Las Vegas';Twelve years have passed since this reporter began attending ISA, The International Sign Association trade show. In the early days, the attraction was CNC routers, 3M film, neon, vinyl cutters, and all the traditional tools for creating signage. These sign making tools are still on the trade show floor, but a rainbow of color has been added, first with Encad NovaJets followed by HP and other printers.
'Today digital printers have catapulted ISA to a much bigger exhibition. Unfortunately, many have abandoned PMA for the sign show.' Signmakers were not as aggressive with digital printing as were the pioneer commercial photo labs, followed by screen and offset printers. Both screen and offset had proofing requirements ideal for inkjet.'A small number of Imaging Business readers and the DIMA and APCI family of print makers came to Las Vegas by invitation to see new printing technology and a huge selection of media.
Kirk Green, Ferrari Color (Salt Lake City, UT), current' APCI President; Rex Jobe and Tommy Morgeson, The Color Place (Dallas); Matt Hesketh, Photomation Color Lab (Anaheim, CA); the Gazdags, KSK Color Lab (Cleveland, OH); Ira Hefter, Image King Visual Solutions, (New York City), and Meisel Visual Imaging (Dallas).
Large commercial digital print makers that have purchased rigid printers are well aware that a complementary CNC router is required to complete the production chain. ISA is where you could see at least seven manufacturers of CNC routers. Gerber Scientific Products, an established manufacturer of routers and plotters, has made the giant leap into large format printing. The Gerber XRT2500 is impressive technology, sleek design, and it follows the trend of affordable pricing. The XRT2500 has joined with top suppliers ' Spectra SM128 print heads for six colors, and Onyx Image RIP Pro. Resolution is up to 300 x 600 dpi and maximum printing width is 99.2 inches.
New media were sprinkled throughout the trade show floor ' a much larger selection than at PMA. Cgate, the Chinese media company was looking for distributors to handle its Cbond, a product similar to Dibond and extruded PVC, but the weight and size of rigid substrates limit the number of prospective distributors.
3M Commercial Graphics Division is expanding its Performance Guarantee program working with Mimaki, Mutoh, Roland, Scitex, ColorSpan and Scitex Vision. Note that this guarantee is different from the Scotchprint warranty that requires certified 3M ink and media. 3M's popular Controltac product is turning 'green'. The new Controltac Plus addresses the flammability issue, and is said to have a more 'friendly' adhesive.
The majority of the attendees were the small mom and pop sign shop owners who need an inkjet printer to carry on in the future. Just about every viable inkjet printer manufacturer known had a presence and there were plenty of printers for the small sign shops and mid-size digital print shops.
ColorSpan, Noritsu, Seiko Offer New Output Options
MacDermid ColorSpan, Inc. was doing brisk business with its DisplayMaker 72SR Solvent and UVR 600 dpi printers, now at 100-plus installs. It introduced a two-part model, the 72SI for $54,995 that made darn good-looking prints. The 72SI makes it possible for small shops to start with a solvent roll-to-roll printer and later to add the flatbed attachment and auxiliary dryer for an additional $3,200.
Noritsu also separated its Mytis-1 Multi-Yield Transfer (dye-sub) inkjet printer from the loop feed in order to increase productivity and print size up to 48.8 inches wide by 98 inches long. The inkjet printer is a Mimaki JV4, but the special dispersed dye inks and sublimator create some of the best quality output on the floor.' No lamination is required, and ink and media are priced at $2.86 ft'.
The next dazzling printer was the Seiko ColorPainter 64. Seiko also showed its new 104-inch model.
It's been several years since we saw Konica heads on the Kodak 5260 inkjet printer that never got off the ground. Currently, the Konica ink is expensive because only Toyo and Triangle have formulated inks for Konica piezo solvent print heads. Alan Barrett, president of Redhill Inkjet, LLC says that we will be seeing a bevy of Konica machines coming to market. As of today, Redhill LF printers are the only devices with Konica piezo heads.
The show was bigger due to many newcomers; however, you couldn't help but notice that some big name exhibitors had downsized their spaces. Not true with VUTEk that had a gigantic two-story exhibit, the biggest at the show.' There certainly was a lot of activity to see the new PressVu UV 200/600 with white ink. The printer was not running but is slated for June delivery. The samples with white ink had the best opacity of any shown because the printer was dispensing the white from two fountains at 600 dpi resolution. VUTEk had a terrific quarter and has sold over 100 of its original PressVu UV and 200 models of rigid board printers. The PressVu 200 is known for the smoothest output images in the industry. VUTEk has made some significant moves since SGIA last fall. Sign makers saw value in the new UltraVU 260, a 2.6 meter wide dpi solvent roll printer. Its $99,000 price tag offers a lot of printing capability for the dollars. The 260 printer is manufactured by Mutoh the company that makes more printers than any other inkjet printer manufacturer in the world.
Scitex Vision was not too successful with its first VeeJet rigid/roll printer, and introduced the "fixed" machine at ISA. The VeeJet+ has some nice upgrades, but no white or clear ink. The footprint is large, similar to Inca printers. The medium remains stationery as the heads move across. Updates include a new vacuum zone release, pin registration for alignment, and new software for multi-tasking load and print. The UV curing lamps are encased for safety, and Scitex has formulated a new flexible ink set for better adhesion.
One had to marvel at DuPont, a recent addition to the display graphics industry, for it ambitious undertaking ' grand format solvent, rigid and roll-to-roll, and its separate Artistri textile printer stand. The Artistri is positioned for the soft signage market that is growing due to the high cost for shipping rigid substrates.' The Artistri 2020 prints directly onto materials made possible by DuPont's new Solar Brite disperse dye ink. DuPont knows that its screen and sheet-fed offset customers are prospects for inkjet printers of various types. They have made a smart move by having printers made in China to their specifications, adding the software in Delaware, and partnering with various companies, including Spectra for print heads. This will provide DuPont with another outlet for their inks. DuPont is a $44 billion company, which means the company will be around. Who would be afraid to buy from them?