Small format latte art printer have distinct character and variety of special applications of their very own in a manner 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 match places where you wouldn’t put an extensive format printer, and also the relatively low entry prices suggest that they’re attracting the sort of user that can’t accommodate or simply can’t afford a “conventional” flatbed.
Equally as most importantly, these baby flatbeds are built to consider deep, often three dimensional objects that are located 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 more industrial purposes, the printers can be used for backlit instrument panels, touch switch panels, component marking and stuff like that.
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 a lot of surfaces, while many (like 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 along with UV curing.
Modest curves could be printed on, however, not anything with a significant variation in height as being the accurate “throw distance” from the ink droplets is pretty small, just like any inkjet. By way of example golf balls is only able to be printed inside a fairly small circle round 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, so the printed image is used on the right areas. Jigs can be made 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 a production system up to now.
The FESPA Digital event in Munich this season 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 within its range where it couldn’t previously take on its fellow Japanese rivals Mimaki and Roland DG.
This new model is because of ship in September 2014 and we’ll look at it in depth to some extent two, along with the equally interesting products made available from some of the smaller European developers: Copytrax/Azon and Bergstein.
This Mimaki UJF-3042FX features a jig on its bed to position small gifts – in cases like this paper cutters.
Actually Mutoh came rather late to the party. Mimaki announced its first A3 flatbed, the UJF-3042, five years ago and contains since revised it with a few variations with an A2 version. Mimaki itself wasn’t the first to build uv printer, as there ended up being efforts to get small solvent flatbeds off the ground in the early 2000s.
However, Mimaki’s combination of UV inks and LED curing lamps using a deep adjustable-height bed, coupled with its marketing clout, made the UJF-3042 a quick sales success. Priced below €30,000, these printers sold as quickly as Mimaki might make them to the first year or so.
The initial UJF-3042 was revised and renamed UJF-3042FX in the year 2011. It will require items as much as 50 mm thick and today costs about €21,500 (a drop of approximately 25% since launch)). In 2011 it had been joined with the €38,000 UJF-3042HG, that may accept 150 mm deep objects. An A2 format UJF-6042 was introduced in 2012, for roughly €50,000.
All models print a maximum of 1,800 dpi and present CMYK plus light cyan and light magenta and will optionally print a primer coating if required.
The first UJF-3042 prints either white or clear ink, even though the other two can run in the identical unit. There’s a selection of high durability, stretchable or wide gamut inks, and also the white has recirculation.
In accordance with Mimaki, the UJF-6042 can print a whole bed in the middle 2 minutes thirty seconds and 7 minutes 37 seconds depending on the quality settings.
Kebab fits on the deeper beds in the Mimaki UJF-3042HG and also the UJF-6042 and includes motors to rotate cylindrical items.
In some markets Mimaki offers optional “Kebab” holders for that deep-bed UJF-3043HG and UJF-6042 that could rotate cylindrical objects for example wine bottles, candles or cardboard tubes underneath the heads. Cost is about €3,800 and it takes objects from 10 to 110mm diameter or higher to 330 mm long.
Foiled metallic effects are popular with personalised giftware, but not one of the small flatbeds have metallic inks yet. However after last year I-Sub Digital, a UK based Mimaki dealer, launched Digi-Foil, an array of metallic and decorative foils that 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. A unique adhesive ink is used within the printer being 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 “right down to dexmpky56 single dot.”
Roland DG’s first small UV flatbed was tiny indeed. The VersaUV LEF-12 has an A4 printing area. It was actually initially priced at little below the bigger Mimaki UJF-3042 models, which limited its appeal despite some nice features for instance a sealed lid and optional carbon filter to lower 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 decreasing the LEF-12’s price considerably: in britain it is now 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 around the LEF-20, Roland says it requires 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.
To Some Extent 2 we’ll examine further options within the dtg printer, along with a have a look at where they can fit alongside existing analogue and alternative digital processes.