Friday, 21 Sep 2018 18:47 GMT

On the Fringe of Wide-format

Wide-format is becoming the name of the game in the UK. Brenda Hodgson looks at the overseas manufactured machines that have yet to make their mark in the UK

Waiting in the wings

Wide and super-wide-format machines incorporating the latest technology are manufactured across the globe, so the choice of equipment for printers is now wider than ever. However, some of these machines, while selling well in their countries of origin and other parts of the world, sometimes prove to be slow starters as far as the UK market is concerned.

Slow burn

With a number of overseas manufactured products ‘waiting in the wings’ or just beginning to break into the UK, I asked well-respected UK wide-format distributors Quality Print Services (QPS) and I-Sub for their take on this.

Lancashire-based QPS offers the full range of UV printers and finishing equipment from Chinese manufacturer Longier, while Northamptonshire company I-Sub is the master distributor in the UK and Ireland for South Korean manufactured DGen printers.

Both suppliers identify cost, technical back-up, ongoing service, and availability of consumables among the key concerns of potential UK purchasers.

Chris Bailey, director at QPS, explains: “Naturally, when spending a significant sum of money on a new printer, customers are reluctant to commit to less well-known brands and will understandably gravitate towards established brand names in the belief that this will be the ‘safer bet’.”

Quality Print Services promotes Longier printers in the UK and a great deal of work has been done to ensure they are built to a very high standard

“Nevertheless,” continues Bailey, “we often find that if we can persuade a customer to attend a Longier demo, they are impressed with what they see, the quality of the output, and the infrastructure behind Longier here in the UK, with unlimited free telephone support and factory trained UK-based service engineers.”

QPS promotes Longier printers in the UK in association with Longier UK. There are seven flatbed printer models in the Longier range and a 3.2m wide dedicated roll-to-roll printer. All models use LED curing UV inks which significantly reduces the running cost when compared to printers using mercury vapour lamps. Each model is available with either Konica Minolta or Ricoh Gen 5 state-of-the-art print heads, giving high resolution prints at high output speeds.

“A great deal of work has been done here in the UK to ensure that Longier printers are built to a very high standard that ensures they are capable of 24/7 production with very little technical intervention,” Bailey states.

Currently there are twelve Longier printers installed in the UK, one of which is the latest 3.2m wide Hunter RU3200 roll-to-roll model. In each case the Longier has been chosen over more well-known brand names in the field due to build quality, print quality, and the support back up team based here in the UK.

Currently there are twelve Longier printers installed in the UK, one of which is the latest 3.2m wide Hunter RU3200 roll-to-roll model. Pictured: the Longier Hunter FP6000 UV LED

The 3.2m UV LED RU3200 roll-to-roll printer is fitted with state-of-the-art Ricoh Gen 5 print heads to provide variable drop sizes of vibrant CMYK and optional bright white and varnish, a combination that offers outstanding quality on the widest range of flexible display materials, according to QPS.

“With the ability to deliver resolutions of up to 600 x 1,200dpi at speeds in excess of 80sq m/h, the Longier Hunter RU3200 advanced printing system offers incredible high-resolution output, reliability, and user-friendliness to a range of businesses across the print industry,” says Bailey.

The UK’s first Longier Hunter RU3200 was installed at Leeds-based WAE Group. The company added the new Longier—specially adapted to print unbacked mesh banners and fabric graphics—to its existing Longier Hunter FP-3750 LED flatbed printer, which was installed by QPS in 2015.

WAE Group managing director, Paul Austin, says he was drawn to the energy-efficiency and sustainability offered by the new Longier’s UV LED-curing technology, which has the added benefit of reducing power requirements and pollution associated with mercury vapor lamps.

In addition, Austin notes the reliability of both the Longier brand and of QPS’ service: “We’ve had minimal problems and those have been rectified very quickly—which is refreshing after experiencing long waits to sort things out from other service companies in the past.”

Bailey comments: “We’re delighted to have had positive feedback from the new Longier Hunter RU3200’s first user,” he adds: “Longier systems definitely rival those of bigger-name brands in their incredible printing quality and reliability. We expect to install several more during 2018, each supported by our advice and engineering support.”
Reflecting on the hesitation of UK purchasers, Simon Lymn, I-Sub machinery sales manager, observes: “Because the machines are not European people often think they should not be as expensive. They also wonder about the level of back-up and support from South East Asia.”

Longier systems definitely rival those of bigger-name brands in their incredible printing quality and reliability

Lymn highlights DGen’s manufacturing pedigree, emphasising that it is a totally South Korean privately-owned company with 39 years’ textile experience and over 15 years in digital print.

Lymn stresses: “The company has 46 international patents for its products and is incredibly successful worldwide. With regard to the UK market, full UK technical service, spare parts, warranty support, and all related ancillary software and equipment, such as sewing machines and cutting machines, are provided by I-Sub.”

I-Sub has specialised in supplying industrial digital textile machinery, consumables, and technical service for over 27 years and has installed over 500 industrial/wide-format textile machinery solutions for soft signage, fast fashion, sportswear, and home furnishing applications.

The new Teleios Grande H6 3.3m wide high speed direct-to-textile/dye-sublimation printer, is the latest generation machines from DGen, with its patented textile feeding system, to ensure stable/flat feeding at high speeds. It features six industrial Ricoh G5 print heads, six ink colours to provide a wide spectrum of colour choice, and print speeds of up to 177sq m/h.

The Grande H6 is targeted at the soft signage market for applications including flags, trade show displays, lightboxes, table covers, banners, and tents. It can also be used for home textiles.

“It gives exceptional colour penetration on flag fabrics and superb colour-fastness and water-resistance for outdoor applications,” affirms Lymn, continuing: “The previous generation was quite a successful machine in the UK and, to date, we have installed five of the new 3.3m model in the UK, which is as we would expect as there is only a limited number of companies—around 20 to 30—that could justify purchasing the machine due to its size and cost.

O Factoid: The first large-format printer, produced in 1991, was the IRIS 3047, which had been designed to work with digital proofs and was not actually intended for the printing of items to last for a long period of time, until musician Graham Nash (of Crosby, Stills and Nash) and his tour manager realised that the printer could be used to reproduce large-format fine art O

“There is also still a degree of hesitation as to how to print fabric, as users don’t always appreciate that it needs to be finished with a separate heat press for best results. However, there is still a lot of potential for sales.”

Poised for action

Other wide-format printers poised for increased take-up in the UK market include those from Gandy Digital, Optimum Digital Planet, and GCC World.

With 35 years’ experience in digital printing technology, and a proven track record in the large-format digital print industry, Canadian manufacturer Gandy Digital has introduced the latest model in the Kre8tor range.

Now available in 3.2m width, the Kre8tor hybrid UV printer enables printing of both rigid substrates and roll-to-roll flexible materials, with continuous material feed giving higher throughput. The machine comes with six colours and white, using seven Kyocera print heads. Features of the Kre8tor Hybrid UV include auto material thickness sensing, making for easy change of materials up to 120mm thickness, and a range of power level settings for the UV lamps for curing different materials. Edge-to-edge printing is standard and multi-layer printing is also available. Gandy has introduced high density UV ink for use on Kre8tor UV printers, which means that less ink per square metre is used.

The Kre8tor Hybrid UV from Gandy Digital includes auto material thickness sensing, making for easy change of materials up to 120mm thickness

Turkish company Optimum Digital Planet has over 20 years’ experience in the field and exports to many countries around the world. Additions to its new generation Picasso range include the Picasso SOL digital solvent printing system and the Picasso Tex, both coming in at 3.2m wide and high quality printing with 2,880dpi resolution, using eight Konica Minolta KM1024 CMYK print heads, and production speeds of up to 320sq m/h for the Sol and 420sq m/h for the Tex. Uniform feed and take-up of material is facilitated by a pneumatic tension bar system. The Picasso Tex is suitable for both indoor and outdoor print applications, and comes with single, double, and triple concentrated print options for illuminated signs.

Optimum Digital Planet’s Picasso Tex is suitable for both indoor and outdoor print applications, and comes with single, double, and triple concentrated print options for illuminated signs

Founded in 1989, and with a new reseller channel via Grafityp UK, GCC World, headquartered in Taiwan, is a global manufacturing company producing a broad range of products, including cutting plotters, laser engravers, laser markers, laser cutters, UV-curable inkjet printers, and printer/cutters for various applications and industry sectors.

Coming in at a width of just 600mm, in comparison with the super-wide products above, GCC’s multiple function MPC-240UV printer/cutter has been developed to meet the specific needs of the packaging, prototype, proofing, sign, short-run, and label printing sectors. It comes with eight colour printing, including optional white and varnish, using GCC’s own UV inks. The MPC-240UV can accommodate a wide variety of materials, including vinyl, cardboard, acrylic, and heat-sensitive materials such as PET and BOPP films, and has a cutting speed of up to 719mm per second. In addition, selectable cutting forces, ranging from 5g to 600g, accommodate a wide variety of materials, from fine and thin masking films to thick and hard reflective films.

Coming in at just 600mm wide, GCC World’s MPC-240UV can accommodate a wide variety of materials, including vinyl, cardboard, and acrylic

If you are looking to purchase a wide or super-wide-format printer, it could well be worth considering one of these systems. Not only does it widen your choice, but the machines often come with UK based back-up and service. Moreover, you do not have to buy ‘sight unseen’ as UK distributors can arrange a demonstration and answer from experience any queries you may have.

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