New Print Solutions Abound at SGIA 2016
BLI Explores Opportunities in Wide Format and Direct-to-Garment Printing
BLI’s David Sweetnam and I weren’t disappointed by this year’s SGIA (Specialty Graphic Imaging Association) Expo, which took place at the Las Vegas Convention Center (no, we didn’t hit it big at the tables). Unlike many tradeshows, which often feel like a show of muscle where vendors think “we have to be here from a branding perspective,” the SGIA Expo had a real sales buzz about it, with most of the hardware boasting dollar prices, show specials and attractive leasing offers to hook prospective buyers. We saw many new products and solutions that kept our interest, propelling us from crowded booth to crowded booth throughout the three-day event.
OKI’s New 64" E Class and a Novel Solution for Highway Signage
Employing six eco-solvent color inks, OKI unveiled the 64" E-64s ColorPainter wide format printer. As mentioned by Kelly Gornick, OKI Marketing Communications Manager, although this is the company’s newest and lowest cost offering, it is by no means an “entry level” device—it provides the same exceptional print quality, wide media compatibility and feature-rich Onyx RIP as the company’s existing printer portfolio. The modest differences of this unit comprise smaller capacity ink tanks, slower print speed with one printhead, and, as noted, lower cost.
The recently BLI-evaluated M-64s model was on display in the OKI booth as well, highlighting an intriguing new application—highway and street signs. Having partnered with the media manufacturer Nippon Carbide Industries, OKI Technical Marketing Engineer Jun Kurokawa said that the combination of OKI’s printer and the Nikkalite reflective media, which meet numerous ASTM and traffic signage standards, is ideal for in-house printing by highway departments, especially when last minute changes or only a few signs are needed. Indeed, show floor samples looked very impressive.
Roland Boasts Award-Winning Products
Roland introduced the TrueVIS SG and VG series of printers in its booth. Employing the company’s new TrueVIS eco-solvent ink, which is GREENGUARD Gold-certified, these printers feature contour cutters as well. The four-color SG model comes in either 30" or 54" print widths, while the VG series is available in 4-, 7- or 8-color configurations in either 54" or 64" widths.
David and I had a chance to meet up with Andrew Oransky, President of Roland DGA, and Eric Zimmerman, Senior Global Product Manager of the Sign Business Development Unit. They were very proud of the three SGIA awards they had won, with Oransky saying, “It’s quite an honor to receive one Product of the Year award, let alone three.” Roland earned awards for the VersaUV LEJ-640FT large-format UV flatbed printer in the UV Flatbed (under $100K) category; TrueVIS INK in the Digital Inks in the Solvent/Eco-Solvent/Latex category; and Texart SBL3 Dye-Sublimation Ink in the Digital Inks in the Textile category.
Mutoh Signs up for BLI Outdoor Signage Test Program
Next stop on the SGIA tour was to the Mutoh booth, where David and I spent some quality time with the company’s Dave Conrad, Director of Sales and Marketing, Ikuya Atsuchi, Director of Product Management, and Brandon Welling, Senior Product Manager. Also boasting three SGIA awards (for the ValueJet 1628X, ValueJet 1938TX, ValueJet 1638UH), Conrad and his team were quick to sign up for BLI’s new outdoor signage test program and extended the invitation to me (U.S. Wide Format Analyst) and Martin Soane (BLI’s Wide Format Analyst for Europe) to visit Mutoh’s Phoenix, Arizona, headquarters to evaluate the ValueJet 1624, 1628 and 1638 devices.
New UV Dual-Origin Flatbed and Super-Wide 3.2m Direct-to-Textile Devices Headline Mimaki Booth
Feet still going strong, we met up with Mike Maxwell, Senior Manager Marketing & Business Development at Mimaki USA, Inc., who gave us a great tour of the booth where a wide range of technologies were exhibited, as of course were their own SGIA awards. One of the new announcements included the JFX200-2531 dual-bed UV-LED flatbed printer. Based on the company’s popular JFX200-2513 printer, Mimaki has doubled the print area on the new model to increase productivity by enabling continuous printing on one side while the other is being prepared. Another product just announced is the TX300P-1800 roll-to-roll, direct-to-textile inkjet printer—a 75" wide printer engineered exclusively for direct-to-fabric applications.
Canon Previews New UVGel Technology
Canon was running regular presentations to foster interest in its new UVGel technology that it claims will “change the wide format graphics industry forever.” Canon promoted the new technology as raising the bar in productivity, image quality and cost of operation, filling a gap between the 3.2m UV/latex roll-to-roll units and the low end latex/eco-solvent units. With new gel on contact ink, the new printheads comprise Canon-patented Quality Assurance technology that check each nozzle with acoustic pulses on each pass and have a UV curing station that is independent of the print carriage, ensuring consistent UV exposure. We were told that operating costs could be reduced up to 40 percent compared to today’s eco-solvent and latex solutions on the show floor. Unfortunately, a prototype unit was not on display.
Other advantages over eco-solvent and latex that Canon professed could be achieved with UVGel include the widest color gamut in the industry; lamination capability directly after printing; and no heat in the curing process, which allows printing on thin, low-cost banner films and polypropylenes, thus eliminating the risk of stretching that can affect geometrically sensitive work such as wallpaper printing. This new technology is going to come live in Spring 2017, with the first unit being a 64" roll-to-roll unit and other members of the family being rolled out thereafter.
It remains to be seen if UVGel could be the big disruptor to the market. Stay tuned to this space for more information.
Early Momentum Building for BLI’s Commercial Direct-to-Garment (DTG) Test Program
With the outdoor signage test program now in full swing, we set about gauging interest and doing our due diligence in the next target for BLI’s graphic arts test expansion program, the desktop commercial DTG market. This fast growing market is a complex combination of technologies; pre- and post-process operations; and a plethora of vendors, ranging from imaging giants like Ricoh (Anajet), Epson, Mutoh and Brother, to specialized fabric printing manufacturers such as Kornit Digital.
We had a chance to sit down with many of the biggest players in the industry to discuss our future plans and the response was overwhelmingly positive. The common message was that the industry would benefit from somebody to step into the space and deliver a test program that will allow buyers, resellers and vendors alike the opportunity to assess device performance on a level playing field. At present, there is no standardized metric for measuring productivity on black or white garments; no ISO targets or procedures relating to cost of ownership that would help buyers compare the commercial reality of these units; no standardized approach to assessing ease of use and user maintenance tasks; and no standardized image quality processes or target files.
Putting together a test program to cover this complex market will not be an easy task with Josep Domingot, Vice President of Business Development for AnaJet, Guy Zimmerman, Vice President Marketing and Business Development at Kornit Digital, and Reed Hecht, Senior Product Manager at Epson America giving us food for thought around issues such as fabric wearability/feel, range of supported fabrics, pre-treatment challenges and long term garment durability. While BLI’s tests may not be able to cover every area that differentiates these devices, we will be working with the industry over the coming months to put together a comprehensive test platform that will, for the first time, put some real ‘measurability’ into this exciting graphic arts space.
For more information or to discuss the test program, please contact email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.