By Cassandra Balentine
Roll-to-roll (R2R) equipment is well suited to a range of applications. However, print service providers (PSPs) have options when it comes to technology. This article looks specifically at the current and future role of UV R2R wide format printers.
UV offers time savings due to the fast curing of the ink and elimination of degassing. It also offers durability.
“The primary applications we see continue to be signage and graphics for point of purchase (POP) displays, event signage, exhibit graphics, window clings, decals, labels, vehicle wraps, day/night graphics, and floor graphics,” says Josh Hope, senior manager, segment marketing, Mimaki USA, Inc.
Larry D’Amico, director of sales, large format print and fabric, Durst US, sees a growing, general demand for wallcoverings and home decoration.
Above: The Durst P5 350 HSR is a high-speed, 3.5-meter R2R UV LED printer that reaches speeds of up to 7,212 square feet per hour for unattended production.
Making Way for the New
As older systems in the market are retired in favor of new technology, is UV an ideal replacement?
UV technology in wide format printing is solidly popular because of its versatility, says Hope. For example, the Mimaki UCJV330 Series prints on a variety of media including translucent, transparent, white, or colored base media; PET, polyurethane, and other resin films; cloth; and paper—including uncoated paper. “In our experience, customers that own legacy models trade up to newer models with higher productivity as they appreciate the quick-cure capability and familiar workflow of UV printing.”
John Ingraham, senior marketing specialist, large format printing solutions, Canon USA, Inc., says UVgel printing technology continues to emerge as a replacement for current eco-solvent, resin, and traditional UV printers. “Its versatility in handling various media types without the need for lamination and without distorting the media, along with the introduction of white ink, serve as compelling reasons for the widespread adoption of this innovative printing technology.”
Overall, the replacement of older machines with newer UV systems depends on the individual company. “First of all, you need growth to justify an upgrade. If you have that then there can be a very strong return on investment (ROI) with new equipment. You can’t overlook power reduction and reduced purge rates as a part of the ROI associated with new equipment,” suggests D’Amico.
Several manufacturers introduced major product advancements in the UV R2R wide format printing segment in the past 12 months.
For example, the Canon Colorado M-series printers now print with white UVgel ink and on clear media, says Ingraham.
He continues to notice a larger adoption of Canon Colorado printers, especially for customers looking to print white. “The added automation and maintenance capabilities combined with Jumbo Roll and Wallpaper Factory workflows helps make it possible for PSPs to run the Colorado printers unattended overnight.”
Further, Ingraham points out that the Colorado’s FLXfinish+ technology is capable of printing in matte, gloss, or a blend of both in a single print run—along with the addition of white ink, which enables the creation of captivating graphics for applications like wallcoverings, advertising, and commercial artwork.
The demand for white and frosted privacy screen graphics on glass is on the rise, presenting a new opportunity as customers shift away from cut vinyl or direct-to-glass print methods. Ingraham says the Colorado’s white ink, with the capability to apply up to five layers of white, offers the flexibility to achieve varying levels of opacity and makes it well suited for this application.
Advancements are generally more speed and quality, offers D’Amico of Durst’s product line. “In addition, we have looked beyond those basic improvements and tried to address the efficiency of the entire workflow around R2R printing. An enhancement like a quick changeover to mesh printing is an example.” As we move forward, D’Amico predicts advancements to continue down the same path bringing more speed and quality along with workflow efficiencies.
When asked if this is inline with industry trends, D’Amico doesn’t see Durst’s competitors looking to improve the overall workflow, but focused on a reduced price point and more OEM manufacturing.
Mimaki recently introduced two models in the UV roll-based space for signage and graphics. The first is the UCJV330 Series of cut-and-print UV LED roll-based printers, which builds on popular Mimaki models with improved productivity and image quality as well as ink options that expand the production of high-value applications. The second is the entry-level UJV100-160Plus UV LED roll-based printer, which offers multi-layer printing, reduced running costs through lower energy usage, features application expansion capabilities, and improves operational efficiency.
While Mimaki does not comment on unreleased products, Hope says the company continues to innovate to provide “something new, something different” to the markets it serves.
Roland DGA Corporation introduced the TrueVIS LG Series and MG Series UV printer/cutters in January 2023 as part of its expanded TrueVIS product family. “These UV inkjets feature several advancements that allow for optimum productivity, greater versatility, improved image quality, increased ease of use, and cost efficiency,” says Jay Roberts, product manager, Roland.
The professional-level LG Series models—LG-640, LG-540, and LG-300—feature two staggered printheads, higher print speeds of up to 343 square feet per hour in draft mode, wide gamut ECO-UV EUV5 inks with new orange and red options, new UV lamps for more efficient curing, and a newly designed take-up system.
The MG Series models, which Roberts feels are ideal for those just starting out or smaller shops growing their business, combine UV image quality, wide gamut ECO-UV EUV inks, and special effects capabilities with user friendliness, efficiency, and reliability.
Roberts expects to add accessories that make the TrueVIS LG Series UV printer/cutters even more productive. “Among those will be rigid media and film take-up attachments to increase the production of sheeted material and thin film.”
Investment costs in the latest UV R2R printers vary, with some features packing a punch in terms of value and price.
In this category Durst printers range from $500,000 to $1,000,000, says D’Amico, adding that the premiums are “basically for print speed and format.”
Hope estimates the price range in the U.S. for these devices is approximately $18,000 for an entry-level model to $63,000 for a 3.2-meter production model. “Width is also a consideration—the wider the printer, the higher the price. In addition to width, higher priced models offer higher productivity plus features that improve workflow,” he says.
The modular design of the Colorado M-series allows PSPs to begin at a more cost-effective entry point and upgrade as business grows. “As a result, MSRP varies depending on the configuration,” states Ingraham.
Roland TrueVIS LG Series and MG Series UV printer/cutters are competitively priced, according to Roberts. The LG-640 has an MSRP of $27,995, while the LG-540 and LG-300 are priced at $25,995 and $21,495, respectively.
Roland MG Series models are UV printer/cutters with entry-level pricing designed to be within reach of newer and smaller shops with limited budgets. The MG-640 has an MSRP of $19,995, while the MG-300 is $15,995 MSRP.
Several width options are popular for R2R UV printer series.
Roland’s most productive UV printer/cutters are the 54-inch models. “The primary reason being that there is more media produced for that size. Also, the material size of 48 inches is attractive,” comments Roberts.
Hope says the majority of Mimaki UV LED roll-based printers are shipped as 64-inch models.
Advancements in UV R2R printers are well suited for a range of applications, from signage to exhibit graphics.
Jan2024, Digital Output