Small format coffee printer have distinct character and selection of special applications of their in a fashion that you don’t see with, say, the narrowest versions of solvent roll fed printers.
The compact size of the littlest A3 bed models means they’ll squeeze into places in which you wouldn’t put a wide format printer, along with the relatively low entry prices suggest that they’re attracting the kind of user that can’t accommodate or possibly can’t afford a “conventional” flatbed.
Equally as more importantly, these baby flatbeds are constructed to adopt deep, often three dimensional objects which are found on the beds by vacuum and jigs.
This materials handling ability above all else is driving the applications, which include objects such as 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 backlit instrument panels, touch switch panels, component marking and so on.
They may 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 (including Mimaki) can optionally print a primer fluid that increases the plethora of substrates that may be handled. Copytrax offers both strong solvent and water-based gel inks in addition to UV curing.
Modest curves can be printed on, however, not anything with a significant variation in height since the accurate “throw distance” in the ink droplets is comparatively small, as with every inkjet. For instance golf balls could only be printed in a fairly small circle throughout the highest point, rather than the full of a single hemisphere.
This class of small flatbeds have vacuum beds, however, if you’re printing multiple small 3D objects you’ll need a jig to support them in predetermined positions, and so the printed image is used off to the right areas. Jigs can be made 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 being a production system so far.
The FESPA Digital event in Munich this current year saw the most up-to-date arrival for 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 consider it in greater 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 this case paper cutters.
Actually Mutoh comes rather late for the party. Mimaki announced its first A3 flatbed, the UJF-3042, 5yrs ago and has since revised it with a few variations plus an A2 version. Mimaki itself wasn’t the first to build a4 uv printer, as there had been 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 quickly as Mimaki might make them for your first year or so.
The first UJF-3042 was revised and renamed UJF-3042FX in 2011. It will require items up to 50 mm thick now costs about €21,500 (a drop of approximately 25% since launch)). This Year it absolutely was joined by the €38,000 UJF-3042HG, that may accept 150 mm deep objects. An A2 format UJF-6042 was introduced in 2012, for approximately €50,000.
All models print a maximum of 1,800 dpi and give CMYK plus light cyan and lightweight magenta and definately will optionally print a primer coating as needed.
The first UJF-3042 prints either white or clear ink, while the other two can run within a similar unit. There’s a choice of high durability, stretchable or wide gamut inks, and also the white has recirculation.
In accordance with Mimaki, the UJF-6042 can print a total bed somewhere between 2 minutes 30 seconds and 7 minutes 37 seconds based on the quality settings.
Kebab fits in the deeper beds from the Mimaki UJF-3042HG and also the UJF-6042 and includes motors to rotate cylindrical items.
In many 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 within 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 none of the small flatbeds have metallic inks yet. However at the conclusion of last year I-Sub Digital, a UK based Mimaki dealer, launched Digi-Foil, a selection 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 in the printer as a separate pass, allowing prototypes, one-offs and short runs of foiled try to be manufactured without making use of 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 very small indeed. The VersaUV LEF-12 has an A4 printing area. It was actually initially priced at little less than the bigger Mimaki UJF-3042 models, which limited its appeal despite some nice features such as 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 about €25,000, while decreasing the LEF-12’s price considerably: throughout the uk it can be now the same in principle as €16,400.
The LEF-20 takes objects around 100 mm high. It offers CMYK plus white and clear ink, in 220ml cartridges. With both the Roland models there’s a choice 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 requires 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.
To Some Extent 2 we’ll take a look at further options from the t-shirt printer, together with a look at where they can fit alongside existing analogue and alternative digital processes.