Small format latte printer have distinct character and range of special applications that belongs to them in a way that you don’t see with, say, the narrowest versions of solvent roll fed printers.
The compact proportions of the tiniest A3 bed models means they’ll squeeze into places the place you wouldn’t put a large format printer, as well as the relatively low entry prices signify they’re attracting the type of user that can’t accommodate or simply can’t afford a “conventional” flatbed.
Just like furthermore, these baby flatbeds are built for taking deep, often three dimensional objects which are found on the beds by vacuum and jigs.
This materials handling ability more than anything else is driving the applications, that include objects like phone and tablet cases, laptop lids, leather folder, book and iPad covers, pens, USB sticks, golf balls, plaques, ceramic tiles and plates, trophies and office nameplates. For additional industrial purposes, the printers can be used as backlit instrument panels, touch switch panels, component marking and stuff like that.
They will print on anything that’s relatively small, and solid, really. Most of these small printers use UV-cured inks, which sticks to many surfaces, while some (such as Mimaki) can optionally print a primer fluid that increases all the different substrates which can be handled. Copytrax offers both strong solvent and water-based gel inks and also UV curing.
Modest curves might be printed on, but not anything having a significant variation in height because the accurate “throw distance” of the ink droplets is relatively small, as with every inkjet. For example golf balls is only able to be printed within a fairly small circle across the highest point, and never the complete of a single hemisphere.
All this class of small flatbeds have vacuum beds, however, if you’re printing multiple small 3D objects you’ll want a jig to keep them in predetermined positions, and so the printed image is applied to the right areas. Jigs can be produced from wood, foam, metal or Perspex.
The jig is linked to the design system or Rip through simple templates that position the artwork objects to align with all the physical jigs. Mimaki demonstrated a jig-free camera based position locator and automatic registration system at drupa 2012, but hasn’t released it as a a production system up to now.
The FESPA Digital event in Munich this coming year saw the most up-to-date arrival towards the baby flatbed party. Mutoh announced its ValueJet 426UF, a keenly priced A3 flatbed printer that fills a gap in its range where it couldn’t previously contest with its fellow Japanese rivals Mimaki and Roland DG.
This new model is due to ship in September 2014 and we’ll look at it in more detail to some extent two, along with the equally interesting products provided by some of the smaller European developers: Copytrax/Azon and Bergstein.
This Mimaki UJF-3042FX features a jig on its bed to position small gift items – in such a case paper cutters.
Actually Mutoh has come rather late on the party. Mimaki announced its first A3 flatbed, the UJF-3042, five-years ago and it has since revised it with a couple of variations with an A2 version. Mimaki itself wasn’t the first to build uv printer, because there have been tries to get small solvent flatbeds above the ground in early 2000s.
However, Mimaki’s mix of UV inks and LED curing lamps with a deep adjustable-height bed, in conjunction with its marketing clout, made the UJF-3042 an immediate sales success. Priced below €30,000, these printers sold as fast as Mimaki might make them to the first year or so.
The very first UJF-3042 was revised and renamed UJF-3042FX this year. It takes items up to 50 mm thick now costs about €21,500 (a drop of approximately 25% since launch)). In The Year 2011 it was actually joined with the €38,000 UJF-3042HG, which may accept 150 mm deep objects. An A2 format UJF-6042 was introduced in 2012, for approximately €50,000.
All models print a maximum of 1,800 dpi and give CMYK plus light cyan and lightweight magenta and will optionally print a primer coating if required.
The initial UJF-3042 prints either white or clear ink, even though the other two can run in a similar unit. There’s a choice of high durability, stretchable or wide gamut inks, as well as the white has recirculation.
Based on Mimaki, the UJF-6042 can print an entire bed between 2 minutes thirty seconds and 7 minutes 37 seconds according to the quality settings.
Kebab fits in the deeper beds from the Mimaki UJF-3042HG and the UJF-6042 and includes motors to rotate cylindrical items.
In certain markets Mimaki offers optional “Kebab” holders for the deep-bed UJF-3043HG and UJF-6042 that can rotate cylindrical objects like wine bottles, candles or cardboard tubes under the heads. Cost is about €3,800 and yes it takes objects from 10 to 110mm diameter or higher to 330 mm long.
Foiled metallic effects are well-liked by personalised giftware, but no small flatbeds have metallic inks yet. However at the conclusion of last year I-Sub Digital, a UK based Mimaki dealer, launched Digi-Foil, a variety of metallic and decorative foils which have been specially developed for use with all the UJF-3042 and 6042 models.
This works with a heated applicator for the largely manual process after initial printing. An exclusive adhesive ink is utilized inside the printer like a separate pass, allowing prototypes, one-offs and short runs of foiled try to be produced without the need for hot foil dies and presses. I-Sub says that the foiled area may be anything “down to dexmpky56 single dot.”
Roland DG’s first small UV flatbed was tiny indeed. The VersaUV LEF-12 has a A4 printing area. It was initially priced at little less than the larger Mimaki UJF-3042 models, which limited its appeal despite some nice features like a sealed lid and optional carbon filter to lessen dust and ink mist.
Roland fixed that in 2013 by launching the SRA3 format LEF-20 at a price that briefly undercut the Mimaki at about €25,000, while lowering the LEF-12’s price considerably: in britain it is now the same as €16,400.
The LEF-20 takes objects up to 100 mm high. It gives you CMYK plus white and clear ink, in 220ml cartridges. With the two Roland models there’s a selection of matt or gloss finish when curing the clear coating.
With a maximum 1,440 dpi resolution in the LEF-20, Roland says it will take 7 minutes 20 seconds to print a total SRA3 bed with CMYK only; or 12 minutes 44 seconds with CMYK plus white; and 17 minutes 20 seconds with CMYK white clear.
Partly 2 we’ll look at further options inside the dtg printer, as well as a take a look at where they can fit alongside existing analogue and alternative digital processes.