Digital Printers Adapt to the New Normal
Written by Sonja Angerer
Due to the ongoing pandemic the print industry has not been able to showcase their innovations at trade shows and exhibitions. The latest digital printing innovations from EFI, HP, Mimaki and Mutoh are fine-tuned for the current situation.
Hardware sales dropped significantly during 2020, although this is not due to just COVID-19. Even before the pandemic, manufacturer’s product cycles have been reducing sales across many print sectors. EFI, HP, Mimaki and Mutoh have launched their new innovations which showcases the ongoing industry’s trends:
- UV-curing inks and Latex are the main printing technology
- More focus on more environmentally friendly production
- Software and workflow are as important as hardware
- Search for new applications outside the traditional markets
UV-curing and Latex inks remain the industry standard
It is the beginning of 2021, however EFI has already introduced two new roll-to-roll UV-LED printers into the market. The 5.2-metre wide VUTEk Q5r printer runs at speeds up to 672 square metres per hour, and the 3.5-metre wide VUTEk Q3r model prints up to 558 square metres per hour. Both machines are equipped with 7-picolitre printheads that result in a resolution of up to 1,200 dots per inch. With up to nine ink colours (CMYK and optional LC, LM, LK, white and clear coat) and multi-layer white, EFI recommends these printers for premium POS / POP applications.
Ken Hanulec, EFI Vice President, Worldwide Marketing comments: “We designed the EFI VUTEk Q3r and VUTEk Q5r to go beyond printing to provide a complete print to finished graphic workflow – from RIP to finished product – on the same platform. These new printers offer a huge competitive edge for our customers, offering unprecedented speeds and numerous valuable features and options that take profitable roll-to-roll print production to a new, higher level.”
HP has introduced their latest addition to its Latex-Portfolio with the HP Latex 700/800 series. With updated printheads and speeds of up to 36 qm/hr the 64 Inch / 163 cm wide printers offer 50% higher productivity levels compared to previous HP models. The 800W and 700W models feature white inks for the first time at this price.
“The new Latex 700 and 800 printers allow printers to tackle their customers’ challenges and enable them to explore more ambitious projects – with the confidence that their work will deliver”, says Guayente Sanmartin, General Manager, Large Format Business at HP.
Don’t Forget the Environment
Whilst COVID-19 is at the forefront of our lives it’s easy to forget about the importance of sustainability, however the climate crises still remains a major problem. This is why the HP Latex 700 and 800 series uses the HP Eco Carton. This cartridge is made with cardboard material and reduces the amount of plastic used for ink cartridges bup to 80%. The latest generation of HP Latex inks is free of VOCs and compatible with many environmentally friendly substrates.
Energy consumption is another aspect of sustainability, and this is why EFI equipped their XT Super High Speed Hybrid Printer with a next-generation hybrid architecture. At speeds up to 375 boards per hour (nearly twice the throughput of the VUTEk HS125 F4 printer), energy efficient UV LED technology struggles to cure the output. EFI opted for LED lamps for sharp definition and accurate placement, followed by a full UV cure at high production speeds.
Customers can choose from numerous automation options to configure the XT Super High Speed Hybrid Printer, including the ability to feed one or two large rolls of media, as well as three quarter in and out and full pallet-to-pallet automation options.
Software and Workflows are the new Hardware
EFI have been a big player in the industry long before they took over Vutek in 2005. EFI is offering an integrated solutions platform for the printing industry, from Fiery Digital front ends to MIS/ERP workflow and web-to-print/eCommerce software.
HP’s well-known PrintOS, designed an “operation system for print” will also be available for the new Latex 700/800 series. This will enable printers to monitor and control their print fleet using a cloud-based interface.
Mimaki’s UJV100-160 LED-UV inkjet printer that was introduced last year, was awarded EDP’s “Best Roll-to-Roll printer up to 170cm”. Mimaki prioritises workflow improvement with optimised media feeding and ID Cut function for an automated print and cut workflow.
Mutoh introduced their ValueJet 1638UR Mark II and ValueJet 1638UH Mark II 64 Inch / 162 cm wide UV-LED printers to the European market in early February 2021 (Video) which features their new VerteLith RIP software. It is designed as an ”out of the box” print solution built around the Harlequin host renderer with advanced 6-colour support, as both of the new printers offer CMYK plus White and Varnish. For businesses who already invested in a RIP solution, VerteLith can be installed in “Pass Through” mode, leaving the existing workflow and adding extra functionality.
New Applications Outside the Traditional Markets
For the next few months, there probably will not be much of a demand for traditional POP / POS applications and trade show design. PSPs have to explore new business opportunities. Thankfully, there various strategies they can explore.
- Workflow automation
- Become a solution partner for their customers
- New lines of business (packaging, Home Décor)
The new, versatile printers and the elaborate software solutions that manufacturers have recently introduced into the market can certainly help with these strategies.