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Flatbed Rigid Printing and Roll to Roll for Specialty Photo Labs Showcased at FESPA 2007

Berlin, Germany—Digital printers traveled here from all over the world to attend FESPA 2007 to see the latest technology in flatbed and roll-to-roll printing, and to find new media, inks, display finishing techniques, and products. Mind you, the attendees' shops were much bigger than a specialty photo lab, but for the first time there is an opportunity for smaller digital printers to enter the flatbed inkjet market at a price far below what they pay for a small format digital laser photo printer system.

Daytona T600 UV Flatbed

Raster Printers, Inc. demonstrated its Daytona T600 UV flatbed printer with UV curing inks. We saw it last April at the Sign show in Las Vegas, but it is now ready for delivery to the specialty photo lab. You ask what will this printing technology do for your lab? The Daytona T600 UV will give photo labs the display printing capability of the large print shops that spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on flatbed printers. It's not that you want to compete with these large digital print shops, but you will be able to expand your printing capabilities, offer graphics and signage, save on labor and grow your business. For under $70,000 you can image on a variety of substrates with 6 colors, CMYK plus Light Cyan and Light Magenta at true 1080 dpi, a resolution higher than most big shops can offer. The 4x5-ft. table design is stationary with vacuum and moving gantry. Text is sharp, down to 4 points, and the printer accepts rigid substrates up to 2-inches thick. No more buying print mount, mounting to whatever and laminating for protection. UV inks do not require overlaminates for most applications. You can print on Gator, styrene, and Plexiglas for backlits, or be even more creative and print on stainless steel, wood, and tile.

If you're doing portraiture, with a 20- or 30-inch liquid laminator you can put rolls or rigid material through it and select various finishes, such as canvas. No more transfer.

OK, besides all the above, let's look at output numbers for the Raster Daytona flatbed printer. In one hour you can print 30 20x30 display prints, finished, and ready to go out the door. Printing speeds vary from 120 sq ft/hr for highest quality, up to 480 sq ft/hr for draft mode for simple signage. You can equate the 1080 dpi resolution to photographic quality.

If you aren't familiar with flatbed UV printing technology it is most important to understand RIPs, print heads, and inks. Rak Kumar, Raster Printers' president, has selected top-shelf printheads and inks for this machine. Its the first large format printer to use the latest MEMS technology (MicroElectroMechanical Systems) incorporated in the Spectra M Class grayscale heads that jet variable-size drops. This is accomplished with two-pulse and three-pulse burst mode firing that form a bigger drop right at the nozzle plates. Importantly, these are grayscale heads resulting in a satellite-free spot. Drop sizes of 10-, 20- and 30-picoliters result in sharp text and smooth tonal gradation. Precise directionality jetting of ink drops means sharp clean edges for vector art and text.

The 6-color inks come from SunJet, a division of Sun Chemical Co., the world's largest printing ink producer. White ink is an option, as is varnish, and can be added later. The SunJet UV curing inks are more environmentally friendly than solvent inks, they may cost a little more, but you use less ink. The inks are cured with a hybrid LED unit and one Mercury lamp unit. Lamp power is variable from 30% to 100% so you can adjust the curing energy to the media and printing speeds.

HP's X2 Roll Print Technology

Last year Hewlett-Packard announced its Z series roll printers (24- and 44-inches wide) with dye and pigmented aqueous Vivera HP inks, built-in cutter, and spectrophotometer, with resolutions up to 800 dpi. Both PTN and Studio Photography magazines have published pieces on the HP Designjet Z series printers that gave the details on the printers and their applications for specialty photo labs, color, monochrome and fine art printing. This spring a 60-inch wide Z6100 model was introduced and is the most productive large format printer in its class.

Most photo labs, artists, and photographers, have an Epson 24- or 44-in. wide inkjet printer, or another brand with Epson heads, probably because Epson has done such a great job courting photographers. Output from an Epson has always looked great, but they aren't production printers and are five-year-old technology.

Printheads and inks are the key components of any inkjet printer, as stated above with the Raster Printers' specifications. This is why it is important to digest the new X2 technology and their complementary inks. At Fespa it was made clear that following the Z series printers, the new X2 piezoelectric printheads would be incorporated in HP's Scitex large format models including those using UV curable inks.

Just think, you can upgrade your inkjet roll printer with head technology that large graphics and industrial print shops are using. Whether or not we're discussing wide format, large format, or superwide format, the X2 printhead uses silicon-based MEMS˛ technologies similar to the technology incorporated in the Raster Spectra M heads explained above. But, the X2 printhead has a compact and modular design based on an innovative silicon and glass Printhead Chip, not much larger than a credit card and simple to change out.

There are a whole host of benefits with X2 heads and the Vivera inks: speed, quality, wide color gamut, color consistency, water and fade resistance.

The HP X2 printhead chip has 128 nozzles with a native resolution of 100 nozzles/inch. Multi-printhead modules offer resolutions up to 800 dpi.

Why is the color so great? HP DreamColor Technologies, with the built-in spectrophotometer designed Eye-on Color Technology from X-rite enables the user to achieve consistent, accurate color every time. The inks are developed from exclusive HP dyes, uniquely blended in different combinations to create neutral shades of grays and blacks. The eight-ink system includes gray and black photo Vivera inks plus light and dark gray inks and a specially-formulated photo black ink.

Even in the smaller Z3100, HP offers a 12-ink Vivera pigment set and a Quad-Black ink for black-and-white printing.

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