Left side advert image
Right side advert image
Super banner advert image
Subscribe to Print Monthly's RSS feed

Enter your email address here to sign up for our weekly newsletter

Business Opportunities

What’s New in Wide-format?

Wide-format is still regarded as one of the fastest developing markets in print. Rob Fletcher looks at some of the latest technology and highlights the benefits of this kit

Article picture

Agfa has continued to develop new hardware, software, and ink formulations to drive growth for its wide-format division

The bigger picture

From the moment I found my way into the print industry back in July 2011, one subject area that has always been a favourite of mine is wide-format. The main reason for this is simply the positivity that oozes from this sector, as the many companies involved in this sort of work continue to flourish.

Walking the halls of The Print Show this year, it is clear to see that this level of enthusiasm shows no immediate signs of slowing down, with many of the top manufacturers showing off new kit or planning to add new technology to their portfolio very soon.

Here, we pick out some of the key, new pieces of wide-format print machines and analyse how this kit can help print-service-providers (PSPs) gain an advantage in what is a very competitive market.

Strategic choice

One of the standout brands in this sector is EFI, with its kit in use in countries all around the world. The manufacturer recently introduced the new EFI Pro 24f, its first LED dedicated flatbed printer that features a 4 x 8ft (1.2 x 2.4m) bed and prints in four colours plus white ink as standard.

Speaking about the machine, Paul Cripps, vice-president Europe sales of EFI, says: “The printer is a highly strategic choice for signage, photographic backlit displays, art reproductions, membrane switches, graphic overlays, lenticular prints, and other specialty applications up to 2" (5.08cm) thick.

The new EFI Pro 24f, the manufacturer’s first LED dedicated flatbed printer, prints in four colours plus white ink as standard

“Efficient hold-down with a multi-zone vacuum system eliminates masking while ensuring accurate registration for multiple over-prints or panels. EFI cool cure LED technology also helps to ensure low power consumption, minimal waste, and compatibility with thinner and heat-sensitive substrates.”

Cripps goes on to speak about the importance of investing in new kit such as the EFI Pro 24f, explaining that while many customers want and need the flexibility to print roll-to-roll (RTR), and flatbed on a hybrid device, the ability to print direct to rigid substrates continues to drive more value in terms of profit opportunity for our customers.

Cripps expands: “Rigid work tends to sell for a greater price, and EFI is making continued investments in our wide-format product line to help increase the productivity and value of rigid-substrate printing.

“EFI has developed solutions for several important speciality applications that are just getting started and have tremendous room for growth, such as thermoformed graphics and roadway safety signage.”

Value for money


Elsewhere, HP is known across the global industry for its huge range of printing solutions, with wide-format a key part of this offering. Anne Sharp, large-format marketing manager for UK and Ireland, highlights the HP Latex range of printers as the firm’s most “exciting” wide-format products.

Sharp comments: “Even though the HP Latex Technology is not new, as it was first launched into the market over eight years ago, we are still bringing new and exciting developments and enhancements to the range. We have just launched a new edition to the family, the HP Latex 115 printer series including the HP Latex 115 print-and-cut, which is perfect for producing applications such as labels, decals, stickers, customisable clothing, window graphics, and other applications.”

The HP Latex 115 print-and-cut is billed as a “perfect” solution for producing applications such as labels, customisable clothing, and window graphics

Delving further into the HP portfolio, Sharp picks out the firm’s HP Page Wide XL printers, which boast ink costs as low as 30p for an A2 colour poster. HP has also recently launched what it describes as a “revolution” with its Latex R Series, the first time the manufacturer has produced a flatbed that uses its Latex ink technology.

Sharp adds: “With the HP Page Wide XL you can do all your production on one printer for both monochrome and colour, with breakthrough speeds and lower production costs, so you can deliver jobs more quickly, improve efficiency, and grow your business, with fast GIS map and point-of-sale (POS) poster printing to generate new revenue streams.”

Ongoing success

Another key name in this sector is Agfa Graphics, which places a great emphasis on investing in new kit to help secure continuing success. Steve Collins, product marketing and channel manager for Agfa in the UK and Ireland, says the company has one of the most “comprehensive” ranges of UV flatbed and RTR wide-format kit in the industry.

Collins expands: “In the area of flatbed technology, Agfa has two types available, depending on a customer’s needs. As an example, for some customers, a hybrid flatbed design is more advantageous; for others, a true table-top flatbed may suit their specific workload.

“It is all about staying competitive. As inkjet technology continues to develop, so do our customers. Advancements in print heads, UV curing, workflow solutions, ink technology, and automation have improved in terms of quality and speed over the past five years.”


It is all about staying competitive. As inkjet technology continues to develop, so do our customers

Collins goes on to draw attention to the Agfa collection of Anapurna and Jeti kit, which features machines in a range of sizes with various specifications. All of the Anapurna and the Jeti products now include energy-saving, leading-edge LED lamps, which Collins says allows for a greater selection of flexible and rigid materials to be printed.

He adds: “Our product range sits in the mid to high-end of the UV marketplace, ideally positioned for customers looking to increase their productivity requirements to the next stage. Many PSPs started their journey into UV wide-format with an entry-level UV press and now need larger size and productivity to grow the business.”

Maximise your investment


Elsewhere, Mimaki has recently launched two new print-cutter solutions that are suitable for wide-format print work. The UCJV150-160 four-colour machine and the UCJV300-160 seven-colour model were released to the market towards the end of 2017, and handed their debut at The Print Show in October.

John de la Roche, national sales manager at Hybrid Services, Mimaki’s exclusive UK and Irish distributor, outlines the benefits of the two machines: “The Mimaki UCJV series launched with a great response in late 2017. Benefits include low running costs, the ability to print to a broad range of materials, instant finishing, thanks to the unique properties of the machine’s LED UV ink and integrated cutting to name but a few.

Mimaki’s new UCJV300-160 printer/cutter solution can run with seven colours

“At 1.6m wide, it is ideal for PSPs to deliver a broad range of products from the one machine. Not only does it print and cut (keeping the footprint small) but it prints to an incredible range of substrates—from self-adhesive vinyl to banner, backlit, canvas, paper—even some fabrics, making it ideal for PSPs looking to maximise their investment by offering a sizeable product range.”

Focusing in on wide-format investment in general, De la Roche says that it is critical for PSPs to commit funds to new kit in order to ensure they are able to offer the services that their customers want.

He adds: “Investment in the right hardware can bring new revenue streams and business opportunities for PSPs. By offering a broader range of products to existing customers, it is easier to keep them close and in the current climate, customer retention is vitally important. Being able to go to customers with new ideas and solutions and have a positive conversation shows commitment to their business as well as your own.”

Versatile solutions


Meanwhile, OKI has also been busy developing new products in order to satisfy increasing demand in the wide-format sector. Frank Jänschke, senior manager, marketing large-format print, EMEA at OKI, says PSPs should look to invest in new kit to ensure they are able to offer their own customers what they want.

Jänschke expands: “To be versatile is important to cover the wide spectrum of customer requests with a high level of quality awareness. The PSP needs to be a pioneer to provide interesting and attractive ideas to extend their activity of business in different segments.”

With this in mind, Jänschke picks out recent kit from OKI that can help PSPs to stand out in a busy market. Launched in January 2017, the Color Painter E-64s with six colours has been marketed as an entry-level machine that can allow newcomers to the market to “set new quality standards at this level”, according to Jänschke.

Also available from OKI is the Color Painter M-64s, a mid-range piece of kit with seven colours that secured a BLI Buyers Lab Pick award in the category of CMYK eco-solvent/latex printers. OKI also offers the Color Painter H3-104s, which has eight colours available to the user.

Jänschke comments: “All of these printers are members of our premium printer family and fulfilling the high demands of the print-service-provider and even more.”

Commit to new kit

Inktec Europe is also well placed to provide solutions to print companies in the wide-format market, with its range of Jetrix machines. Ben Woodruff, head of national sales, says it is important to invest in new kit on a regular basis so as to ensure print quality remains high.

Woodruff explains: “On average, a UV flatbed printer, along with other higher value wide-format kit, should be a five-year investment. After four years, the production team should be evaluating whether this machine is keeping up with demand, is in good shape and is not costing too much in parts or servicing, plus outputting print quality standards that are meeting customers’ expectations.

Available from Inktec Europe, the new Jetrix LXi8 boasts production speeds up to
175sq m/h

“In the unlikely event all these boxes are ticked, they should then ask, will this machine see them through the next five years?

“If the answer is no, then it is time to start looking to re-invest in equipment that will help in the future avoid any potential bottlenecks in production.”

With this in mind, Woodruff draws attention to the new Jetrix LXi8, a high-speed LED-UV production flatbed printer from Jetrix. This machine is the fastest in the Jetrix range, offering production speeds up to 175sq m/h.

Woodruff comments: “It has the potential to save time and money, something which everyone is looking to do.”

Casting your net a little further, you will also pick up on products from other top manufacturers.

O
Factoid: The Print Show, which in 2017 played host to many leading brands in the wide-format print sector, will relocate back to the NEC in Birmingham and run from September 18th to 20th in 2018.O

Atlantic Tech Services used The Print Show last year to demonstrate the Azon direct-to-substrate, direct-to-garment, and UV printer range for the first time. This range of products includes the Matrix Tex, Tex Pro, and Mirage textile printers, as well as the Razor Hale, Matrix, and Mason UV printers, and the Matrix DTS, Grande DTS, Boxer, and DTS Series 2 printers.

Last year, Roland DG rolled out the True Vis VG series of wide-format inkjet printer-cutters, and GR series of large-format cutters. The VG-540 or larger VG-640 are compatible with a host of materials, including traditional and non-PVC vinyl, canvas, wallpaper, banners, and more. The VG-540 has a maximum speed of 32sq m/h,
while the VG-640 has a top speed of 34sq m/h.

In addition, Mutoh is still revelling in the success of its Valuejet 1604X, which was launched at FESPA Digital 2016. The 64", four-colour roll-to-roll sign and display printer can handle rolls up to 30kg, and can be used to produce long-term outdoor and indoor displays such as billboards, posters, and general signage.

From speaking to some of the market’s leading players, it is clear to see that there is still plenty to be positive about in the wide-format print market. With development showing no signs of slowing down, those active within this sector can look forward to even more new releases over the next year.

ghbgvsbdvgbgsjdgjngkkli


Print printer-friendly version Printable version Send to a friend Contact us

No comments found!  

Sign in:

Email 

or create your very own Print Monthly account  to join in with the conversation.


Top Right advert image

Business Opportunities Most Read

Top Right advert image

Poll Vote

What will be your next business investment?

Top Right advert image