Me & my: Agfa Jeti Mira
Monday, April 18, 2016
Last August saw the first UK installation of a new generation of Agfa flatbed UV printers at Graphica Display in Chessington.
The first challenge was getting it through the door, says managing director Rob Hill. “We took out a whole entrance to create an aperture for the machine – it cost us a couple of grand just to get it in.
“The amount of planning for the floor space that went into this was quite extreme, to the point where we had templates of the machine on the floor, all marked out, with laser measuring. Some parts of the machine were literally within 10cm of another machine.”
A 2x3m Blackman & White flatbed cutter-router with roll-to-roll conveyor was installed at the same time, mainly to finish materials printed on the Mira. This brought the total spend to around £400,000 and likewise had to be squeezed into the limited space available. “Other printers and customers have complimented us how we actually managed to do it,” says Hill. “It was quite a feat of engineering!”
The space limitations are a consequence of Graphica Display’s location, Hill says. “We have about 500m2 – and we use every square metre. We’ve not moved out of London, so we still have our 020 tele-phone number and we’ve stayed true to our roots. We’ve always been in Chessington. It allows us to compete with people outside London, who are paying half what we are here.
“At one point we were going to move premises just to take this new piece of kit, but the budget and the resulting upheaval in the business would have stopped us from buying it.”
Graphica Display has been operating for almost 10 years. “We all come from a large-format graphic display background, we haven’t come from litho or from signage into display,” says Hill. “We have been selling, producing and installing large-format graphics for the last nine years. Signage has really grown for us in the last year or so.”
The Agfa Jeti Mira is the company’s first flatbed. Before that it operated roll-fed aqueous and solvent printers, including a couple of 3m-wide Mimakis. “Bringing in the Mira with the roll-to-roll unit adds the benefits of UV printing,” Hill says. “We’ve got white ink and gloss varnish, which is new and exciting for a digital machine of that size. We had to screen print that before. The extra varnish head is about £15,000. It puts spot varnish down, which previously was very difficult with digital processes. It can go over products, logos, things like that.”
Graphica handles display and signage for retail, commercial, interiors, events and public sector contracts. Its client list includes clients such as Axa Group, Caffè Nero, Debenhams, Lacoste and Specsavers as well as being an approved supplier for the Boeing EMEA region.
One of the first jobs completed on the Jeti Mira was for Caffè Nero, printing 500 menu chalkboards, to go in half of the chain’s 1,000 UK locations. “We pre-screened the chalkboard and then printed with white ink with the Mira,” Hill says.
Hill did consider other options but kept coming back to the Agfa device. Identifying its USPs, Hill says: “Flexibility, and the service was good – it was well sold. There’s a massive bed and very good inks. It’s sold directly and not through a distributor, which gives us a little more comfort. We were the first in the country to have a Mira so it was a bit of a leap of faith for us. We did look at other machines, but we were most comfortable with the Agfa set-up – with the service that was being offered to us – and they have been very good. As the first in the country, it’s in their interest to totally look after us!”
He also looked at other flatbed UV printers in the same market sector, including Canon Océ Arizona, Fujifilm Acuity and SwissQprint models. “In production the quality of the machine is as good if not better than the others,” Hill says.
Agfa took Graphica Display to Canada last year to see a Mira being built. “It was a beta machine as the first printer hadn’t gone into production,” says Hill. “It was a very good journey with them. It did everything that the SwissQ machine did, but the UV varnish and the quality of the white ink really sold the Agfa for us.
“The way it is built is impressive. It is all sourced locally and the only foreign part is the Japanese piezo heads. When you look at the way they put the machine together you know they’re not messing about. They were signing off different parts as they assembled what is a quarter million pound piece of kit. It’s quite reassuring!”
The Jeti Mira is a completely new design produced by the former Gandinnovations factory near Toronto, which Agfa acquired in 2009. It is a six-colour-plus-white UV inkjet printer, designed to deliver good print quality and productivity.
The bed width is 2.69m with a choice of two bed depths, 1.6m or 3.2m. There are two performance levels: S models have single heads and the HS models have two for higher speeds. S models can be field upgraded to HS if needed.
The bed is fixed and the printheads are mounted on a moving gantry. The head shuttle has automatic height adjustment, safety sensors and an anti-static bar.
There are six vacuum zones on the bed, in two sets of three across the width. This allows it to print a job on one half while the operator sets up the next job on the other half of the bed.
The front-end controller includes cropping, rotating, auto-nesting, scaling, and stepping features. It can also store job parameters for reprints.
Graphica Display chose the 2732HS model with the larger bed size and twin heads. It added the clear ink option. It also ordered the dockable roll-to-roll media handling option, though this has been delayed and is now due in May.
The Blackman & White cutter-router installed at the same time complements the flatbed, Hill says. It has a laser head option (used to cut acrylics with smooth edges) plus an oscillating knife and tools for routing and creasing.
Put to work
Aside from the need to reconfigure the front door, installation went smoothly. “We got it in the first week of August last year and it was running in 10 to 12 days,” Hill says. “We had our first job lined up for it when it came in. It was a £20,000 job that was ideal for the Mira, so it obviously had to be online fairly quickly. We didn’t want to farm that job out!”
“The best thing is its flexibility,” says Hill. “The worst thing is probably the width of the roll-to-roll unit. It could have been bigger. We thought it would be 2.5m, but it’s coming in at 2.05m. Apart from that we don’t have any complaints.”
There were the expected small teething issues and a few call-outs have been needed, but nothing serious. “The odd seal has gone, but they’ve been here literally that day or early the next morning.”
Anything else to be aware of? “You’ve got to get the colour calibration right,” he says. “Agfa helps to do it but you’ve got to sit down and get that right. We had to be very particular with the profiling because we do so much brand work.”
The ink gamut is good enough to hit most brand colours, he says, “apart from Easyjet orange.”
Hill says he would recommend the machine and get another if the work warranted it, but right now he has other priorities. “Our natural progression now is to buy a 3m dedicated roll-to-roll UV machine. That will complement the Mira but we’re not ready for that yet.”
Max media format 2,690x3,200mm
Max media thickness 50mm
Flexible media width 2.05m
Flexible media thickness 3mm
Media types Reinforced vinyl, pressure-sensitive vinyl, canvas, fabrics, foam board, corrugated board, lenticular, tile, drywall, glass, sheet metal, paper, etc
Throughput (HS) Up to 231m2 per hour depending on quality mode
Ink colours CMYK, light cyan, light magenta, plus white and clear
Footprint 6.25x4.9m (with roll-to-roll option)
Weight 4,401kg (with roll-to-roll option)
Front-end Agfa Asanti or third-party RIPs
Price £270,000 (list price in Graphica spec). Entry price for smaller S model is £163,000
Contact Agfa UK 020 8231 4983 www.agfagraphics.com
Graphica Display was founded nine years ago to produce wide-format graphics, and has more recently expanded into signage. It now employs 18 people and has a turnover of £1.5m. It is sited in Chessington and has had to plan very carefully to make the best use of its 500m2 premises.
An important part of the business is installation of the graphics and Graphica Display employs its own installers.
“The work is about 50% retail - fashion and food – and about 30% commercial – interiors, branding work,” Hill says. “The rest is events and exhibitions - not massive for us – and then the hospitality market, hotel areas.”
The Agfa Jeti Mira is the company’s first flatbed for rigid media and its first UV printer - the others are roll-fed flexible media printers with solvent or aqueous inks. Apart from the merits of UV inks, Hill likes the facility to print opaque white and spot clear inks.
Why it was bought...
“We always look at what we outsource and if there’s enough work to satisfy it we will buy the kit to bring it in-house,” Hill says. “We manage our expectations that way, instead of buying a piece of kit and then having to sell it.
“We were outsourcing so much direct-to-media work that having it in-house, together with the cutter, was in the natural course of growing the business. We can now compete across the spectrum, with the biggest players in the market right the way down to the smallest.”
How it has performed...
Hill says the quality and flexibility of the machine has been excellent, but stresses the need to put time into calibration.