A wide variety of launches

By Tim Sheahan, Wednesday 28 March 2012

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Four years ago, many labelled Drupa 2008 as the 'Inkjet Drupa', such was the rush of inkjet developments across production and wide-format printing. A cursory glance at the timeline overleaf clearly shows that, over the past four years, things have not slowed down. Far from it, the inkjet scene for Drupa 2012 has been building up momentum for some time. So much so, in fact, that 2012 is looking to be even bigger than 2008 for wide-format technologies, with more products and choice available than ever before.

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Drupa's varied wide-format offering should have something for everyone

"We believe that more and more vendors will be showing wide-format technologies at Drupa 2012 and, as more commercial printers move into this arena, it is good to have a complete menu of where to choose from," says Mimaki marketing manager Mike Horsten.

Mimaki looks to have taken the menu blueprint quite literally – particularly in the past 12 months – with an array of product launches that span the entry-level, dye-sublimation, flatbed and latex sectors, among others.

"Drupa offers wide-format companies such as Mimaki the opportunity to show new innovations and solutions, not only to the sign graphics industry, but to the ever- developing commercial printing market," says Horsten.

Significant interest
Its offerings include the 1.3m-wide JV400-130LX and the 1.3 configuration JV400-160LX latex printer; the has latter garnered significant interest since launching earlier this year.

Both machines, which feature Mimaki’s new latex ink, offer a maximum print speed of 18m2/hr and can output at top resolutions of 900dpi.

The JV400 LX range will use the company’s new latex ink set, which is claimed to use a low curing heat, consuming less energy and enabling the machines to print on a wider range of materials.

"With the introduction of our latex products, we opened the market for commercial printers wanting to produce cleaner and greener prints. This brand new generation of latex printing inks was designed to offer the market greater opportunities and allow for greener print production," says Horsten

Aside from the anticipated new product launches, wide-format businesses will have a fair idea of the direction the market is heading at Drupa, courtesy of the range of focused print trade shows that have taken place since the 2008 event.

Looking back only as far as February to Fespa Digital, the high level of innovation and development on show demonstrates what visitors to Düsseldorf could expect.

Commentators feared that Fespa would be impacted by the ‘Drupa effect’, but – somewhat ironically – it flourished and record numbers flocked to soak up the latest technology. Surely a positive sign for organisers come May.

Perhaps even more enticing for visitors to this year’s mega-event than specific machine launches and developments is the near-limitless level of applications new technology enables print providers to offer.

While Mimaki has broadened the level of competition in the latex sector (a move welcomed by established market leader HP), manufacturers such as HP have pressed ahead in their own pre-Drupa preparations, focusing thus far more on evolution rather than revolution.

Earlier this month, HP – which will have a major presence at the forthcoming show – outlined updates to its Scitex product range. Chief among these was a new white ink and cloud-based SmartStream Production Analyser tool for its FB7500 and FB7600 industrial flatbed printers.

HP Graphics Solutions Business worldwide marketing director François Martin says that Drupa has come at "just the right time" for the manufacturer.

"Wide-format print providers are demanding an increased level of automation from their technology and this is a trend that will continue to Drupa and beyond", he reveals.

Martin says HP will use Drupa to focus on complete products, workflows and end-to-end product lines instead of technology.

"We don’t want to demonstrate technology that is nowhere near commercial availability, but to show something that will enable the customer to start thinking about the new applications they can produce straight away," he says.

Martin cites development of the company’s cloud-based SmartStream Production Analyser tool for Scitex users and automatic loader from manufacturer Hostert as tools customers can use to improve efficiency through automation.

The SmartStream software enables customers to view real-time production information on each machine they run, as well as historical reports on press usage. The operator can thus analyse ink and media consumption, as well as waste usage.

While automation enhancements will play a major part of the firm’s offering come May, Martin says the shift from eco-solvent production to UV and – more recently – latex aptly demonstrates the level of technological advancements in print.

"Increased competition in areas such as latex is positive for both customer and supplier. Mimaki has clearly recognised this trend to eco-friendly output and we believe it should become an industry standard. It is wholly positive for everyone," he adds.

Strong presence
Another manufacturer that will have a strong presence in wide-format, among other sectors at Drupa, is Océ. Dominic Fahy, Océ UK’s business group director of display graphics and imaging supplies, echoes HP’s belief that the market continues to migrate from analogue to digital.

"We are currently seeing our customers seeking to differentiate themselves from the competition and for many, wide-format graphics is a niche market that offers higher returns than some of the traditional markets in which they are involved," he adds.

Océ will be present at Drupa 2012, partnered with Canon, showcasing its range of popular Arizona machines (including one of our ‘Must Sees’, the Arizona 318 GL).

According to Fahy, display graphics is a new market area for many. This is why customers require products and services that enable them to enter the market at a modest investment level; it is also why they need to develop knowledge on how to produce their applications.

"This is exactly where Océ’s new Arizona 318 GL model fits in backed up by industry-leading support," she says.

Elsewhere, Gareth Parker, value proposition manager of production print at Ricoh UK, believes Drupa will enable the firm to show the increasing prominence of wide-format technology in the CAD market.

"Drupa 2008 was Ricoh’s de-facto debut in production printing, but Ricoh has 35 years of heritage in wide-format plotters. The fact we’re currently launching a wide-format colour format inkjet plotter alongside our broad cut-sheet colour portfolio indicates Ricoh’s ongoing commitment to the production print market," he says.

According to Parker, the CAD market has traditionally been served by black and white devices, but recently there has been a shift towards on-demand premium-quality colour print in this market. "Wide-format print for these sectors is well-recognised as a useful revenue generator and growth tactic for commercial printers," he says.

And while Drupa 2012 will undoubtedly provide visitors with the opportunity to experience the latest wide-format print technology, innovation beyond May is already high on many agendas.

"The industry had made great strides, no doubt about it," says HP’s Martin. "It’s more environmentally-friendly, automated and efficient than before, and of course the quality is better than ever.

"But in the coming years, I expect wide-format technology to take an increasingly greater part of large-format offset market,’ he concludes. "It is still early, but you always need to look ahead."


WIDE-FORMAT DEVELOPMENTS SINCE DRUPA 2008

2008

EFI Vutek premieres high-speed UV wide-format DS Series… Fuji bolsters wide-format range with entry-level eco-solvent machine… HP launches Scitex XP2300 large-format press... Océ builds upon strategic alliance with large-format manufacturer Mutoh… Fujifilm Sericol targets UK signmaking sector with Euromedia launch… Inca plugs the gap in its range of UV flatbed wide-format range with the Onset S20... KIP unveils world’s first toner-based wide-format printer, the Color 80… Ink giant Sun Chemical signs deal to become a UK distributor for the Apollo series of multi-functional UV wide-format printers...

2009
HP debuts Designjet L65500 in UK… Xaar introduces Electron and Proton printheads for wide- and grand-format printers… EFI expands Rastek range of entry-level wide-format UV-cured printers… Large-format kit distributor Colourgen gives European launch to the solvent inkjet Seiko II ColorPainter V-64S… Agfa unveils 23m2/hr Anapurna M2… Grapo Technologies launches Manta White flatbed at Fespa Digital… Océ adds the 300 GT ‘light production’ model to its Arizona range… Durst launches Rho trio at Fespa Digital... Inca upgrades flagship Onset S70 speed and quality… Mimaki launches 3.2m-wide JV5-320DS textile printer… Canon makes £655m offer to acquire Océ...

2010
Kornit Digital signals intent to expand presence into Europe… WP Digital launches its Virtu RR50 UV-curable roll-to-roll inkjet printer into the UK and Ireland… Canon introduces a trio of new imagePrograf machines… Agfa launches Jeti 1224 UV HDC inkjet printer and UV-curable Anapurna M 2050… Grapo Technologies unveils 2x3m Gemini… EskoArtwork launches an extended version of its XP cutting table, the Kongsberg XP Auto… Mutoh unveils 1.6m- and 2.2m-wide Viper TX Professional drop-on-demand inkjet printers... Océ launches Arizona 550 GT flatbed... Mimaki Europe brings direct-to-textile and dye sublimation inkjet printer, the TX400-1800B to market...

2011
Heidelberg USA partners with EFI to supply its Vutek GS super-wide-format digital printers... InkTec hands UK debut to its Jetrix range of UV-curable flatbed printers at Sign & Digital UK 2011… Inca Digital launches a mid-range version of its Onset wide-format UV printer, the S40... Agfa unveils the 5048 UV XL, a 5m-wide UV-curable inkjet market... EFI launches Vutek GS3250LX UV-curing digital inkjet printer… Agfa launches smaller, manual version of its M-Press Tiger flatbed inkjet press, dubbed the M-Press Leopard… Durst unveils Kappa 180, the "alternative to flatbed screen printing"… Mimaki takes the wraps off its new dye sublimation printer for high-volume output...

2012
EFI launches Vutek TX3250r dye sublimation printer… Polytype unveils UV-curable Virtu Quantum… Epson debuts latest wide-format printer, the SureColor SC-S30600…Agfa to launches M2540 FB flatbed at Fespa Digital 2012… Mimaki unveils "world’s fastest" dye sublimation printer, the TS500-1800 and its foray into latex print production… GMG debuts ProductionSuite wide-format workflow… Océ’s Rokus van Iperen made chief executive of Canon Europe, reports claim...

Take a look at PrintWeek's stand-by-stand wide-format guide here

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