Small format coffee printer have distinct character and array 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 dimensions of the littlest A3 bed models means they’ll squeeze into places the place you wouldn’t put an extensive format printer, and the relatively low entry prices mean that they’re attracting the type of user that can’t accommodate or possibly can’t afford a “conventional” flatbed.
Equally as furthermore, these baby flatbeds are made to consider deep, often three dimensional objects which can be on the beds by vacuum and jigs.
This materials handling ability more than anything else is driving the applications, such as 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 further industrial purposes, the printers can be used as backlit instrument panels, touch switch panels, component marking and the like.
They will print on anything that’s relatively small and solid, really. The majority of these small printers use UV-cured inks, which sticks to many people surfaces, while some (for example Mimaki) can optionally print a primer fluid that increases the plethora of substrates that can be handled. Copytrax offers both strong solvent and water-based gel inks as well as UV curing.
Modest curves might be printed on, however, not anything by using a significant variation in height as the accurate “throw distance” of the ink droplets is pretty small, just like any inkjet. For example golf balls could only be printed in the fairly small circle round the highest point, and not the entire of just one hemisphere.
This class of small flatbeds have vacuum beds, but if you’re printing multiple small 3D objects you’ll need a jig to carry them in predetermined positions, and so the printed image is used to the right areas. Jigs can be created 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 as being a production system thus far.
The FESPA Digital event in Munich this season saw the latest 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 a result of ship in September 2014 and we’ll see it in more detail to some extent two, alongside the equally interesting products made available from several of the smaller European developers: Copytrax/Azon and Bergstein.
This Mimaki UJF-3042FX carries a jig on its bed to position small gift items – in such a case paper cutters.
Actually Mutoh has come rather late to the party. Mimaki announced its first A3 flatbed, the UJF-3042, five years ago and has since revised it with several variations as well as an A2 version. Mimaki itself wasn’t the first to build uv printer, because there ended up being efforts to get small solvent flatbeds above the ground during the early 2000s.
However, Mimaki’s blend of UV inks and LED curing lamps by using a deep adjustable-height bed, in addition to its marketing clout, made the UJF-3042 an immediate sales success. Priced below €30,000, these printers sold as quickly as Mimaki could make them to the first couple of years.
The initial UJF-3042 was revised and renamed UJF-3042FX in 2011. It takes items as much as 50 mm thick now costs about €21,500 (a drop of around 25% since launch)). In 2011 it had been joined through the €38,000 UJF-3042HG, which can accept 150 mm deep objects. An A2 format UJF-6042 was introduced in 2012, for about €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 very first UJF-3042 prints either white or clear ink, as the other two can run both in 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 a whole bed in the middle 2 minutes half a minute and 7 minutes 37 seconds according to the quality settings.
Kebab fits on the deeper beds of your Mimaki UJF-3042HG along with the UJF-6042 and includes motors to rotate cylindrical items.
In some markets Mimaki offers optional “Kebab” holders for the deep-bed UJF-3043HG and UJF-6042 that will rotate cylindrical objects such as wine bottles, candles or cardboard tubes underneath the heads. Expense is about €3,800 and yes it takes objects from 10 to 110mm diameter and up to 330 mm long.
Foiled metallic effects are well-liked by personalised giftware, but none of the small flatbeds have metallic inks yet. However after just last year I-Sub Digital, a UK based Mimaki dealer, launched Digi-Foil, a variety of metallic and decorative foils which have been specially developed for use with all the UJF-3042 and 6042 models.
This uses a heated applicator for a largely manual process after initial printing. A particular adhesive ink is used within the printer being a separate pass, allowing prototypes, one-offs and short runs of foiled work to be produced without the need for hot foil dies and presses. I-Sub states that the foiled area might be anything “down to dexmpky56 single dot.”
Roland DG’s first small UV flatbed was small indeed. The VersaUV LEF-12 has a A4 printing area. It was 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 reduce dust and ink mist.
Roland fixed that in 2013 by launching the SRA3 format LEF-20 at a price that briefly undercut the Mimaki at around €25,000, while decreasing the LEF-12’s price considerably: in the united kingdom it can be now the same in principle as €16,400.
The LEF-20 takes objects approximately 100 mm high. It provides 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 in the LEF-20, Roland says it will require 7 minutes 20 seconds to print a whole 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 look at further options in the t-shirt printer, as well as a take a look at where they can fit alongside existing analogue and alternative digital processes.