By Cassandra Balentine
The work of a print engine manufacturer is never finished, as print demands evolve—so too must technology. When in the market for a new roll-fed or roll-to-roll (R2R) device, print service providers (PSPs) must choose between a range of solutions. Total cost of ownership, production capabilities, and application weigh into the final purchase decision.
For the purpose of this article, we review some of the newest and most popular wide format roll-fed printers on the market. Because cost is always a consideration, we asked vendors to highlight hardware products that fit into one of three pricing categories—under $50,000; $50,000 to $100,000; and above $100,000.
Sorting by price alone, the range is significant. For instance, for under $50,000, PSPs are able to invest in versatile devices ideal for everyday banners and signs, hybrid R2R solutions with flatbed capabilities, print-and-cut devices, as well as textile and grand format options. These same options continue as investment price increases, as does productivity and advanced feature sets.
Most products handle common applications including banners, vinyl, signs and display, wallcoverings, soft signage, point of purchase, decals, backlit, vehicle wraps, and trade show graphics—serving both indoor and outdoor needs depending on ink configuration and finishing.
In each of the three pricing categories, we segment printers further by defining their primary usage—whether for indoor or outdoor. Please note that just because a printer is placed under one or the other, doesn’t necessarily mean it can’t be used for other applications.
Solutions in this section reportedly fall under the $50,000 MSRP for a base model configuration. With a competitive price range, these products enable PSPs to bring on new or additional wide format capabilities without a significant upfront investment. Depending on a shop’s needs, they may choose to run two or three lower cost solutions as opposed to one, higher end machine. This offers redundancy in the event that a printer is down or tied up.
As technology advances, PSPs realize the need to embrace the latest solutions to keep pace with customer demand. “PSPs seem to be more willing to invest in new technology over a shorter time span,” says John Stevens, U.S. business development manager, Hewlett-Packard (HP) Latex.
Every investment must be a strategic move to ensure current and future success. With technology continuously evolving, printer manufacturers offer solutions for under $50,000 that enable PSPs to expand into and address a growing list of services.
The Epson SureColor F7170 is the latest addition to the company’s line of dye-sublimation (dye-sub) printers. “The F7170 adds an additional heat source to improve ink drying times and a new substrate support mechanism with an accurate take-up reel that stands out from the current market standard. Both upgrades were engineered to offer true R2R productivity for the textile R2R production market,” comments Catalina Frank, product manager, Epson.
The Epson SureColor F7170 features a print speed of up to 634 sf/h in one pass. It produces high- and photographic-quality fabrics for garment manufacturing in the sports, fashion, and home décor markets, as well high-quality signage.
Compared to competitive offerings in this space, Frank says the differentiator for the SureColor F7170 is Epson’s advanced printhead technology, PrecisionCore TFP. It was developed to work exclusively with Epson’s UltraChrome DS dye-sub inks. The printhead utilizes a full, one-inch wide printhead with 720 nozzles per color.
Expand Systems LLC’s Diva is an eight color, 144 sf/h device. Situated in the under $50,000 segment, it includes the printer with fabric handling system, a bulk ink system, and RipMaster software for textile printing.
Ann Sawchak, co-owner, Expand Systems, notes that the Diva is ideal for short-run sampling or redundancy for direct-to-textile operations using four to eight colors. The Diva features a proprietary handling system that allows for printing on fabrics from delicate silks to sturdy cotton canvas—including direct on polyester—without paper backing or constant monitoring.
HP highlights its HP Latex 360 printer. Stevens says the 64-inch printer is the most popular in the company’s new Latex 300 series. The device features a maximum print speed of up to 980 sf/h. It also features an ink collector for porous textiles and an automatic front-to-back registration for printing double-sided banners.
Ricoh Americas Corp. features the Ricoh Pro L4160, which prints at up to 194 square feet per minute. Bill Milde, wide format product manager, Ricoh, says that the product stands out with its use of Ricoh piezoelectric high-speed printheads, configured with 1,280 nozzles per printhead. “The printheads’ multi-jetting technology applies three drops of various sizes simultaneously to accommodate varying media and/or density requirements,” he points out.
Summa, Inc. offers its DC5, which produces 115.7 sf/h. “Although an extremely versatile machine built for everyday sign making, the Summa DC5 truly shines when producing decals and labels,” suggests Owen. “Built-in die cutting combined with benefits unique to thermal transfer printing fuse into the ideal decal producing powerhouse,” says Royce Owen, director of marketing, Summa.
Colorific Solutions Ltd. offers its Lightbar Technology—Uvplus and UV640PC, which prints up to 300 square feet per hour (sf/h). According to Shaun Holdom, VP of business development, Colorific, “the ink is UV and once the print passes the lightbar, it is completely dry and ready for application,” he explains. “The net benefit is as the ink is part UV; the finished prints have a dramatically improved abrasion and chemical resistance with a reduced requirement for laminate.”
Eastsign International, Ltd. features the hybrid PR-1800E/PR-1800G, offering a print speed of 750 sf/h in two passes. Marcus Tam, marketing manager, Eastsign, suggests that white ink allows printing with correct color on almost everything.
Mimaki USA, Inc.’s JV300-160 is the newest model in the Mimaki JV line of roll-based printers. The device features a maximum print speed of 1,140 sf/h and utilizes eco-solvent or dye-sub inks.
The JV300-160 is equipped with the Mimaki Bulk Ink System-III, featuring high-capacity, two-liter ink packs. “Mimaki’s Waveform technology enables precise ink droplet placement. A patented three-way, intelligent heating system ensures quick drying and accurate ink fixation,” says Ken VanHorn, director, marketing and business development, Mimaki.
Mutoh America, Inc. offers the ValueJet 2638, which features speeds of up to 1,168 sf/h. A grand format device, it touts a maximum roll print width of 103.6 inches.
Michelle Johnson, communications manager, Mutoh, says the solution features the “best price in its class—$49,995, which includes Mutoh Edition FlexiPrint SE RIP software, one year limited on-site warranty, and heavy-duty take up system.” Additional differentiating features include its Smart Printing Technologies, ValueJet Status Monitor, ColorVerify process control system, and Mutoh SpectroVue VM-10.
Paradigm Imaging Group, Inc. highlights the SID Triton S 320. It is a 126-inch eco-solvent printer. It features a maximum print speed of 437 sf/h. According to Marilu Sandoval, marketing manager, Paradigm, it features a “low cost of ink,” which totals near $0.06 cents per square foot.
Roland DGA Corporation highlights the SOLJET Pro 4 XR-640 wide format printer/cutter, it features a maximum print speed of up to 528 sf/h. Eric Zimmerman, product manager, color products, Roland, points out the solution’s differentiating features; which include two mirrored printheads in inline configuration; integrated contour cutting; Eco-Sol MAX inks; four ink configurations including a choice of high-density white, metallic, and light black; choice of seven- or eight-color printing; automated ink circulation system; Roland Intelligent Pass Control Technology; and VersaWorks RIP.
Seiko Instruments USA, Inc. offers the ColorPainter M-64s. It prints at up to 716 sf/h and features proprietary SX inks. The high viscosity inks contain more pigment to reduce ink usage and running costs while producing high-density graphics with superior durability. “The rugged piezo printheads, manufactured by Seiko, are engineered for fast printing speeds and longer wear time, which reduces waste and saves on replacement costs,” adds Kelly Gornick, marketing manager, Seiko.
$50K to $100K
In the center of the spectrum, wide format R2R printers that fall between a base model MSRP of $50,000 to $100,000 require a bit more of an initial investment. Certain configurations of models highlighted in the first segment could reach the $50,000 threshold and put them in this category.
NAC Digital Group offers the Eurotech Sub-i Plus sublimation printer. Haluk Ozek, international sales associate, NAC, says it is more industrial compared to its predecessor, the Sub-i. The device features single-pass printing.
CET Color offers the Q5-Series, which is a hybrid R2R flatbed UV printer. A hybrid device, it also features flatbed capabilities in addition to R2R. The Q5 features printing speeds up to 1,152 sf/h.
“Given the CET Q5-Series hybrid product is field expandable to provide higher output, the ideal market ranges anywhere from small- to mid-sized PSPs all the way to the high-production PSPs that may need prints up to 3.2 meters wide,” says Jim Peterson, director of national accounts, CET.
$100K and Up
High-end roll-fed and R2R capacities are also in demand. These solutions are more than $100,000 MSRP for base models, but offer speciality and premium features.
The latest addition to Durst Image Technology US LLC’s digital UV R2R printing portfolio is the Durst Rho 312R, which prints at speeds of up to 2,600 sf/h.
Brent Moncrief, VP of sales and marketing, Durst, says the Durst Rho 312R is designed to run with minimal operator intervention, and can accommodate two five-foot rolls concurrently with individual print queues.
Hollanders Printing Systems features its ColorBooster 250, which prints up to 688 sf/h. Rowan Bloemberg, marketing manager, Hollanders, says the printer is designed for soft signage applications, using standard CMYK dye-sub inks. The ColorBooster 250 includes a proprietary Hollanders media handling system, on-board remote support system, and built-in humidity and temperature control.
Merav Zimmerman, wide format – marketing and business development manager, Kornit, notes that the Kornit Allegro offers speeds of approximately 2,000 sf/h.
The Kornit Allegro allows short runs, color matching, and file adjustments on the spot—printing at industrial speeds. “Along with the patented NeoPigment, the Allegro can print on multiple fabric types on the same run and stand to the most restricted regulations and demands in the industry,” explains Zimmerman. The Allegro operates in a single step and 100 percent dry process. It does not require pretreatment, post treatment, or washing and steaming.
Media One Digital Imaging Solutions, LLC features its d.gen Teleios Grande G5, which offers two-pass print speeds of up to 2,044 sf/h. According to Ed Prieto, technical manager, Media One, the Teleios Grande G5 is “industrial built, with the most advanced technology for superior resolution,” for retail, soft signage, and trade show printers.
PrinterEvolution features the Eos126 DS, an industrial textile printer with an on-board sublimation unit for high-production, high-quality printing.
The Eos126 DS prints at up to 1,260 sf/h. The on-board sublimation unit is a true calendar that uses even, consistent heat and pressure. “This not only reduces the equipment footprint requirements, but delivers a finished product right off of the printer,” notes Mike Syverson, director of special products, PrinterEvolution
The Eos126 DS can print on standard digital textile fabric as well as speciality fabrics such as open weave and stretch.
In this range, Agfa Graphics highlights its Anapurna M3200i RTR, which Larry D’Amico, VP of digital imaging, Agfa, says offers a lot of speed for its price. The heavy duty Anapurna M3200i RTR is designed to run 24×7 at up to 1,000 sf/h. A UV printer, it features the flexibility needed to serve a range of applications.
For this space, D’Amico sees productivity and specialization in demand. As PSPs bring on new equipment, they look for separate R2R and flatbed devices. “As volume grows, it’s more productive to have separate machines. The Anapurna M3200i RTR is an ideal fit.”
In the over $100,000 price point, EFI highlights its VUTEk GS5500LXr Pro with UltraDrop Technology. The model offers speeds of up to 2,800 sf/h.
The EFI VUTEk GS5500LXr features cool-curing LED technology to deliver increased profit opportunity, reduced operating costs, and “greener” printing, according to Mark Goodearl, R2R product manager, EFI. Additionally, UltraDrop Technology offers, “smaller drop sizes and more precise control for impressive results. EFI VUTEk GSLXr 3M SuperFlex UV Ink delivers super flexibility for fleet and vehicle graphics and outdoor applications, available in eight colors plus optional white ink printing,” he offers.
Fujifilm North America Corporation, Graphics Systems Division, highlights the Uvistar Pro-8W, a five-meter solution that is the newest grand format hybrid offering from the company. It features print speeds of up to 3,040 sf/h.
Becky McConnell, associate product marketing manger, Fujifilm, says the Uvistar Pro-8W handles media whether it be rigid or flexible, backlit, blockout, lightweight, or heavyweight substrates. “The Uvistar allows the operator to print R2R, free fall, or even roll to sheet,” she says. McConnell suggests flexibility as an essential feature that PSPs look for when searching for a R2R device in this price range.
Polytype America features its Polytype NQ32, featuring print speeds of up to 1,500 sf/h. Peter Andrich, GM, Polytype, notes that the NQ32 combines quality, productivity, customer support, and eco-friendliness; features a wide color gamut; provides a new, patented binary printing solution; offers full grayscale printing capabilities and up to nine color support; an integrated ink supply; patented RW Warp Engine; and printing up to 11 layers of ink at once, inline.
Your Solution is Out There
The roll-fed/R2R market provides PSPs with a variety of options with a range of investment categories. If you start with a price point, you can further narrow down solutions based on productivity, versatility, and specialty features.
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Mar2015, Digital Output