Océ Arizona 550XT
Wednesday, August 11, 2010
The latest iteration of this sector-defining press breaks into new markets and competes with the very best, reports Barney Cox
With the 550XT, Océ has rounded off its hugely successful Arizona line of UV-cured flatbed machines with its largest and fastest machine to date. The first of the 550 series, the smaller 1.25x2.5m format 550GT, was launched at the beginning of the year with double the throughput of the 350GT, and is now joined by the 550XT with its 3x2.5m bed.
Speed is the biggest difference between the 350 series and 550 series and the improved performance has been driven by a new printhead configuration and new heads with double the number of nozzles. There are some mechanical differences under the hood, but the only outwardly visible difference is the larger print carriage holding the heads.
"Other than that it's the same size and quality as our earlier machines," says Océ Display Graphics marketing manager Derek Joys.
Both have at least twice the throughput of the equivalent 350 series and in some modes, notably fine art, it approaches a three-fold increase, rising from 9m2/hr to 24m2/hr.
Printing with white is where the speed increase is really apparent, and at 15m2/hr is "practically the same 'production' speed as the old Arizona was without white," says Joys.
Flat out, in 'express' flatbed mode, and on a limited set of substrates, it can hit 67m2/hr. However, this mode is more appropriate for billboards, mesh and far-viewed banners produced using the roll-to-roll option, in which case the speed falls to 50m2/hr.
Materials handling also makes a big difference to speed. The 3.05x2.5m format of the XT is not just so that it can handle 3x2m boards with room to spare, the bed is configured as two separate beds, allowing printing on one side and media loading on the other. In this mode, two 1.25x2.5m (8x4ft) boards can be handled at a time, with a real-world production figure of 110 boards per eight-hour shift.
The speed increase takes the Arizona into a new sector going head-to-head with the likes of Inca, Vutek, HP Scitex and Durst with the higher productivity flatbeds.
"If you go faster it opens up new opportunities," says Joys. "Albeit in a smaller sector of the market."
You could accuse Océ of being greedy in going up into this market, when, with more than 2,000 installations of the Arizona UV flatbed series since its launch in 2006, it has become the most successful UV flatbed in the world, with more than 40% market share.
With that sort of success it's not surprising that the Arizona has become the Heidelberg Speedmaster 74 of the UV flatbed market – a sector-defining everyman's machine – to the extent that rivals have launched machines to challenge its quality, throughput, price or a combination of those.
Quality is described as "equivalent to 1,440dpi", although Joys won't disclose the native resolution of the printheads or who makes them.
"I don't even know who makes them," he says. "It's the way we drive them that makes the machine."
The firm's VariaDot technology works with the greyscale printheads to produce seven different dot sizes from six to 42 picolitres.
"Native resolution of the head is largely academic and even if you analysed the image it would be hard to tell," he says. "Dots per inch is to some extent meaningless with the precise placement and multiple drop sizes."
VariaDot also simplifies the design and operation of the machine by ensuring smooth tonality, especially in the light quartertones, without having to resort to light cyan and light magenta inks. Océ argues that it also minimises ink consumption as well as reducing the number of heads and ink lines, with consumption of 8ml/m2, which with ink at £118/litre provides running costs (excluding substrate) of a maximum of 94p/m2 even with heavy coverage.
"Because UV ink sits on the surface, consumption is consistent regardless of the substrate, unlike solvents," he says.
The white, which is taken on 90% of new machines, and is also retrofittable, can be printed in any order with the other colours, which is controlled by the Onyx ProductionHouse RIP. With coloured substrates, a white can be laid down to print four-colours onto, while for clear materials, white can be used for backlit work or white with a black between can be used for work to be viewed from both sides.
"The permutations for printing white and colour are almost limitless," says Joys. "Flood, spot and layer-by-layer."
The inks themselves are Fujifilm's formulation – a fitting bit of share and share alike, as it sells the Arizonas under its Acuity label. Two formulations are available, the original 'hard' 255 version and the more recent 'flexible' 256 inks, which are formable and resist edge chipping when being cut or routed. Both types can be used for rigid or flexible materials, and Joys says most users opt for one type and stick to it.
More substrate options
Another development on the 550 series is in the UV curing system. Although it uses traditional mercury vapour lamps, rather than newfangled LED UV technology, Océ has found a way to get more UV onto the substrate to cure the inks, while reducing the heat, widening the range of substrates that can be handled to include more that are sensitive to heat and prone to warping and or yellowing.
While the bigger print carriage may be the most obvious difference between the 550 and its predecessors other changes mean that you can't upgrade a 350 to the 550 specification. Océ doesn't see that as a problem, though; it offers a "competitive" option for swapping out older machines for new ones, and there is strong demand for second-user units, which Océ supplies. Joys cites the original Arizona 250 series, which can be picked up for £50,000-£60,000. He also points out that some users looking for increased throughput prefer the flexibility of two slower machines, hence the continuation of the 350 series, which ranges from £85,000 for the 350GT to £145,000 for the 350XT, and the availability of the smaller (1.25x2.5m) 550GT, which starts at £145,000.
Of course, however fast, no machine is any good if it spends most of its time up on bricks. Up-time is claimed to be 97%, and should there be a problem, Joys promises a prompt service from Océ's customer support team and 16 UK-based engineers. Response time is a guaranteed eight hours, which he says realistically means next-day. But before an engineer arrives they will phone the customer to talk through the problem to see if production can continue and to ensure they have the right spares when they arrive.
Max size 3.05x2.5m
Max speed 66m2/hr
Max material thickness 51mm
Resolution/quality equivalent to 1,440dpi
Colours CMYK, optional white
RIP/workflow Onyx ProductionHouse
Type flatbed with roll-to-roll as an option
Price basic machine: £167,000, with white and roll-to-roll options: £197,000
Running cost 94p/m2
Contact Océ UK 0870 600 5544 www.oce.com
Agfa Anapurna M2050
Lacking the extra size that enables the Arizona to handle two 1.25x2.5m boards at a time, but with a lower price.
Max size 2.05x3m
Max speed 48m2/hr
Contact Agfa UK 020 8231 4929 www.agfa.com
EFI Rastek T1000
Baby brother to the Vutek range with a lower price point and a smaller bed for firms looking to get into UV flatbed.
Max size 1.32x2.49m
Max speed 37m2/hr
Contact Your Print Supplies 0191 256 6889
EFI Vutek QS220
The QS220 is the baby of the Vutek range, but as they are industrial strength machines, that's a big baby.
Max size 1.6x3.2m
Max speed 70m2/hr
Price £124,000 (€149,000)
Contact EFI Vutek 07887 842786 www.efi.com/vutek
Fujifilm Acuity Advance HS X2
As it's the same chassis, with the same ink, it's the closest direct rival to the Arizona.
Max size 3.05x2.5m
Max speed 66m2/hr
Contact Fujifilm UK 01234 245245 www.fujifilm.com
HP Scitex FB700
Designed to go head-to-head with the Arizona, it supports wider (2.5m), heavier (80kg) rolls and thicker (63mm) boards.
Max size standard: 1.22x2.5m
extension table: 3.05x2.50m
Max speed 80m2/hr
Contact HP 07825 725496 www.hp.com
This is the closest Meital to the 550XT. Single table, slower and faster versions, make this a flexible machine.
Max size 1.25x2.5m
Max speed 75m2/hr
Contact DPI 01332 856355 www.dpi-uk.com
The mimaki offers a higher quality than the Arizona with optional varnish, as well as white ink.
Max size 1.6 x 3.1m
Max speed 13m2/hour
Contact Hybrid Services 01270 501900