We look at this one-of-a kind inline digital hot foiling system.
What does it do?
Unlimited Colors is an inline digital hot foiling system introduced for the French manufacturer MGI’s Meteor DP series of dry toner digital presses. It comprises the new iFoil T foiling unit that can be fitted to new presses, or retrofitted.
The Unlimited Colors name refers to the fact that hot foil isn’t just available in metallic and holographic materials, but a wide range of spot colours and effects. The press can overprint onto the foil as a second pass, and create digital holographic effects.
Here we are considering the complete package of the Meteor DP 8700XL press with the inline foil unit ready-fitted. This five-year-old mid-production press is based on a Konica Minolta dry toner four-colour duplex print engine, modified for thicker and longer media including plastics.
The XL+ has an offset-style pile feeder that can take very long sheets up to 1,200mm long. For more details see PrintWeek’s original Star Product from 2011.
Unlimited Colours is also available on the DP8700S+650, which doesn’t have the pile feeder and is popular for envelope printing. It will also be optional with the forthcoming Meteor DP 1000XL, which uses the latest Konica Minolta engines.
In future the foiling unit will also come as a standalone with a feeder and stacker.
When was it launched?
Unlimited Colours was announced at Drupa 2016 as an option for Meteor presses. The iFoil T unit is adapted from the iFoil system used with MGI’s JetVarnish 3D clear UV spot varnish inkjets.
How does it work?
The iFoil T takes ribbons of standard hot foil from any supplier. It incorporates a foil roll feeder and waste takeup, with a heated application roller.
First the press prints a black-only image where foil is required. As the sheet passes through the foiler, the heated roller and the foil ribbon are pressed against it. The black toner absorbs heat, activating adhesive on the foil, which transfers to the image. Paper or plastic media reflects heat so the adhesive isn’t activated.
The application roller is ‘indexed,’ so it can be raised and lowered as the sheet passes underneath. Different widths of foil ribbon can be used, while two different ribbons can fit across the width. Like any digital press every copy can be different.
It might be possible to print a four-colour image with black-only areas that would pick up the foil. In most cases it would be simpler to run two passes: black-only for the foil, and then manually reloading for a full-colour pass, which gives the possibility of overprinting the foil. MGI’s new AIS SmartScanner camera-based registration compensates the Ripped image for any size changes on the second pass.
How does it differ from previous models?
Meteor presses are modified to fit the foiling unit between the press output slot and the delivery stacker. The EFI Fiery front end software is also modified to control the foiler and registration of second passes.
How fast/productive is it?
The foiling unit runs up to 50 A4spm. This is a nominal speed as it depends on the indexing and length of foil per copy. The press is slowed to match it, but full speed can be used for the second print-only pass.
What is the USP?
It appears to be the first digital foiling unit to run inline with a press and use the same Rip and press controls.
How easy is it to use?
The foiling unit is controlled from the Meteor front end, so using it is pretty straightforward. A specially named spot colour is created in a design program, overlaid over the main image. This is detected by the Meteor DFE and used to print the black pass, and to trigger the indexing roller in the foil unit.
Is training and service support available?
MGI offers a training, service and support package. David Evans, managing director of the UK distributor MGI Technology, employs UK service engineers and uses third-party specialists including Veritek.
How much does it cost
Unusually, there’s no click cost so you just pay for consumables plus a support package. Evans says that a DP8700XL with Unlimited Colors would cost around £260,000, about £90,000 more than the standard press. Upgrades to existing installations will cost a bit more because the press will need to be adapted.
How many are installed?
The first sale has been made to Ernest Bexon & Co in Nottingham as its first digital press. The press has been delivered, with the foil unit due to be added last week. Evans hopes to sell about five Unlimited Colors presses into the UK over 2016.
DP 8700XL+ press
Speed up to 4,260 A4 pages/hour or 2,280 A3 pages/hour
Maximum print area 330x1,200mm
Paper /card sizes From 100x148mm, to 330x1,200mm
Resolution 3,600dpi and 270lpi
Feeder 3,000 sheet pile for sheets up to 330x1,200mm unit plus 2x 1,500 sheet paper drawers for sheets up to 330x487mm
Substrates Paper, plastic, polycarbonate, vinyl and PET substrates, envelopes
Media thickness without overprinting 80 to 350gsm
Media thickness with overprinting 150 to 350gsm
Speed Up to 50 A4sheets/min
Foil roll sizes Up to 100 to 320mm wide and 400m long
Total cost £260,000 including press, iFoil T, installation and warranty.
Contact MGi Technology UK 01442 446446 mgitechnology.co.uk
As far we know this is the only digital foiling unit able to be integrated with a digital press via a single control unit. But there are some sophisticated standalone systems.
German foil maker Kurz makes a pair for high throughput foiling. It calls the process Digital Metal (DM). Its original DM Liner applies heat-activated hot foil to sheets printed with black dry toner or Indigo ElectroInk. The sheets can then be overprinted in a separate press. DM Liner costs about £115,000 for an SRA3 and around £144,000 for a B2 format unit.
The new DM-Liner UV Ink bypasses the pre-print stage. It is a standalone B2 digital inkjet (max width 324mm) that applies UV ink to sheets and foil onto that before curing with an LED lamp. DM-Liner UV Ink produces up to 3,600 SRA3 sheets per hour. It can foil black sheets that can then be overprinted, or over pre-printed sheets with auto optical registration. It costs £33,000.
The UK’s GMP produces the Sleeker, which uses special effects laminate films for similar results over toner print.
Other standalone routes include the MGI Jetvarnish clear UV varnish inkjet with iFoil unit (B1 to B3). Scodix has a similar unit for its clear varnish inkjets, from B1 to B2.
The Mimaki UJF’s small UV inkjet flatbeds (A3 to B2+) can be used with the Digi-Foil cold foil unit from i-Sub Digital. This applies foil over a clear tacky varnish printed on the flatbed.
For toner printing, heat activation like that of the iFoil T is used by desktop foilers from Caslon and Uchida. These lack indexing rollers, so foil sticks to any black toner.
Finally, there's Landa, which at drupa was showing a future digital metallic embellishment technology that it calls Nano-Metallography. This doesn't use foil ribbons at all, but nano-scale metal particles that are applied to media where they adhere to a special varnish. They form a smooth layer with an near-mirror finish (like foil but unlike metallic inks). The first production unit will be an imprinting head for label presses, possibly available next year.