Small format latte art printer have distinct character and variety of special applications of their 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 squeeze into places in which you wouldn’t put a broad format printer, and the relatively low entry prices signify they’re attracting the type of user that can’t accommodate or simply can’t afford a “conventional” flatbed.
Just as most importantly, these baby flatbeds are built to adopt deep, often three dimensional objects that are situated on the beds by vacuum and jigs.
This materials handling ability above all else is driving the applications, that include objects including 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 additional industrial purposes, the printers can be used as backlit instrument panels, touch switch panels, component marking and the like.
They will likely print on anything that’s relatively small, and solid, really. The majority of these small printers use UV-cured inks, which sticks to many surfaces, although some (like Mimaki) can optionally print a primer fluid that increases the plethora of substrates that could be handled. Copytrax offers both strong solvent and water-based gel inks along with UV curing.
Modest curves might be printed on, yet not anything with a significant variation in height as the accurate “throw distance” of the ink droplets is comparatively small, just like any inkjet. For example golf balls can only be printed in a fairly small circle around the highest point, rather than the entire of merely one hemisphere.
All of this class of small flatbeds have vacuum beds, however if 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 used to the correct 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 using 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 production system to date.
The FESPA Digital event in Munich this coming year saw the newest arrival to the baby flatbed party. Mutoh announced its ValueJet 426UF, a keenly priced A3 flatbed printer that fills a gap in their 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 view it in more detail in part two, alongside the equally interesting products provided by a few of the smaller European developers: Copytrax/Azon and Bergstein.
This Mimaki UJF-3042FX includes a jig on its bed to position small gifts – in cases like this paper cutters.
Actually Mutoh comes rather late on the party. Mimaki announced its first A3 flatbed, the UJF-3042, five years ago and it has since revised it with a couple of variations with an A2 version. Mimaki itself wasn’t the first to build uv printer, as there had been attempts to get small solvent flatbeds off the floor in early 2000s.
However, Mimaki’s blend of UV inks and LED curing lamps using a deep adjustable-height bed, in addition to its marketing clout, made the UJF-3042 an instant sales success. Priced below €30,000, these printers sold as quickly as Mimaki might make them for the first year or so.
The initial UJF-3042 was revised and renamed UJF-3042FX in 2011. It takes items approximately 50 mm thick and today costs about €21,500 (a drop around 25% since launch)). In 2011 it absolutely was joined from the €38,000 UJF-3042HG, which 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 offer CMYK plus light cyan and light magenta and definately will optionally print a primer coating if necessary.
The first UJF-3042 prints either white or clear ink, as 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.
According to Mimaki, the UJF-6042 can print an entire bed in between 2 minutes half a minute and 7 minutes 37 seconds depending on the quality settings.
Kebab fits on the deeper beds of the Mimaki UJF-3042HG as well as the UJF-6042 and includes motors to rotate cylindrical items.
In certain markets Mimaki offers optional “Kebab” holders for the deep-bed UJF-3043HG and UJF-6042 that could rotate cylindrical objects including wine bottles, candles or cardboard tubes under the heads. Price is about €3,800 and yes it takes objects from 10 to 110mm diameter and up to 330 mm long.
Foiled metallic effects are favored by personalised giftware, but not one of the small flatbeds have metallic inks yet. However at the conclusion of just last year I-Sub Digital, a UK based Mimaki dealer, launched Digi-Foil, a range of metallic and decorative foils which have been specially developed for use with all the UJF-3042 and 6042 models.
This relies on a heated applicator for the largely manual process after initial printing. A particular adhesive ink can be used within the printer as being a separate pass, allowing prototypes, one-offs and short runs of foiled work to be manufactured without making use of 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 tiny indeed. The VersaUV LEF-12 posseses an A4 printing area. It had been initially priced at little below the greater Mimaki UJF-3042 models, which limited its appeal despite some nice features like a sealed lid and optional carbon filter to minimize 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 lowering the LEF-12’s price considerably: in the UK it is the same as €16,400.
The LEF-20 takes objects up to 100 mm high. It includes CMYK plus white and clear ink, in 220ml cartridges. With the two Roland models there’s a choice of matt or gloss finish when curing the clear coating.
Having a maximum 1,440 dpi resolution about the LEF-20, Roland says it takes 7 minutes 20 seconds to print an entire 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 from the t-shirt printer, plus a look at where they can fit alongside existing analogue and alternative digital processes.