For the comparison of flatbed to hybrid, Duncan Jefferies, marketing manager at Mimaki distributor Hybrid Services, admits that for “absolute out and out print quality” Mimaki’s true flatbed the JFXplus Series is “unbeatable”, but that the hybrid Mimaki UJV-160 still “delivers great flexibility for customers seeking the ability to do a variety of tasks and, to a point, offers the best of both worlds”.
As for the comparison between roll-to-roll and a hybrid, Screen’s Burke says the Screen TruPress Jet 2500 UV is more than comparable with a true roll-to-roll.
“Certain quarters wrongly say that hybrids are a jack of all trades, master of none; that is not the case,” he says. “Our machine is extremely high quality and is greyscale. The roll option on our hybrid machine is a proper roll option, the roll is weighted properly and gives good tension, there is room for a 60m-plus roll, and there is a winder and rewinder.”
Of course, if the economic case doesn’t stack up, then the quality arguments are irrelevant anyway. Burke counters by saying that while the sums may not work for now, it may be a wise to look ahead and prepare for a time when they will.
“Increasingly, where before you may have got away with doing things not entirely suited to that technology, now the price and turnaround times will not allow that,” says Burke. “If you are printing on a roll then cutting and mounting on to board, I think that it will be increasingly difficult to make the costs of doing that add up in competition with people doing the same job on a hybrid or flatbed.”
GJ Plastics’ Croston is of a similar view. “If you want to compete in most of the wide-format sectors, in the future you will need to have flatbed capability,” he says.
Yet big spends on kit you can’t pay for is the story behind many a print downfall and so making a purchase when the numbers don’t add up is undoubtedly foolish. Hence, if flatbed capability truly is to become essential, then for the benefit of the sector as a whole, the manufacturers and printers are going to have to work together to enable access to that technology – the manufacturer to create a lower point of entry or more flexible finance, and the printer to actively seek out a sensible course to making the investment pay, be it through existing work or new markets.