 hours a day, with minimal supervision, providing consistent high quality across a range of different jobs.
One of the disadvantages of screen printing is that, as an analogue process, it isn't possible to output customised jobs where variable elements need to be incorporated as part of the overall print. Using HP's SmartStream Designer plug-in with Adobe CS5 InDesign gives Bluetree the versatility it needs to merge personalised data as part of an overall graphic application.
A typical example was the production of more than 5,300 self-adhesive signs, each of which contained individual information yet was output as a single application on the HP Scitex FB7500. The job, produced for a leading regional public transport company, enables bus passengers to text a unique code to a central number. This notifies the drivers that there are people waiting to be collected at the stop, identified numerically in the text message.
The high performance HP Scitex FB7500 was developed to promote the transition from analogue to digital production in a three-quarters automatic solution which accommodates material loading and unloading. With output speeds of up to 500m/hr this six-color wide-format printer benefits from HP's proprietary X2 MEMS (microelectromechanical systems) printhead technology and specially developed UVcurable inks.
With an optimum native resolution of 500dpi, the FB7500's drop-on-demand piezoelectric inkjet technology ensures consistent, high-quality results across a broad range of rigid and flexible sheets up to a maximum sheet size of 1.65 x 3.2m and thicknesses of 25mm. Typical materials include card stocks, corrugated and fluted boards, polystyrene, self-adhesive vinyls, coated and uncoated papers and PVCs.
"The addition of the HP Scitex FB7500 Printer has enabled us to move our original screen printing and wide-format digital business into a new dimension where we can increase versatility and output opportunities across all run lengths," concluded Shirley. "This investment has lived up to its promise, giving us speed and quality in a robust, dependable printer. We've been so impressed with its performance, we're considering purchasing a second machine."