Wide Format Printers Present Significant Innovation at drupa 2012

 By Joe Tischner, wide format test specialist, June 4, 2012

BLI editors had a chance to check out the latest offerings from a number of manufacturers in the wide-format arena represented across many of the halls at drupa 2012, the quadrennial print trade show that took place in early May in Düsseldorf, Germany. Enthusiastic product managers and sales reps eagerly discussed new ink colors, improvements in printhead design and the productivity enhancements of a great many newly-unveiled devices, as well as a few prototypes. BLI’s coverage primarily includes models in the 36- to 64-inch width range employing aqueous, latex or solvent inks, as well as two toner-based wide-format solutions.

Canon/Océ

Keen focus in Océ’s section of the Canon booth was on the Velocity, Océ’s high-volume color wide-format printer currently under development. The unit is the result of collaborative efforts between Océ engineering teams and Memjet, the printhead manufacturing company. According to Eelco Schillings, Océ business development manager, the 42-inch width four-color unit, which employs five Memjet printheads, is capable of printing up to 500 A0-size color documents in one hour at 1600-x-800-dpi. The Velocity supports up to six media rolls for a maximum output capacity of nearly 4,000 feet. Schillings stated that Océ will be offering beta-version models of the Velocity to existing customers in an effort to obtain critical feedback, and the company will determine if and when Velocity will move to the production phase based on that feedback, which they hope to have compiled by the second half of 2012. The recently-released Océ ColorWave 650, which utilizes the company’s CrystalPoint technology, was also busy churning out posters, maps and renderings during the show.

Covering an array of sizes, speeds and ink colors, Canon featured many of its aqueous inkjet wide-format printers for photographic print applications on the show floor. These included the imagePROGRAF iPF5100, iPF9000S and iPF9100 models, as well as two recent BLI “Pick” award winners—the imagePROGRAF iPF6350 and iPF8300S.

Epson

Replacing the wide-format printer line’s Stylus Pro moniker, Epson introduced several new SureColor models intended for a range of indoor and outdoor print applications. The 64-inch Epson SureColor S30600 (recently released as the S30670 in the United States) employs the company’s four-color UltraChrome GS2 odorless solvent ink set and is being touted for its environmental friendliness as it does not require ventilation or an air purification system, unlike some competitive models. The company will further expand its portfolio in the fall of 2012 with the launch of the SureColor S50600 and S70600, also seen in operation on the show floor. Both 64-inch solvent ink models, the S50600 contains two sets of CMYK cartridges, one white ink cartridge and a dual set of printheads and is the fastest in the Epson line. The S70600 base model features eight UltraChrome GSX inks—light cyan, light magenta, light black and orange, in addition to CMYK, while a ten-color version adds white and metallic silver inks.

For the technical and engineering print markets, Epson revealed the SureColor T3000, T5000 and T7000, 24-, 36- and 44-inch models, respectively. Designed to fit in an office environment, these models feature Epson’s UltraChrome XD water-based four-color ink set, which, according to the company, are responsible for producing high-quality durable prints with deep blacks, a wide color gamut and crisp, dense lines.

HP

Noteworthy in the vast HP booth was the company’s latex ink printer applications wall. Here, practical printed samples were exhibited showcasing the versatility of the recently-introduced HP Designjet L26500 (61-inch width) and L28500 (104-inch width) six-color water-based latex inkjet printers. Among the HP and third-party media on display were dozens of examples of banner, textile, self-adhesive, canvas, vinyl, wall paper and backlit media intended for either indoor or outdoor display. Recent BLI “Pick” award winners on the show floor included the Designjet T7100, which supports up to three media rolls and is geared toward high-volume technical print applications, and the eight-ink Designjet Z6200, which is aimed at photo printing applications.

KIP

One new toner-based wide-format device, the recently-unveiled 36-inch KIP C7800 Production Color Print System, was the highlight of the KIP booth. According to Sonny Odom, KIP vice president of sales, this high-volume production unit is intended for creating lightfast, dry and UV-resistant indoor and outdoor prints. Combining its four large-capacity toner cartridges with a three-roll 4,500-square-foot paper capacity, the C7800 enables uninterrupted print runs longer than those of many competitive devices. The KIP C7800 boasts a black print speed of 4,200 square-feet-per-hour and a color speed of 3,500 square-feet-per-hour.

Mimaki

Targeted to indoor and outdoor print display markets, the newly-unveiled JV400 printer series was demonstrated in Mimaki’s booth. The JV400LX models, available in 54- or 64-inch widths, feature the company’s latest eco-friendly water-based latex inkjet technology. According to Mimaki, the LX printers are the first to offer a white latex ink option, ideal for printing on transparent media. An eight ink cartridge configuration allows users to select between four-color (two each cyan, magenta, yellow, black); six-color (cyan, light cyan, magenta, light magenta and two each yellow and black); and a seven-color configuration, in which one yellow and one black cartridge are replaced with white. Nearly identical in appearance, size and performance, the Mimaki JV400SUV printer series employs two sets of four solvent UV ink colors—cyan, magenta, yellow and black. The company is touting this printer/ink combination for producing fast drying prints with exceptional scratch resistance and a glossy appearance and is being targeted to sign manufacturers.

Mutoh

Two high-speed 64-inch eco-solvent ValueJet VJ1638 inkjet printers were exhibited in the Mutoh booth. According to the company, the four-color VJ1638, which employs Mutoh’s staggered dual-printhead technology, is geared toward the production of full-color posters, banners, backlit signage, POS displays, floor and vehicle graphics, adhesive signs and stickers, as well as photo-realistic prints for indoor use. Utilizing Mutoh Eco-Ultra inks that do not contain harmful VOCs, the VJ1638 does not require ventilation. Moreover, the company stated that the inks are fast drying and provide both high density and superior scratch resistance. The unit boasts a maximum print speed of up to 1,000-square-feet-per-hour at the two-pass, bi-directional 360-x-720 setting and has a maximum print resolution of 1440 dpi.

Ricoh

With an expected year-end launch, the Ricoh Pro L4000 latex ink wide-format printer was unveiled at drupa. Touting its water-based inks for having a minimal environmental impact, the unit will be available in three ink configurations with between four and seven colors, and includes a white ink option for printing on transparent or colored media. The company stated that the unit employs Ricoh printheads that are capable of producing three droplet sizes, the smallest of which is four picoliters. Ideal for both indoor and outdoor print applications, the unit, which will come in 54- and 65.7-inch widths, supports an extensive media library, including PVC, tarpaulin, textiles and synthetic, coated and non-coated papers, among others. The ColorGATE RIP software was shown in conjunction with the Ricoh Pro L4000.

Targeted to the technical, AEC and CAD printing markets, the Aficio MP CW2200SP was also on display for the first time. This MFP features Ricoh’s unique four-color, quick-drying and smudge-free Liquid Gel inks. Using a third less power than its major competitors while delivering a fast 40 second warm-up time, the unit is being advertised for its environmental friendliness. The MP CW2200SP can print up to 3.2 A1-size pages per minute in black-and-white and 1.1 pages per minute in color. Other notable features include an integrated full-color scanner with five contact image sensors with a maximum scan resolution of 600 dpi.

Roland

Roland demonstrated the company’s VersaCAMM VS family of integrated wide-format printers/cutters at drupa. The Roland VersaCAMM comes in four widths—30-, 42-, 54- and 64-inches and features Eco-SOL MAX inks in several color configurations that include metallic silver and white options. These eco-solvent inks are water- and UV-resistant for up to three years outdoors, although white ink has a reported one year resistance, while silver has one to three years resistance. The company highlighted the many print applications for which these units are intended, including banners, posters, apparel heat transfers, packaging prototypes, vehicle wraps and label making, among many others. The Roland VS printers automatically and conveniently perform contour cuts after printing, thus saving time by eliminating the need to reload and reposition printed jobs.

Seiko I Infotech

Seiko I Infotech exhibited the W and H series of ColorPainter wide-format printers. The 54-inch W-54s, ordinarily a six-color unit containing light cyan and light magenta inks in addition to CMYK, was shown printing with Seiko’s new neon pink and yellow inks, which supplanted the two light colors on the demo model. These inks were shown to fluoresce on prints when viewed under black-light conditions in the booth. Eddie Miura, SII sales promotion manager, stated that due to the unique inks’ composition, they were mainly for indoor print applications and have a display period of approximately one month. The W-54s and W-64s support two different ink types—GX low-solvent and HAPs (Hazardous Air Pollutants) free, low odor IX ink—in either a four or six color configuration. Both units accommodate a wide range of substrates, including PVC, canvas, fabrics, paper, styrene and backlit film. Available in 74- and 104-inch widths, the H2-74s and 104s mild solvent models were also on display. These offer a four ink (two each CMYK) or eight ink (CMYK, light cyan, light magenta, gray and light gray) configuration.

Xante

The 42-inch width Xante Excelagraphix 4200, another of a select few wide-format devices featuring Memjet’s printhead technology, is the company’s debut model in the wide-format printer market. This flat-bed unit comprises five printheads that can issue up to 3.5 billion drops per second at a very small 1.2 picoliter droplet size, which enable an operating speed of up to 12,000 square feet per hour. Mark Swanzy, Xante COO, stated that the Excelagraphix 4200 can accommodate an expansive array of media, including foamboard, corrugated cardboard, acrylic, vinyl, Tyvek and PVC that are receptive to water-based inks. Owing to its adjustable media path, the unit accommodates thicknesses up to 3/8". Swanzy indicated that the Excelagraphix 4200 is a practical and ideal solution for in-plant and commercial offset print shops, as well as traditional quick-print shops.

This article was originally posted on Buyer's Laboratory.