Canon has given details of its new UVgel print technology, which it says will transform wide-format roll-to-roll printing, as it prepares the market for a new family of devices set to be unveiled next spring.
The manufacturer has released details of a new UV curable ink that gels immediately on contact with media, which will be at the core of a new range of wide-format roll-to-roll printers to be released from early 2017. The first will be a high-productivity 64” model, most likely the smallest in the range.
"We felt there was a gap in the market that isn’t addressed by existing printers," said Pierre-Olivier Esteban, European TDS/DGS marketing director at Canon Europe.
"We see 64” low-volume printers between €20,000 and €30,000 based on eco-solvent latex technologies and then above that in terms of price and productivity there is nothing until you get up to more high productivity latex and UV systems, usually wider than 64” with a much higher price tag," he explained.
"We see some printers buying multiple machines because they can’t afford to buy the higher-end products, which are often too big as well. We want to offer something that is more affordable but also much more productive than what exists."
The devices will incorporate Canon's latest-generation piezoelectric print-head technology, adapted to suit the new UVgel ink. The system uses acoustic sampling to monitor nozzle performance on-the-fly, whilst the LED UV curing system works without applying any heat to the substrates meaning ultra-thin and heat-sensitive media are suitable.
The LED UV curing system operates independently from the printing system, which Esteban said ensured identical jetting to curing for every droplet and gave better control of accuracy and size.
The new devices, which are being developed by the Canon Océ team, will be predominantly aimed at the signage and interior decor market - those printing around 10,000sqm per year - and Esteban said that because no heat was applied to the surface there were opportunities for lots of different types of substrate that were not used in the traditional sign and display market.
"There are inherent limitations to water-based technologies in terms of drying and speed. This UVgel technology will allow people to print 2-4 times faster than those printers with really competitive running costs," he added.
The manufacturer claims the ultra-thin ink dispersion results in low consumption that could reduce print costs by up to 40% compared to eco-solvent and latex printing.
Esteban said Canon was making the announcement now to give the market time to prepare.
"People associate us with UV flatbed printers and photographic printing for example, but the outdoor market is an area that we haven’t been present in so far, so we want them to sit up and take notice," he explained.
"We’re entering a market that hasn’t waited for us join the party. It’s an established market and we want to create exposure, which doesn’t come overnight. We need to prepare the market and create brand awareness," he added.
The new UVgel technology will be revealed in reseller and customer events across Europe this year and the devices will begin customer trials in the new year at a location close to the Océ technology park in the Netherlands, Esteban said.
"We want to use these months ahead to understand all these substrates and applications so we can really give added value when we come to launch," he said.
"We truly believe this market is ready for this. The market is growing, volumes are growing and the market is telling us that there is a need for faster turnaround times and for prints that don’t need time to dry and we feel we are offering this as a game-changing product through this breakthrough technology.”