Wide format printing today is now pretty much a given for a large number of print service providers. Take a tour around any forward thinking printing company and you will eventually come across a roll-to-roll wide format printer or two quietly chugging away in the background, busy earning their keep. In fact it’s difficult to imagine a printing company today without one because it’s such a mature market.
Therefore it’s no surprise that there’s not been a lot going on in wide format printing for a while other than manufacturers releasing an almost relentless stream of upgraded and tweaked versions of pretty much the same old kit. Yes, they are faster, more efficient, more economical and so forth, but this is simply part of the development cycle.
Flatbed production printing is also going through a similar phase right now. Instant drying UV LED print head technology has quickly become the new normal and, coupled with a broad range of ink sets that include a wealth of special colours (including white), the manufacturers have pretty much got it covered.
What is attractive for many about wide format printing is how quickly you can get up to speed with it and start making a return on your investment. After all, it’s just another product service offering for your customers, and a lot of them will want to take advantage of it, and whatever your application needs, you won’t have to look too hard to find some sort of wide format printer that can be seamlessly integrated into your workflow. There is pretty much every type of ink for every process and application, and the trend today is very much leaning toward productivity. Bigger, faster, better, and more economical to run.
This is why I am excited by the launch of Canon’s latest roll-to-roll offering - the Océ Colorado 1640. It offers PSPs producing lower volumes an affordable step-up to true production printing with rapid ROI, and for PSPs already handling high volumes, it offers a uniquely versatile technology at an affordable price point, but with economical running costs.
The key to this is Canon’s introduction of its ground breaking UVgel ink that, like HP’s latex ink before it, is set to be a game changing technology that will advance wide format printing as we currently know it.
UVgel is unlike anything I have seen before. It’s colour gamut is comparable with eco solvent inks, but with all the environmental and safety profile of latex and UV inks. What this means is UVgel prints are instant drying, vibrant, durable, colour-fast and sturdy enough to be used for a wide range of outdoor applications, and for interior applications you get all the benefits of odourless prints that satisfy the highest environmental standards for sensitive indoor uses - and all in one phenomenally fast package.
With a top speed of 159 m2/hr for applications such as billboards or outdoor banners, the Colorado also offers unprecedented levels of productivity. Even when running at the highest quality for close-up indoor applications, the printer operates at a speed of 40 m2/hr, and trust me, this is very fast indeed.
With a price tag somewhere around £50,000, the Colorado 1640 is going to be ideal for companies running multiple 64” latex printers who are looking for a step-up in productivity, and will also provide them with a platform for profitable expansion with an accelerated return on investment.
This can be rapidly achieved with UVgel reducing ink consumption by as much as 40% compared with competitive technologies, thanks to a more efficient way of jetting ink. The ink is instantly ‘pinned’ on contact with the substrate, resulting in a highly controlled and precisely positioned dot with minimal gain. By minimising ink spread and coalescence (the process by which two or more droplets, bubbles or particles merge during contact to form a single daughter droplet, bubble or particle) on the media, the exact volume of ink can be printed in each pass, delivering rich, intense images at ultra high speed. And with ink costs comparable to current solvent ink prices - around £120.00 per litre - this will prove attractive to many. Faster, better, and more economical to run.
Other productivity advantages include automation features that reduce operator handling time by up to a third compared to other roll-to-roll wide format printers, and this can be achieved by a unique dual-roll media system to decrease the time required to load media, which is often the bane of a wide format operators life.
Canon’s new baby was the star of the show at FESPA where it was officially launched in Europe earlier this month, resulting in100 orders from as many as 17 countries. It is no surprise that the majority of these orders were from existing users of Océ Arizona flatbed printers, because these are predominantly well-established producers of sign and display applications and they were obviously all looking to boost their productivity while at the same time reducing their costs.
Just when you think there is nothing new in wide format printing, Canon comes along with its new wide format printer and changes everything, and as such I think UVgel ink technology could well become the new industry standard in wide format printing.