EFI, a world leader in customer-focused digital printing innovation, announced that Machesney Park, Ill.-based Interstate Graphics Inc. (IGI) has become the first customer to install the new EFI VUTEk GS Pro-TF thermoforming system, a UV printer and ink offering that advances the industry’s analog-to-digital transformation by bringing inkjet printing to the thermoformed product decoration market.
EFI showcased the VUTEk GS Pro-TF system at the recent 2013 SGIA Expo in Orlando, where it was named SGIA’s 2013 Product of the Year in the digital inks category.
IGI’s installation, which was completed earlier this month, includes a 2-meter VUTEk GS2000 Pro-TF printer operating VUTEk GS-TF inks. The award-winning system prints on flat sheets of plastic media that are meant to be thermoformed into 3D shapes, eliminating potentially costly and time-consuming screen printing, hand painting and vinyl lettering processes.
IGI is using the system to offer high-quality, shorter-run thermoformed work, including test runs and prototypes that are not cost-effective to produce using analog printing methods.
“Today, we do screen printing for customers who want thermoformed work,” said IGI President John Norwood. “Our new EFI VUTEk GS Pro-TF system is an option for them to go digital.”
Thermoforming: a new frontier for digital printing
The VUTEk GS Pro-TF system can print on a wide range of polystyrene, high-impact polystyrene, PETG, polycarbonate, PVC and acrylic substrates. The versatility in compatible media gives companies like IGI the ability to digitally print many products that benefit from 3-D thermoforming enhancements, such as outdoor, point-of-purchase and beverage signage, as well as vending and gaming panels.
Printing companies can also use the VUTEk GS Pro-TF system to develop new, custom-decoration applications for the automotive, marine, aircraft and other industries.
IGI’s new ink and printer technologies transcend previous limitations with inkjet, where inks could not withstand the heat and pressure of the forming process. VUTEk GS-TF Ink is a patented, eight-color plus white ink set that provides excellent adhesion and outstanding retention of hue and opacity on both first- and second-surface deep-draw thermoformed applications, withstanding post-process heat forming, cutting and routing without chipping, cracking or flaking.
The system’s new thermoforming printer provides the proven benefits of the VUTEk GS Pro platform, with imaging resolutions up to 1,000 dpi and EFI’s variable-drop grayscale technology.
“Experienced and innovative firms like IGI know the challenges and opportunities that exist in high-quality thermoformed products,” said Frank Mallozzi, senior vice president, worldwide sales and marketing, EFI. “The new EFI VUTEk GS Pro-TF system provides this knowledgeable customer with an immediate competitive advantage while opening the door to new digital printing jobs that did not exist before.”
The VUTEk GS Pro-TF is one of two new VUTEk products IGI has installed in 2013. Earlier this year, the company became one of the first to install an EFI VUTEk HS100 Pro, a high-end, high-speed 3.2-meter inkjet press offering the productivity of screen printing and image quality approaching offset. IGI manages its VUTEk printers using EFI Fiery proServer digital front ends.