Small format coffee printer have distinct character and range 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 tiniest A3 bed models means they’ll go with places in which you wouldn’t put a broad format printer, along with the relatively low entry prices imply that they’re attracting the sort of user that can’t accommodate or simply can’t afford a “conventional” flatbed.
Just as furthermore, these baby flatbeds are made to take deep, often three dimensional objects that are situated on the beds by vacuum and jigs.
This materials handling ability more than anything else is driving the applications, that include objects for example 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 further industrial purposes, the printers can be used for backlit instrument panels, touch switch panels, component marking and stuff like that.
They will likely print on anything that’s relatively small, and solid, really. Most of these small printers use UV-cured inks, which sticks to numerous surfaces, although some (such as Mimaki) can optionally print a primer fluid that increases the range of substrates which can be handled. Copytrax offers both strong solvent and water-based gel inks in addition to UV curing.
Modest curves could be printed on, yet not anything by using a significant variation in height as the accurate “throw distance” from the ink droplets is comparatively small, as with any inkjet. As an example golf balls are only able to be printed in a fairly small circle throughout the highest point, rather than the entire of one hemisphere.
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 support them in predetermined positions, therefore the printed image is applied 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 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 as a a production system so far.
The FESPA Digital event in Munich this current year saw the newest arrival towards the baby flatbed party. Mutoh announced its ValueJet 426UF, a keenly priced A3 flatbed printer that fills a gap in the range where it couldn’t previously compete with its fellow Japanese rivals Mimaki and Roland DG.
This new model is caused by ship in September 2014 and we’ll look at it in more detail in part two, alongside the equally interesting products provided by some of the smaller European developers: Copytrax/Azon and Bergstein.
This Mimaki UJF-3042FX has a jig on its bed to position small gifts – in this instance paper cutters.
Actually Mutoh has come rather late towards the party. Mimaki announced its first A3 flatbed, the UJF-3042, five-years ago and has since revised it with a number of variations plus an A2 version. Mimaki itself wasn’t the first one to build phone case printer, since there was efforts to get small solvent flatbeds up and running in the early 2000s.
However, Mimaki’s mixture 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 soon as Mimaki might make them for the first year or so.
The first UJF-3042 was revised and renamed UJF-3042FX this year. It takes items approximately 50 mm thick and now costs about €21,500 (a drop of around 25% since launch)). This Year it was joined with the €38,000 UJF-3042HG, that may 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 give CMYK plus light cyan and light magenta and will optionally print a primer coating as needed.
The original UJF-3042 prints either white or clear ink, as the other two can run in the identical unit. There’s a choice 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 in the middle 2 minutes 30 seconds and 7 minutes 37 seconds according to the quality settings.
Kebab fits around the deeper beds from the Mimaki UJF-3042HG and 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 may rotate cylindrical objects like wine bottles, candles or cardboard tubes underneath the heads. Price is about €3,800 and it also takes objects from 10 to 110mm diameter and up to 330 mm long.
Foiled metallic effects are popular with personalised giftware, but no small flatbeds have metallic inks yet. However following last year I-Sub Digital, a UK based Mimaki dealer, launched Digi-Foil, a variety of metallic and decorative foils which were specially developed for use using the UJF-3042 and 6042 models.
This relies on a heated applicator for 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 manufactured without the need for hot foil dies and presses. I-Sub says that the foiled area may be anything “to dexmpky56 single dot.”
Roland DG’s first small UV flatbed was small indeed. The VersaUV LEF-12 has an A4 printing area. It was initially priced at little under the bigger Mimaki UJF-3042 models, which limited its appeal despite some nice features say for example 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 cost that briefly undercut the Mimaki at around €25,000, while lowering the LEF-12’s price considerably: in britain it really is now the same in principle as €16,400.
The LEF-20 takes objects as much as 100 mm high. It provides CMYK plus white and clear ink, in 220ml cartridges. With the Roland models there’s a selection of matt or gloss finish when curing the clear coating.
By using a maximum 1,440 dpi resolution around the LEF-20, Roland says it will require 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.
Partly 2 we’ll have a look at further options inside the textile printer, along with a take a look at where they can fit alongside existing analogue and alternative digital processes.