Page 40 - Print 21 Magazine Sep-Oct 2018
P. 40

Wide format
Solutions of grandeur:
the big end of wide format
Grand format roll-to-roll printing solutions are now able to offer both quality and speed for those printers looking for high volume, reports Jake Nelson
Keith Ferrel, Cactus Imaging
With a quarter of a century of experience in wide-format printing, it is safe to say few know more about the field than Cactus Imaging’s Keith Ferrel.
The Cactus Imaging digital kit
runs the gamut from small HP Latex devices all the way through to monster five-metre Durst, Fujifilm Uvistar
and HP Scitex machines. Keith Ferrel, general manager, swears by these grand-format beasts for their flexibility and productivity. “One of the beautiful things about these machines is that they are versatile – for example the Durst
will print self-adhesive vinyls, paper, flex vinyl, contra vision, mesh, lots of different substrates,” he says.
Gone are the days when billboards
and street furniture were the only applications grand-format equipment was good for; now, the versatility and quality of these machines have opened up a wealth of new opportunities. “There is construction, point of sale, transit, interior décor,” says Ferrel. “Once
upon a time these machines were so
low resolution you would not use them for anything with close viewing, but nowadays they can print up to 1200dpi at speed, and they are only going to
get better.
“There are flatbeds these days that can produce good quality at 900 square metres per hour or 1200 square metres per hour, so I do think over the next few years there will
be a huge jump in quality from these grand format machines.”
To Ferrel, quality is key for any printer looking to invest in a grand-format machine, and he keeps it front and centre. “Too many people sacrifice quality for speed, and we are the opposite,” he says. “If you print at 500 square metres per hour but it is really only any good at 200 square metres per hour, it is a 200 square metre per hour machine.
“You also need to make sure what they state is actual fact – some manufacturers overstate the saleability of their prints at high speed. There are probably only a few machines around that actually do what they say they do,” he adds.
Volume is king
To anyone interested in entering the grand-format market, Ferrel offers a word of caution: with so many big players in the space already, it is vital to know whether you will have the demand to keep up. “The major out-of-home media companies have all got in-house grand format printers: oOh! Media bought Cactus, QMS has Omnigraphics, and APN Outdoor owns GSP.
“One of the beautiful things about these machines is that they are versatile.”
– Keith Ferrel, Cactus
“If you intend to enter the grand format market, you have to make sure that the print volumes are there. It is a high volume, low margin industry – more of a commodity than anything – so you would want to be wary about stepping into it unless you had the volumes to print,” he says.
From an equipment perspective, though, Ferrel is excited for what the future of digital grand-format printing has to offer. “Certainly over the next two to three
years there will be some mind-boggling equipment from the big manufacturers
as far as speed and quality are concerned,” he says.
A smaller footprint from HP
Though HP has exited the five-metre roll-to-roll space, its 3.2-metre Latex machines are geared towards grand format applications from signage to floor covers, furnishings, textiles, and wall coverings.
According to Jeremy Brew, large format and industrial printing specialist at HP, the HP Latex 3800 is the company’s most productive machine.
Printing at speeds of between 98 and 180 square metres per hour at a native 1200dpi, the 3800’s big selling point is its capacity for rolls up to 1.2m in diameter and a tonne in weight. “Typically signage printers will only have 100 metres or so on a roll, where manufacturers will have kilometres of material on a single roll, and that’s where the 3800 shines," says Brew.
In addition, as the only brand with Latex ink, HP has an offering for printers looking to reduce their ecological impact. Bew says, “As organisations are getting increasingly concerned with their environmental footprint and regulations are becoming more stringent, HP Latex presents a proposition with water-based inks, no hazardous air pollutants, and low VOCs, yet without sacrificing the light fastness and durability that outdoor printers demand.”
HP has also released its R-series of hybrid Latex printers, including the R1000 and R2000 hybrids as seen at Visual Impact, which are capable of printing
both in flatbed and roll-to-roll. “In that space when you talk about that versatility printers want, you can do anything from
a POS display to a thermoformed acrylic panel to a car wrap, all on the one device with the same ink,” says Brew.
Rolls up to 1.2m HP Latex

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