Small format latte art printer have distinct character and array of special applications of their own in a way that you don’t see with, say, the narrowest versions of solvent roll fed printers.
The compact size of the smallest A3 bed models means they’ll match places that you wouldn’t put a broad format printer, and the relatively low entry prices suggest that they’re attracting the type of user that can’t accommodate or simply can’t afford a “conventional” flatbed.
In the same way furthermore, these baby flatbeds are made for taking deep, often three dimensional objects which can be located on the beds by vacuum and jigs.
This materials handling ability more than anything else is driving the applications, that include objects including 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 so forth.
They are going to print on anything that’s relatively small, and solid, really. A large number of small printers use UV-cured inks, which sticks to numerous surfaces, even though some (for example Mimaki) can optionally print a primer fluid that increases all the different substrates that could be handled. Copytrax offers both strong solvent and water-based gel inks as well as UV curing.
Modest curves can be printed on, but not anything having a significant variation in height since the accurate “throw distance” of your ink droplets is fairly small, as with all inkjet. For instance golf balls can only be printed within a fairly small circle round the highest point, instead of the whole of one hemisphere.
This class of small flatbeds have vacuum beds, but if you’re printing multiple small 3D objects you’ll need a jig to support them in predetermined positions, and so the printed image is used to the right areas. Jigs can be produced from wood, foam, metal or Perspex.
The jig is connected to the design system or Rip through simple templates that position the artwork objects to align with 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 being a production system to date.
The FESPA Digital event in Munich this current year saw the most recent arrival towards the baby flatbed party. Mutoh announced its ValueJet 426UF, a keenly priced A3 flatbed printer that fills a gap in their range where it couldn’t previously contest with its fellow Japanese rivals Mimaki and Roland DG.
This new model is a result of ship in September 2014 and we’ll consider it in depth in part two, alongside the equally interesting products available from several of the smaller European developers: Copytrax/Azon and Bergstein.
This Mimaki UJF-3042FX carries a jig on its bed to position small gifts – in cases like this paper cutters.
Actually Mutoh has come rather late on the party. Mimaki announced its first A3 flatbed, the UJF-3042, 5yrs ago and it has since revised it with a few variations as well as an A2 version. Mimaki itself wasn’t the first one to build uv printer, as there ended up being attempts to get small solvent flatbeds off the floor in the early 2000s.
However, Mimaki’s combination of UV inks and LED curing lamps having a deep adjustable-height bed, in conjunction with its marketing clout, made the UJF-3042 a quick sales success. Priced below €30,000, these printers sold as quickly as Mimaki could make them for the first year or so.
The first UJF-3042 was revised and renamed UJF-3042FX in the year 2011. It will take items approximately 50 mm thick now costs about €21,500 (a drop of about 25% since launch)). In 2011 it absolutely was joined by the €38,000 UJF-3042HG, which can accept 150 mm deep objects. An A2 format UJF-6042 was introduced in 2012, for around €50,000.
All models print a maximum of 1,800 dpi and provide CMYK plus light cyan and light-weight magenta and will optionally print a primer coating if necessary.
The original UJF-3042 prints either white or clear ink, while the other two can run both in exactly the same unit. There’s a selection of high durability, stretchable or wide gamut inks, as well as the white has recirculation.
In accordance with Mimaki, the UJF-6042 can print a complete bed between 2 minutes half a minute and 7 minutes 37 seconds according to the quality settings.
Kebab fits on the deeper beds of the Mimaki UJF-3042HG along with the UJF-6042 and includes motors to rotate cylindrical items.
In some markets Mimaki offers optional “Kebab” holders for the deep-bed UJF-3043HG and UJF-6042 that may rotate cylindrical objects including wine bottles, candles or cardboard tubes within the heads. Cost is about €3,800 plus it takes objects from 10 to 110mm diameter or higher to 330 mm long.
Foiled metallic effects are favored by personalised giftware, but none of the small flatbeds have metallic inks yet. However at the end of a year ago 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 uses a heated applicator to get a largely manual process after initial printing. A particular adhesive ink is utilized from 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 could be anything “to dexmpky56 single dot.”
Roland DG’s first small UV flatbed was really small indeed. The VersaUV LEF-12 comes with an A4 printing area. It was actually initially priced at little lower than the bigger Mimaki UJF-3042 models, which limited its appeal despite some nice features like a sealed lid and optional carbon filter to reduce 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 the united kingdom it can be the same as €16,400.
The LEF-20 takes objects as much as 100 mm high. It offers 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.
Using a maximum 1,440 dpi resolution on the LEF-20, Roland says it requires 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.
To Some Extent 2 we’ll take a look at further options within the dtg printer, along with a have a look at where they fit alongside existing analogue and alternative digital processes.