These are the first two hybrid machines which will replace existing UV ink flatbed and as with the original roll to roll latex printers expand into an extensive portfolio. The advantages of latex ink come with its flexibility, its minimal environmental footprint (because it is water based) and its broad range of applications, including critical areas like children’s rooms, restaurants and hospitals.
The challenge for flatbed printing is to manage the water based inks and achieve adhesion on non porous rigid substrates, something which has help propel the popularity of UV ink.
Without being specific, Ignasi Avellaneda, technical consultant at HP, explains that there have been slight changes to the ink to achieve this. Whatever these are, it has worked. The ink moves with the material as it is bent with no signs of flaking or cracking.
Operation of the printer has drawn from a wide range of experience to make this as simple as possible. It is largely maintenance free using automated routines to minimise intervention. There is touch screen control designed to be highly intuitive to use, following on from the roll to roll versions. The belt under the heads has a vacuum to hold materials in place and to pull the roll material through the press without skewing, something that can limit the performance of hybrid machines. On the R2000, the roll can be left to print overnight he says.
“UV printing has been around for 20 years and is well established,” Avellaneda continues. “But it is limited in quality and in coping with flexibility and versatility of media. With UV, because the ink is dried on the surface there is always a raised image.
“In contrast we print with a very thin layer of ink which because it is transparent takes on the characteristics of the surface media, whether matt or gloss, smooth or textured. And there colours have been show to be very bright using latex giving a larger colour gamut than four colour UV.”
White ink has been added in response to customer demand. Again this will take on the property of the media being printed he says and “it is not a white that will become yellow”.
The white print unit can be completely removed when not in use and plugged in again without fear that the nozzles have become clogged. In use, the white ink is constantly being circulated to prevent this. “There is never any need to purge the white,” he adds.
Other options include extra units to extend the loading and delivery table for rigid materials. The R1000 is a 1.6 metre wide machine, the R2000 is 2.5 metres wide. Since the launch at Fespa, around 100 units have been installed around Europe with the flag now dropped on general release.
The first exhibition in the UK with the new flatbed latex press from HP pulled a steady crowd of printers wanting to discover if what they have been told about adhesion and flexibility holds true.