Star product: Inca Onset M

By Simon Eccles, Monday 23 October 2017

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Both an automated flatbed inkjet and a low-cost sheetfed B1 press.

star-inca-digital-b1-printer

What does the product do?

This is a UK-built sheetfed B1 printer using multi-pass inkjet and UV-cured inks, capable of printing up to 200 full-sized sheets per hour. It is essentially a flatbed printer with a sheet feeder, through-transport and stacking system. It will be distributed globally by both Inca and Fujifilm, which already distributes other Inca Onsets. 

Onset M product manager Paul Baker says it is a “direct result of customer feedback and their desire for a B1 press that is capable of printing short runs, on-demand and on a wide variety of substrates”.

When was it launched and what market is it aimed at?

The first technical preview was held at Fespa 2017 in May, when it was shown on the Fujifilm stand in Fuji colours with the temporary name B1PE7. 

Initially the primary use is seen as display boards and similar POS applications, though it also can handle thin paper or heavier sheet materials up to 10mm thick. 

Baker says: “The productivity and quality of the new platform will give commercial and screen printers the confidence to take lower-volume work off presses, increasing overall productivity and opening up potential new revenue streams in the process. 

“However, its inherent versatility means that it will also be suitable for an extensive range of applications, including substrates that are too thick to be printed on offset.”

How does it work? 

The printer uses new Fujifilm Dimatix small-drop, 7pl binary piezo heads, which Inca won’t identify exactly but says allow “crisp 4pt text and smooth colours, ideal for short viewing distances”. It also uses “next-generation optical printhead alignment and calibration systems”. There are eight ink channels, allowing the user to choose either dual-CMYK for higher speeds, or CMYK plus light cyan, magenta and opaque white. 

Sheets are automatically taken from a feeder and loaded onto a fixed vacuum table inside the main print unit. A zoned vacuum system copes with different sheet sizes with no need for edge taping. The head array prints in scanning mode across the sheet, with UV-LED lamps then triggering an initial ‘pinning’ part cure, which stops the ink running or being absorbed too much into the substrate. The sheets are then passed to a separate UV curing tunnel unit for the final cure by more powerful mercury lamps, before being passed to a stacker. This two-stage curing allows thin or heat-sensitive materials to be handled without distortion.

Manual and “three-quarter automation” versions are also planned, with a modular lay table and collection tray to suit customer requirements and budget.

Onset M shares some technology with the established Onset X series of moving-bed flatbeds, including the print array (though not the printheads), nozzle mapping (to compensate for blockages), automated printhead cleaning and a collision avoidance system. 

Inca’s more conventional Spyder X (also sold by Screen as Truepress Jet W3200UV) has a fixed bed, but Baker says that Onset M has more in common with Onset X. 

What is the USP?

Baker says there are several USPs. These include: “Full-width print array scanning system for B1 format, providing high-quality print – a viable option for taking shorter runs off offset presses; fully automated system with the versatility to print a wide range of material types and thicknesses – providing customers with opportunities to open up new revenue streams; and a competitive price point for an automated B1 format system, that enables a wider range of potential users to adopt inkjet.”

How easy is it to use?

“It is fully automated, although there will be three-quarter and manual material handling options,” says Baker. The user interface is said to be simple to use. There is automatic printhead cleaning for easy maintenance. The IncaConnect software suite also allows integration and customisation to existing workflows.

What training and support is on offer?

“As with all Inca products, operator and engineer training courses will be available, either at customer sites, or in our Training Centre in Cambridge,” says Baker. “Telephone and field support are available, together with Inca Vision, which is a software-based support service allowing for remote monitoring and diagnostics.”

How much does it cost?

The final price hasn’t been determined, says Baker, stating that “Onset M is positioned in the mid-range of Inca’s product portfolio”. A price of $500,000 (£380,000) was mentioned at Fespa.

PrintWeek notes that it’s faster and more automated than the fixed bed Spyder X (at about £250,000), but slower than the lowest-speed Onset X1 (about £350,000, though the X3 is about £900,000). Onset M’s higher quality potential from smaller drops and higher resolutions may also affect the price. 

How many are installed currently?

Right now there’s a single beta installation at an unnamed UK site, with commercial launch planned for the end of this year. 


SPECIFICATIONS

Process Sheetfed inkjet with UV-cured inks

Printheads Fujifilm Dimatix piezo-electric

Min drop size 7pl

Resolution 1,350dpi

Quality 4pt text, 5pt reverse text

Inks UV-cured

Ink channels Eight channels, 12 heads per colour

Colours Dual-CMYK or CMYK plus white, light cyan and light magenta

Max speed 120sph (CMYK-plus); 200sph (dual- CMYK) 

Sheet sizes From 530x380mm to 1,050x750mm

Print size Up to 1,040x714mm

Substrate thickness 0.1-10mm

Substrates Papers include coated/uncoated, carton-board, micro-flute. Plastics include PP, PS, PVC, PE, PETG

Footprint 7x3m (entry level) up to 9.5x3m with full automation

Price TBA

Contact Inca Digital 01223 577800 www.incadigital.com


ALTERNATIVES

Inca says there are no direct alternatives, presumably meaning at the planned price point, though it won’t yet say what that is. 

There are other B1 sheetfed digital presses, including the Heidelberg Primefire 106 inkjet (developed in cooperation with Fujifilm and using water-based inks, for up to 2,500sph); and the Landa S10 Nanographic offset inkjet (which has reached its first user site in recent months, offering 6,500sph on paper or plastic-based substrates with the intention of increasing this to 13,000sph eventually). 

Both these presses are much faster than the Onset M, but are also likely to cost a lot more too. Both are intended primarily for folding carton board and use water-based inks, whereas Onset M has UV-cure inks and is mainly intended for display board and similar POS media, including much thicker sheets.

MGI’s Alphajet B1-plus single-pass UV-cure inkjet was shown as a prototype at Drupa 2016. This is broadly similar in concept to the Onset M, with a versatile feeder able to take a wide range of media up to 750x1,200mm. MGI hasn’t announced a speed yet, but an earlier B2 prototype shown at Drupa 2012 was said to be capable of 3,500sph. 

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