Star product: Xerox DTO

Simon Eccles
Monday, October 10, 2016

Innovative inkjet for printing on shaped objects.

What does it do?

It’s a UV inkjet printer intended to print text, images and photographs directly onto 3D objects in a matter of minutes. It can print onto plastics, metals, ceramics and glass, with a white undercoat if required. There’s no official model name or number yet, with Xerox merely calling it the Direct To Object (DTO) printer. 

Although its vertical appearance and operation is unusual, it is similar in concept to various small flatbed UV inkjets that were first popularised by Mimaki with its UJF family and now available from several manufacturers. 

The Xerox DTO is four or five times the price of a typical A3 flatbed, but it’s fast and has the potential to print on much more curved or uneven surfaces. However its print area of 71x330mm is quite limited. Several rival flatbeds have rotator accessories for cylindrical objects. 

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

Although previewed at Drupa, the official launch was in August 2016. Brendan Casey, vice-president of engineering services and customisation at Xerox said: “This innovation opens up a path for creating customised products instantly at a time when the consumer’s appetite is all about personalisation.”

The printer has been designed to fit into retail or commercial environments. It can be customised to fit user needs. 

Casey says: “In a competitive retail space where brick and mortar stores are in a fierce battle with online retailers, the printer is easy to use, fun to watch and offers highly customisable output, allowing stores to offer walk-up low cost print runs as low as one on a variety of objects.”

He adds that print service providers can “offer small runs for personalising and customising products.” Packaging printers too: “It is a packager’s dream to eliminate the cost and headache of labels and be able to customise packaging,” Casey says. “It also offers a flexible architecture that can support conveyors if necessary.”

How does it work?

It prints in five colours as standard (CMYK plus white) but can use additional inks up to a total of 10. It uses Xerox’s own stainless steel printheads. 

The inkjet heads shoot horizontally while travelling up and down the print target area. Blank items are pre-loaded into ‘object holder’ jigs, which are then clipped into the printer. 

Casey says: “We have developed technology that allows us to shoot the drops over a much larger distance than normal for inkjet, 5-7mm versus around 1mm for most inkjet machines. This allows the machine to print onto complex curved surfaces, over bumps and into grooves. For most shapes there is no distortion. In cases where there is distortion the file can be adjusted to compensate.” It cannot, however, print all the way round an item. 

The machine is supplied with five object holders and additional options are available. UV-cured ink is standard, but Xerox says the heads are compatible with solvent and aqueous inks and can operate at up to 140°C if needed. 

How fast is it?

That depends on what you’re printing. Casey says: “It takes between 90 seconds and two minutes to print. In that time you can print one water bottle, two or three metal flasks, a dozen golf balls, etc.” There’s also the factor of changing object holders in the printer. Speed also depends on the chosen resolution, which can be from 300 to 1,200dpi.

What’s its USP?

It’s respectably fast, handles uneven surfaces and is designed to fit into retail environments if needed. 

How easy is it to use?

“We designed the machine to be able to be run by a typical retail store employee,” says Casey. “Customer maintenance is also simple, but requires more training than the basic operation.”

Xerox intends the image personalisation to be handled by its XMPie software, while the printer interface is “designed to be easy to use for unskilled operators.”

What training and service support is offered?

Service is available from Xerox, as is training for the operator, and for customer maintenance.

How much does it cost? 

Pricing starts at $145,000 (about £112,000) and rise according to configuration and options.

How many are installed?

The Drupa demo machine was sold off the stand to UK trade printer DCL Print in Crawley, which is set to install it later this month. 


SPECIFICATIONS

Print size 71x330mm

Object volume Up to 1m2

Resolution 300 to 1,200dpi

Process Piezo DOD inkjet

Ink UV cure, potential for solvent or aqueous

Colours Up to 10 (CMYK and white as standard)

Speed Full area in 90 to 120 seconds

File input PDF

Size 990x990x2,286mm

Price From $140,000 (about £112,000)

Contact Xerox UK 0330 123 3245 www.xerox.com


ALTERNATIVES

Azonprinter Razor

Croatian Azonprinter makes flatbed printers and platesetters. Its new Rotax attachment can be fitted to its A3, B1 and B0 sized UV flatbeds, to hold and rotate cylindrical or conical objects under the head carriage. 

Max print size 300x800mm

Max thickness 200mm

Colours CMYK, white and clear

Resolution Up to 2,880dpi

Rotax object diameter 41 to 127mm

Rotax object length Up to 279mm 

Price (Razor only) around £13,000; Rotax: £2,500

Contact Azonprinter +385 1461 8003 www.azonprinter.com

Heidelberg Omnifire 250

Omnifire is a ‘4D’ direct-to-object inkjet printer family that uses a multi-axis holder to rotate items under the fixed printheads. The holder rotates in four axes. A new, larger Omnifire 1000 will be demonstrated at the InPrint show in Milan next month. 

Object size Approx 5 to 250mm diameter

Print size Image strips, size depends on object size

Colours Up to four, UV-LED cured

Printheads Xaar 1002 single-pass greyscale

Price Around £260,000 with 3D RIP

Contact Heidelberg UK 020 8490 3500 www.uk.heidelberg.com

Mimaki UJF-3042/6042 MkII

Mimaki pioneered affordable UV flatbed printers with its UJF series and launched a pair of MkII models last month with A3 and A2 bed sizes. Items need to be fairly flat, although small images can be printed onto golf balls. A ‘Kebab’ rotator can be fitted to most models to take cylindrical items. 

Colours CMYK, white, clear, primer. Additional light cyan and light magenta on 6042 MkII only

Print area 300x420mm (3042 MkII), 610x420mm (6042 MkII)

Resolution 600/1,200dpix600/900/1,200dpi

Kebab currently available for UJF-3042HG and UJF-6042. A Kebab for the UJF-7151 and MkII models will be released later this year

Kebab object diameter 10-110mm

Kebab object length 30-330mm

Price The MkI machines start from around £20,000, while the MkIIs (expected to be available from November) will cost from £21,000

Contact Hybrid Services 01270 501900 www.hybridservices.co.uk 

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