Small format latte art printer have distinct character and variety of special applications that belongs to them in a way that you don’t see with, say, the narrowest versions of solvent roll fed printers.
The compact size of the littlest A3 bed models means they’ll go with places the place you wouldn’t put a wide format printer, and the relatively low entry prices signify they’re attracting the type of user that can’t accommodate or simply can’t afford a “conventional” flatbed.
Equally as furthermore, these baby flatbeds are constructed for taking deep, often three dimensional objects which are on the beds by vacuum and jigs.
This materials handling ability more than anything else is driving the applications, that include objects such as phone and tablet cases, laptop lids, leather folder, book and iPad covers, pens, USB sticks, golf balls, plaques, ceramic tiles and plates, trophies and office nameplates. To get more industrial purposes, the printers can be used as backlit instrument panels, touch switch panels, component marking and stuff like that.
They will print on anything that’s relatively small, and solid, really. Most of these small printers use UV-cured inks, which sticks to many people surfaces, while many (such as Mimaki) can optionally print a primer fluid that increases the plethora of substrates that can be handled. Copytrax offers both strong solvent and water-based gel inks and also UV curing.
Modest curves may be printed on, yet not anything using a significant variation in height because the accurate “throw distance” in the ink droplets is pretty small, just like any inkjet. As an example golf balls could only be printed inside a fairly small circle throughout the highest point, and not the entire of just one hemisphere.
This class of small flatbeds have vacuum beds, but if you’re printing multiple small 3D objects you’ll need a jig to hold them in predetermined positions, so the printed image is applied off to the right areas. Jigs can be done from wood, foam, metal or Perspex.
The jig is linked to the design system or Rip through simple templates that position the artwork objects to align with all the physical jigs. Mimaki demonstrated a jig-free camera based position locator and automatic registration system at drupa 2012, but hasn’t released it as a production system so far.
The FESPA Digital event in Munich this year saw the most recent arrival for the baby flatbed party. Mutoh announced its ValueJet 426UF, a keenly priced A3 flatbed printer that fills a gap in the range where it couldn’t previously compete with its fellow Japanese rivals Mimaki and Roland DG.
This new model is due to ship in September 2014 and we’ll look at it in depth to some extent two, with the equally interesting products available from several of the smaller European developers: Copytrax/Azon and Bergstein.
This Mimaki UJF-3042FX features a jig on its bed to position small gifts – in this instance paper cutters.
Actually Mutoh has come rather late to the party. Mimaki announced its first A3 flatbed, the UJF-3042, five-years ago and has since revised it with a number of variations along with an A2 version. Mimaki itself wasn’t the first to build phone case printer, since there was attempts to get small solvent flatbeds off the floor during the early 2000s.
However, Mimaki’s blend of UV inks and LED curing lamps by using a deep adjustable-height bed, in conjunction with its marketing clout, made the UJF-3042 a quick sales success. Priced below €30,000, these printers sold as quickly as Mimaki could make them for the first couple of years.
The original UJF-3042 was revised and renamed UJF-3042FX in 2011. It will take items around 50 mm thick and from now on costs about €21,500 (a drop of around 25% since launch)). In The Year 2011 it was actually joined with the €38,000 UJF-3042HG, which could accept 150 mm deep objects. An A2 format UJF-6042 was introduced in 2012, for about €50,000.
All models print a maximum of 1,800 dpi and offer CMYK plus light cyan and lightweight magenta and definately will optionally print a primer coating if needed.
The initial UJF-3042 prints either white or clear ink, while the other two can run in both the same unit. There’s a selection of high durability, stretchable or wide gamut inks, along with the white has recirculation.
In accordance with Mimaki, the UJF-6042 can print an entire bed between 2 minutes thirty seconds and 7 minutes 37 seconds depending on the quality settings.
Kebab fits on the deeper beds from the Mimaki UJF-3042HG and the UJF-6042 and includes motors to rotate cylindrical items.
In certain markets Mimaki offers optional “Kebab” holders to the deep-bed UJF-3043HG and UJF-6042 that can rotate cylindrical objects including wine bottles, candles or cardboard tubes beneath the heads. Cost is about €3,800 plus it takes objects from 10 to 110mm diameter and up to 330 mm long.
Foiled metallic effects are favored by personalised giftware, but none of the small flatbeds have metallic inks yet. However at the end of a year ago I-Sub Digital, a UK based Mimaki dealer, launched Digi-Foil, a range of metallic and decorative foils which have been specially developed for use together with the UJF-3042 and 6042 models.
This works with a heated applicator to get a largely manual process after initial printing. A particular adhesive ink is commonly used from the printer as being a separate pass, allowing prototypes, one-offs and short runs of foiled try to be produced without the need for hot foil dies and presses. I-Sub says that the foiled area might be anything “down to dexmpky56 single dot.”
Roland DG’s first small UV flatbed was very small indeed. The VersaUV LEF-12 has an A4 printing area. It was initially priced at little lower than the larger Mimaki UJF-3042 models, which limited its appeal despite some nice features like a sealed lid and optional carbon filter to reduce dust and ink mist.
Roland fixed that in 2013 by launching the SRA3 format LEF-20 at a cost that briefly undercut the Mimaki at about €25,000, while lowering the LEF-12’s price considerably: in britain it can be the equivalent of €16,400.
The LEF-20 takes objects as much as 100 mm high. It offers CMYK plus white and clear ink, in 220ml cartridges. With both Roland models there’s a selection of matt or gloss finish when curing the clear coating.
By using a maximum 1,440 dpi resolution about the LEF-20, Roland says it requires 7 minutes 20 seconds to print a total SRA3 bed with CMYK only; or 12 minutes 44 seconds with CMYK plus white; and 17 minutes 20 seconds with CMYK white clear.
Partly 2 we’ll look at further options within the dtg printer, plus a take a look at where they fit alongside existing analogue and alternative digital processes.