Inca Digital Solutions has delivered a 50% print speed boost to its Onset X range of flatbed printers, and has introduced a 30-second makeready feature to automate switch over between jobs.
But the Cambridge company remains convinced that, for high end display and point of sale printing that its customers are engaged in, multiple-pass printing remains the right approach.
“We have single-pass technology and we are working on a roll to roll version with BHS, but with think that the market for single-pass is apart from the graphics display market. However, for packaging, single-pass is interesting,” says Keith Kenny, engineering projects director. The development of an almost instant job change technology will be useful when single-pass printing is rolled out.
Despite preferring flatbed technology, display print customers want speed. Around 80% of the 450 Onsets the company has installed are the high speed X3 model with a rated 922m2/hr. In the HS version this becomes 1450m2/hr. In the X2 HS, top speed becomes 884m2/hr from 707m2/hr in the standard version.
The additional speed is achieved through faster nozzle action, additional printheads and by accelerating the moving bed without compromising the smoothness of travel. This is what Inca calls its single-cycle mode where the sheet is printed as it moves beneath the heads in one direction and then as it moves back in the reverse direction.
The speed increase is unlikely to be needed for continuous operation, but instead to meet tight deadline and turnaround times. The ability to meet these is increasingly a factor in a company winning work, says Kenny. “This requires a high burst speed,” he says.
It also requires power at the front end and automation to load an unload more beds an hour in these periods of intense activity. Inca is using ABB robotic arms to move boards onto the bed and then to remove them into stacks. The control of the pick up heads is integrated with the Inca DFE for the first time to automate adjustments for positioning and pick up strength needed.
The DFE also controls the full set up, of the bed height for different substrates, of the vacuum nozzle aperture and of the UV shutters according to the size of sheet being printed. This has been developed after analysis of data taken from the Onsets in the field.
This shows an average of eight substrate changes a day and that each takes 20 minutes to change over. Using the automated set up, this time is halved and a result the user gains an average of 80 minutes production time in a day. During the burst periods this saving is even more important.
“The idea is to reduce the interventions that the operator needs to make with the equipment and so eliminate costly human errors,” says Kenny. Jobs can be set remotely and loaded into the press when needed to cut set up time further.
The data coming back from customers also shows a big swing away from hard to recycle PVC. A number of key brands have banned the use of the material and have switched to polypropylene and polystyrene. Both are easier to recycle, but more challenging to print on because of adhesion issues. Printers have slowed their presses down to ensure that ink holds correctly.
This has been tackled by OX, a new Fujifilm ink that has the adhesion properties needed on these materials to give thorough wetting of the surface through the ink and subsequently a strong bond between ink and substrate under UV light at the sorts of speeds the new press can achieve.
“More and more of the industry is moving away from PVC to polypropylene or polystyrene,” says Andrew Berritt, Fujifilm speciality inks marketing manager. “Printers need to work around the problem by changing the substrates, adding processes or running the press slowly. This can be more expensive, reduces productivity and can result in reduced lay down of inks, so reduces quality.”
The Uvijet OX ink from Fujifilm addresses these issues. It is optimised for adhesion on the range of substrates that printers are required to handle in place of hard to recycle PVCs.
“This is more than a step change from the OW ink, which remains the general purpose ink for Onset. With OX a printer can run the machine faster, increase productivity with wider tolerances on media and possibly less expensive media.”
The ink set comprises CMYK plus light versions. A white is being tested and a pink magenta is promised for a later stage.
There is one HS machine undergoing beta testing though Inca is ready to take orders for a complete machine. At a point in the future it will take on upgrades from existing machines.
By Gareth Ward