Small format coffee printer have distinct character and selection of special applications of their very own in a fashion that you don’t see with, say, the narrowest versions of solvent roll fed printers.
The compact dimensions of the smallest A3 bed models means they’ll squeeze into places the place you wouldn’t put a large format printer, and the relatively low entry prices mean that they’re attracting the sort of user that can’t accommodate or perhaps can’t afford a “conventional” flatbed.
Just as furthermore, these baby flatbeds are made for taking deep, often three dimensional objects that are on the beds by vacuum and jigs.
This materials handling ability above all else is driving the applications, which 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 the like.
They are going to print on anything that’s relatively small and solid, really. Most of these small printers use UV-cured inks, which sticks to numerous surfaces, even though some (including 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 as well as UV curing.
Modest curves could be printed on, although not anything having a significant variation in height as being the accurate “throw distance” in the ink droplets is relatively small, as with any inkjet. By way of example golf balls could only be printed in a fairly small circle throughout the highest point, rather than the complete of just one hemisphere.
All of this class of small flatbeds have vacuum beds, but when you’re printing multiple small 3D objects you’ll need to have a jig to carry them in predetermined positions, hence the printed image is applied on the right areas. Jigs can be done 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 a production system so far.
The FESPA Digital event in Munich this year saw the newest arrival on 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 due to ship in September 2014 and we’ll look at it in more detail in part two, with the equally interesting products offered by some of the smaller European developers: Copytrax/Azon and Bergstein.
This Mimaki UJF-3042FX includes a jig on its bed to position small gifts – in this instance paper cutters.
Actually Mutoh comes 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 plus an A2 version. Mimaki itself wasn’t the first to build phone case printer, since there have been tries to get small solvent flatbeds above the ground in the early 2000s.
However, Mimaki’s mix of UV inks and LED curing lamps by using a deep adjustable-height bed, coupled with its marketing clout, made the UJF-3042 an instant sales success. Priced below €30,000, these printers sold as fast as Mimaki can make them to the first couple of years.
The initial UJF-3042 was revised and renamed UJF-3042FX in 2011. It will take items as much as 50 mm thick and now costs about €21,500 (a drop of approximately 25% since launch)). This Year it was joined by the €38,000 UJF-3042HG, which could 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 present CMYK plus light cyan and light magenta and can optionally print a primer coating if needed.
The first UJF-3042 prints either white or clear ink, even though the other two can run in both exactly the same unit. There’s a choice of high durability, stretchable or wide gamut inks, along with the white has recirculation.
As outlined by Mimaki, the UJF-6042 can print an entire bed in the middle 2 minutes half a minute and 7 minutes 37 seconds dependant upon the quality settings.
Kebab fits about the deeper beds of your Mimaki UJF-3042HG as well as the UJF-6042 and includes motors to rotate cylindrical items.
In a few markets Mimaki offers optional “Kebab” holders for your deep-bed UJF-3043HG and UJF-6042 that could rotate cylindrical objects for example wine bottles, candles or cardboard tubes within the heads. Price is about €3,800 and yes it takes objects from 10 to 110mm diameter and up to 330 mm long.
Foiled metallic effects are loved by personalised giftware, but none of the small flatbeds have metallic inks yet. However after this past year I-Sub Digital, a UK based Mimaki dealer, launched Digi-Foil, an array of metallic and decorative foils which have been specially developed for use with the UJF-3042 and 6042 models.
This utilizes a heated applicator for the largely manual process after initial printing. A special adhesive ink is commonly used within the printer being a separate pass, allowing prototypes, one-offs and short runs of foiled try to be produced without making use of hot foil dies and presses. I-Sub says that the foiled area can be anything “as a result of dexmpky56 single dot.”
Roland DG’s first small UV flatbed was very small indeed. The VersaUV LEF-12 has a A4 printing area. It was actually initially priced at little below the larger Mimaki UJF-3042 models, which limited its appeal despite some nice features for instance a sealed lid and optional carbon filter to minimize dust and ink mist.
Roland fixed that in 2013 by launching the SRA3 format LEF-20 at a price that briefly undercut the Mimaki around €25,000, while lowering the LEF-12’s price considerably: throughout the uk it can be the equivalent of €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 both Roland models there’s a selection of matt or gloss finish when curing the clear coating.
By using a maximum 1,440 dpi resolution about the LEF-20, Roland says it will take 7 minutes 20 seconds to print a complete 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 have a look at further options inside the textile printer, along with a look at where they fit alongside existing analogue and alternative digital processes.