By Cassandra Balentine
Part 1 of 2
Wallcoverings are effectively printed on wide format devices, over 24 but under 95 inches. However, we investigate the practicality of utilizing grand format devices for wallcovering applications. Digital Output classifies grand or superwide format printers as those over 95 inches. At this width, are productivity gains apparent? Is the necessary print quality and safety classifications supported?
Print service providers (PSPs) should carefully consider the elements required in a superwide printer as it relates to the applications they’re targeting and the versatility of the different grand format printers available today. “Given the vast differences in the print quality output on superwide devices across the industry, it can be said that some grand format printers can meet the quality expectations for close viewing like wallpaper and custom interior design elements,” says Becky McConnell, segment marketing manager – wide format inkjet, FUJIFILM North America Corporation – Graphic Systems Division.
Configuration is another consideration. “Ideally, a machine that can handle two 54- or 60-inch rolls side by side would be optimal as well as choosing an ink set that meets or exceeds industry standards. UV flatbeds have very durable inks and can print on a range of media, which make this market segment well within the capabilities of this type of equipment,” shares Jason DeLuca, application specialist, swissQprint.
One of the most important considerations for wallcovering or wallpaper applications is safety. A lot of this derives from the ink selection.
“Inks have several characteristics they need to meet to be usable in a commercial wallcovering space,” comments DeLuca. Generally they are considered Type 1 or Type 2, or UL GREENGUARD Gold.
Further, DeLuca explains that UL certification warrants low chemical emissions for interior print products. “These cover characteristics like the ability to be cleaned, fire resistance, and chemical resistance, among many other things,” he adds.
The ink set you consider should be able to accomplish all of the applications a PSP is targeting to produce. “If interior decor and wallcoverings are one of those targets, even the customers you work with or are prospecting, they may have certain requirements like UL GREENGUARD certification, which is often required for healthcare and education facilities. Consistency with an ink set is also critical, so it’s important to choose a partner that can deliver consistent manufacturing and color on a day-to-day basis,” offers McConnell.
UL GREENGUARD Gold certifications reduce restrictions like how much square footage of printed material you are allowed to put in a room. “With GREENGUARD Gold certification you can cover every wall of that room floor to ceiling with Agfa UV inks with no negative health effects. This is not only important to the end user’s health but to our customers that can use this as a sales/marketing advantage,” adds Bill Brouhle, digital print, solutions architect, Agfa.
When it comes to productivity, finishing can often end up the bottleneck. If you’re trying to manufacture digital wallcoverings or wallpapers on wide format printers, several solutions can help on the finishing end.
“From a production point of view the additional finishing components are generally going to be cutters. There are a large range of suitable cutters on the market for post processing,” says DeLuca.
McConnell points to digital cutting tables that offer a roll unit for the finishing of super wide flexible materials. “Depending on the width of the material and what is needed to be finished, this could be a hindrance when it comes to a five-meter machine.
She says the Acuity Ultra series of grand format printers from Fujifilm do offer inline Y slitters, which can reduce the width of the media to be finished from the size it was printed.”
Effect varnish, applied partially or across the whole substrate, produces visual and tactile experiences, adds DeLuca.
“We have worked with manufacturers of liquid lamination solutions like Alliance Technology Corporation to help protect your prints and have found Agfa UV-curable inks work beautifully with liquid laminates. As a side benefit to using the liquid laminate to help extend the durability and life of the product for only a few pennies per square foot; the laminate also comes in a variety of versions that can be easily changed over from high gloss, satin, and matte finishes to dry erase coating applications,” adds Brouhle.
While the production of wallpaper is nearly perfected on wide format printing and finishing equipment, moving up to the superwide or grand format printing space with these applications is attainable, but the right strategy—including inks and finishing tools—are essential for success.
The next article in this series highlights a few grand format printers that are equipped to handle wallpaper production.
May2022, Digital Output