Me & my: Inktec Jetrix KX6 & KX7

By Simon Eccles, Monday 08 May 2017

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Motion is a point-of-sale and digital print specialist based in Leicester. It handles large-format digital printing, CAD cutting and small-format digital work such as leaflets and brochures.

mandm-philhightonmotion

Highton: “Both machines perform day-in day-out, with very few issues”

Managing director Phil Highton says that the majority of this work is high-end POS graphics for perfumery and make-up clients, who demand high standards. Motion also produces exhibition graphics, free-standing display units, pop-ups, pull-ups, vehicle graphics, “and everything in-between”, according to Highton. 

About 85% of the work is large-format, with the rest being small-format handled by a Xerox Versant 80 SRA3 toner printer. 

Last year Highton installed the second of two Inktec Jetrix large-format UV-cure flatbed inkjets. “I have built the company up based on top quality print along with a friendly personal service,” he says. “We work with many high-end brands, some direct and some through other agencies. They go into high end retail stores. All these companies demand high quality and a fast turnaround, which is why I invested heavily with the Jetrix machines.”

Highton has worked in print since 1988, starting aged 17 as a typesetter working on Compugraphic photosetters (Compugraphic was eventually taken over by Agfa). He worked for his father’s firm Qualitype, and when that closed he set out on his own. He opened Motion in December 2001. “My dad drummed the importance of quality into me, so I’ve continued that with Motion,” he says. “We print on various different materials – basically as long as it’s flat we can print on it! We normally use self-adhesive vinyl, paper, Duratran, display board, folding boxboard, E-Flute, Foamex, Dibond, PETG, PVC, Correx, acrylic, metal, wood, etc!”

The first Jetrix was a 2.5x3.06m format KX7 with the 2.19m roll-to-roll option, installed in March 2015. It is a stationary flatbed configuration with a travelling gantry containing the dual printhead carriage. The head height is variable to cope with different media thicknesses and there is a head-crash protection system. 

“It is a fantastic machine and due to the quality and the speed it contributed to a substantial increase in turnover, so on the following January I installed the second Jetrix, a KX6, which again has also helped to increase turnover. I would have a third but I don’t have the space for it at the moment.”

The KX6 has a 2.44x1.22m bed but otherwise has the same specifications as the KX7. Both printers use the same CMYK plus dual white inks in the six ink channels per head. Originally the KX7 was set up to run clear varnish in one channel, but it wasn’t used much, so Highton had it changed to two whites. The white can be laid down first, last or as a colour-white-colour sandwich for clear media. 

“The KX6 has the same quality and speed as the KX7, but only goes up to 8x4ft boards and it costs less,” Highton explains. “Not every job we do needs big sheets, and 70% to 80% is 8x4. We can do that on the KX6 or split the job between the two machines and do it faster. 

Motion’s other large-format printer is a 64in (1.6m) HP Latex 360 roll-to-roll printer, which handles most flexible media printing. “We did a lot of roll-to-roll on the KX7 at first, but recently most of it has gone on the Latex unless we need the wider width of the Jetrix for something like a large banner,” Highton says. “If I bought the Jetrix again I might not go for the roll option.” 

Finishing is handled by an Esko Kongsberg XN 44 large-format cutting table for rigid media, plus a Summa vinyl cutter. 

Deciding on which machine to buy was a thorough process. “I looked at numerous machines before I finally decided on the Jetrix,” says Highton. “The two that ended up on the shortlist were the Canon Océ Arizona and the Jetrix, but the Jetrix was a lot quicker and in my opinion better quality than the Arizona. I decided I wanted to go for the larger bed size that would give me an advantage over other companies in the area.

“I purchased the Jetrix through Darren Walker from Perfect Colours who I have bought all my large-format and cutting tables from since I started. He has always been very helpful and has a vast knowledge of the industry.”

Prior to the two Jetrixes, Motion had an HP FB500 flatbed. “This was a good entry-level machine but was too slow and the quality wasn’t up to my high standards so I needed to upgrade,” says Highton. “This is why we went for Jetrix, they have fantastic quality, amazing speed and the build quality is second to none.”

Installation

“Inktec has been a great company to work with, I cannot fault them, the back-up service and engineers are exceptional,” says Highton. “The engineers know everything there is to know about the machines and can sometimes sort out minor issues remotely.

“From the original install to up and running was a couple of days, and was completely seamless as we did it towards the end of the week.”

The Jetrix line of printers was first introduced in 2006. This now comprises six sizes of flatbed UV inkjets from the KX3 (1.22x1.22m and 25m2/hr) up to the latest high performance LXi8 introduced this year (3.2x2.03mm and 206m2/hr max, with 12 or 16 ink channels and LED-UV curing). There are also three superwide roll-to-roll UV printers in 3.2m and 5m widths.

Inktec Europe is in Witney, near Oxford, although its parent company is based in South Korea, in Ansan City, a satellite of Seoul. The company started off as a UV ink supplier and celebrated its 25th anniversary this year at Sign & Digital UK with a cake-cutting ceremony by senior Korean managers, marked also by the first showing of the KX8i. 

Apart from UV inks for its own printers, Inktec supplies inks for third-party machines, including eco solvents for Roland and Mimaki models and dye-sublimation for anything with Epson DX4, DX5 and DX7 printheads. It also supplies large-format media. 

The KX7-R as used by Motion has a somewhat larger bed than the LXi8 (2.5x3.06mm), but as the arrangement of numbers shows, the LXi8 print width (as covered by the head carriage) is wider, which may become more important if Inktec launches a roll-to-roll version in future. 

In practice

A good experience with the first Jetrix led to the second, says Highton. “The machine has been a joy to use, hence why I bought another. There is a little more maintenance required than we used to do on our old FB500, but then the quality and speed is so much better. We also upgraded the RIP to GMG from Onyx which gives us superior colour management and increased speed when ripping the files.”

Highton says the standard Onyx RIP is fine as an entry-level option, but struggled with larger files. “It could take 20 minutes to rip a job that took five minutes to print,” he says. When I went to Inktec I saw they were using GMG. I saw it do a job that took 20 minutes on the Onyx in 50 seconds. Obviously the power of the PC helps too. It was more expensive, but it gives far superior colours. It has been very active in our success.”

Reliability of the Jetrixes has been good too, he’s found. “Both machines perform day-in day-out, with very few issues, we sometimes suffer from static, but this is an issue on many machines not just Jetrix, and is normally a problem with humidity in the room and not a machine problem.

“We had a three-year warranty that covered everything on the machine, which gives me piece of mind that there will be no hidden costs.”

Would he buy it again? “If I had the space in my factory I would have another, and I would also have no hesitation in recommending Jetrix,” Highton concludes. 


SPECIFICATIONS

Bed size KX6: 2,440x1,220mm; KX7-R 2,500x3,060mm

Max roll width 2,190mm (KX7-R)

Printheads Eight channels, 1,024 nozzles per channel, 6pl drops

Colours CMYK plus dual white (clear and primer also optional)

Max speed KX6: 55m2/hr; KX7-R: 60m2/hr

Price KX6: from about £95,000; KX7-R: from about £130,000

Contact InkTec Europe 01993 862770 www.inktec-europe.com 


COMPANY PROFILE 

Motion was set up in 2001 by Phil Highton and a partner who later left the business. Today it employs eight people. The Leicester-based company specialises in large-format graphics, especially POS work for retailers and similar clients. 

Highton doesn’t want to disclose turnover, but he says he’s competing successfully with rivals that employ 20 or 30 people. “We’re smaller but that allows us to be more flexible in taking jobs at short notice and fitting them in,” he explains. 

The main large-format production equipment is the pair of Jetrix flatbeds, the KX7-R and KX6, driven by a GMG PrintFactory RIP. There is also an HP Latex 360 roll-to-roll printer for vinyl and other flexible media. Digital finishing is by a Summa roll-fed vinyl cutter and an Esko Kongsberg XN 44 cutting and routing table. Smaller- format document type work is handled by a Xerox Versant 80 SRA3 digital toner press. 

Why it was bought...

Motion prints on a wide variety of substrates for clients that have very high quality requirements. Highton says the quality the Jetrix machines delivered sealed the deal for him.

How it has performed...

“A joy to use,” says Highton. It requires a little more maintenance than the company’s previous HP FB500 but more than makes up for this with superior quality performance and speedy turnarounds. Highton says: “I would have a third but I don’t have room for it at the moment.”

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