Meital 300

Barney Cox
Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Despite being a newcomer to the large-format game, Meital is making a name for itself, writes Barney Cox


Meital might not be a familiar name in the world of large-format, but the people behind the machine have a proud heritage developing Nur and, latterly, HP Scitex machines, including the Expedio and Tempo. The company first appeared at Drupa 08 and, come Fespa Digital a year ago, was showing its first machine, which attracted a lot of interest for its combination of high quality, high speed and low cos

The first Meital 300 in Europe, a 302, was installed at the end of last year at Yorkshire printer Screenprint Productions.  The company was an ideal buyer, according to Stewart Bell, of UK dealer DPI, who says the target market for the 300 is screen printers looking for a digital flatbed direct to substrate machine.

There are several versions of the 300, with the variations being how many printheads there are per colour and how many tables/beds are fitted. At the most basic configuration, the 301, the machine has a single table and one printhead for each colour. At the top of the range is the 304D, which features four printheads per colour and two tables (or double tables hence the D designation). In total, there are six possible configurations and it is possible to upgrade in the field from the most basic 301 all the way up to the 304D, depending on a user's evolving needs. White ink is an option and a varnish option is on its way.

"The idea is that the customer can start with the 35m2/hr 301 and, in due course, upgrade," says Bell. However, he adds that he expects the UK market to go straight for the fully loaded 304D with the most heads and the double table option for the fastest throughput.

 

Digital quality

The 301 can get away with being a four-colour machine by dint of the use of the latest Xaar HSS 1001 heads. These are greyscale heads so are capable of producing six different sized drops between six and 42 picolitres (pl) each time they fire. This ensures smooth highlights and dense shadows.

"Because it's greyscale, you don't need the addition of light colours," explains Bell. "And the quality is excellent, at 75m2 per hour, the quality is as good as something coming off of an HP DesignJet." Or to equate it to more realistic competition, "it offers the quality of Océ's Arizona or Fujifilm's Acuity, but at a significantly higher speed", Bell claims. He cites a US customer that replaced multiple Fuji Acuity models with a single Meital 300.

According to Bell, Screenprint Productions, which has a 302 version, typically runs its machine at 150m2/hr. The quality exceeds the output from highspeed machines, such as the Inca Onset S20 or the HP Scitex FB7500, he says.

At that printing speed, the actual number of 1.25x2.5m boards per hour is 33.

The configuration of the 300 is designed so that it is operated from the front only, which Bell says, when combined with its small footprint, makes it the ideal choice for space-pressed printers as it can be installed right next to a wall, even in a corner, rather than needing space on all sides for loading and unloading.

Autoloading is planned for the future, and will be necessary when a 32-head (eight per colour) machine is launched, which pumps out 300m2 per hour. "Once you're up at that speed, you need to automate as there's only 23 seconds between sheets," Bell argues. "That might be okay if you're printing on to foamboard, but if it's a rigid PVC, you'd also need to take off the release liner paper and an operator just couldn't keep up."

 

Mass-market appeal

Bell claims the 300 is priced to fill a gap in the market where there's nothing that offers a similar combination of quality and productivity. Unlike a lot of mid-priced machines, the 300 is flatbed only, with no options for a roll-to-roll system to turn it into a hybrid. "Yes, it restricts the applications," he agrees. "But 90% of the market is 1.25x2.5m boards. There's a great opportunity for firms that need to produce jobs of up to 200 sheets."

That said, in addition to plans for a faster speed version, Meital is also looking at introducing a bigger bed size. Bell argues that, in its sector of the market, the 300 has compelling arguments in its favour over screen print and even large-format litho. "It's got a smaller footprint; it needs a 32A three-phase electricity supply, so you don't need your own sub-station and it can be used by a single operator, whereas for a screen line you'd be looking at four or five people."

With regards to ink costs, Bell claims that 32 eurocents per m2 (dependent on coverage) is "on par" with screen print. In addition, with it being digital, it also strips out the costs of making the screens - "That's a grand before you've even made a single print," Bell adds.

To drive the 300, DPI supplies a Caldera RIP, which is well-regarded for wide-format print. However, Bell says the company is looking at how to integrate the RIP with a more complete pre-press workflow. Also within its product range are EskoArtwork's Odystar and Enfocus products.

Key to the 300's position as a high-quality, high-speed and robust machine is its use of the latest printhead from Xaar -the HSS 1001 are what's called hybrid side-shooter heads (hence the HSS). That means, instead of the nozzles being the end of the ink's path from container to substrate, they are, in effect, off to the side of a continuously recirculating flow on ink. What that means, in practice, is that the nozzles are far less prone to clogging, either from particles or air bubbles. Even if there are particles or bubbles in the ink line, the design is self-healing. This is in comparison to the older end-of-the-line configuration, where a blocked nozzle either needed an ink-consuming purge or could have even resulted in a dead nozzle - at best, slowing down production and, at worst, the printhead needing replacement.

The tables feature a vacuum bed to hold the sheets in place and, unlike a lot of rival high-speed flatbeds, the bed stays static during imaging with the printhead traversing the sheet on a carriage. Each pass builds up a 15cm print swathe - meaning a minimum of eight passes to cover the full 1.25m width. "It looks like it's going slowly if you compare it to rival machines where the bed is flying about," says Bell. "But it's a lot simpler and there is less to go wrong."

With the achievements of the people working hard behind the scenes at the company, in addition to its plans to make the basic machine much bigger and faster, Meital is well-placed to become a far more familiar name in the not too distant future.


SPECIFICATIONS

Printheads
fourx16 Xaar HS 1001

Colours
CMK plus white

Max sheet size
1.25x2.5m

Sheet thickness
25mm

Speed
301 35 m2/hr
 302 75 m2/hr
303 105 m2/hr
304 150 m2/hr

Workflow
Caldera

Price
from £195,000 for the 301 to £325,000 for the 304D

Contact
Digital Print Innovations 01332 856355 www.dpi-uk.com


THE ALTERNATIVES

Agfa Jeti 1224 UV HDC

The 1224 UV HDC combines the robustness of the Jeti with Ricoh printheads and Agfa's ink technology.

Max sheet size
2.43x1.21m

Sheet thickness                 
5cm

Speed                 
36-110m2/hr

Price                 
£195,000 (€225,000)

Contact                 
Agfa 020 8231 4929  www.agfa.com

 

Fujifilm Inca Spyder V

With Ultratone orange and violet inks, the Spyder stands out in offering a wider colour gamut than its rivals.

Max sheet size                 
3.2x1.6m

Sheet thickness                 
30mm

Speed                 
30-120m2/hr

Price                 
from £190,000

Contact                 
Fujifilm Graphic Systems 01234 245245
www.graphics.fujifilm.co.uk

 

Grapo Shark

Czech firm Grapo is a printco that decided to build its own printers based on what it wanted them to do. 

Max sheet size                 
2x1.7m

Sheet thickness                  
80mm

Speed                 
75m2

Price                 
from £230,000

Contact                 
Grapo Technologies 0042 0587 435 611
www.grapo.com

 

HP Scitex FB6100 Printer

The FB is a workhorse flatbed and is an affordable and versatile contender.

Max sheet size                 
3.2x2m

Sheet thickness                  
50mm

Speed                  
23-100m2/hr

Price                 
£280,000

Contact                 
07825 725496
www.hp.com/uk/go/contactus

 

Océ Arizona 550GT

Arguably the most successful UV flatbed, its greyscale heads have helped win praise for near photographic quality. Oce recently gave the Arizona a speed boost. 

Max sheet size                 
1.25x2.5m

Sheet thickness                 
48mm

Speed                 
61m2/hr

Price                 
£155,000

Contact                 
Océ UK (0) 870 600 5544 www.oce.co.uk

 

Vutek GS2000

The GS is Vutek's flagship range, with a price tag to match. The GS works at 1,000dpi with an 8pl drop for quality work and 600 dpi at 24pl for high productivity.

Max sheet size                 
up to 2.03m wide

Sheet thickness                  
51mm

Speed                  
186m2/hr

Price                 
£350,000

Contact                  
EFI 0031 749 9420 www.efi.com

 

 

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