|Vega UV flatbed digital press launched by One Solution|
I admire any individual and company that launches a new UV-cured inkjet printer into the market, especially during an economic recession. Imagine trying to launch a car into the market in 2009. There are more UV printer manufacturers than there are car manufacturers, and new ones (UV that is) pop up every trade show. At ISA 2009 there were three brands of UV printers which never previously had been exhibited in the Americas.
There are so many UV printers being offered today that even with sending a total of four FLAAR staff to ISA 2009 we could barely have time to take notes on all the UV printers (which is why we do our evaluations at the company's main demo room, not at a hectic trade show). Five from FLAAR were at FESPA 2009.
The Vega UV flatbed digital printer looks sophisticated albeit with a huge footprint (floor area). But the system definitely looks impressive. I like the fact it is a true dedicated flatbed, as hybrids (with pinch rollers operating on grit rollers) are sometimes unreliable for moving thick rigid materials. But until I see a printer in a real printshop how can I know it is out of beta stage? Or even out of alpha stage. Some printers exhibited at DRUPA were non-functional prototypes: VUTEk DS as but one embarrassing example. Where is the VUTEK DS today? It was not at ISA '09 and was conspicuously absent from FESPA '09 also.
Another excellent example of an unfinished UV printer was the Luscher JetPrint. Yet five people in the US each spent $500,000+ to buy this printer. What they got was a semi-finished experiment. After a few months they were told they could buy a $100,000 “option” that would fix the situation.
You know the rest of the story: not even with sinking another $100,000 into the printer did the Luscher JetPrint function adequately. Unfortunately, not even Swiss engineers can defy reality. Clearly the few printshops who bought the Luscher did not read any of the FLAAR Reports, which clearly pointed out the basic flaws and issues with this printer.
Another promising UV prototype was the garage-sized UV printing press from Augend Technologies, their Augend RF20 UV-curable printing press. This appeared at FESPA 2007, but evaporated after that. Even Infiniti Europe and Augend Technologies disappeared from the scene. I hope that One Solution has enough patient investors that they will not follow any of these paths. But now you can see why FLAAR does not issue a recommendation just from a trade show appearance, no matter how impressive a performance the printer did in the booth.
For these reasons, as soon as it is possible to inspect the Vega and learn whether it is in prototype, alpha, or beta stage, I will look forward to this experience. In the meantime, it definitely does look like a team of engineers had an ample budget to experiement with diverse situations. As an example, so far, loading a UV printer effectively has been a mirage with other brands.
One Solution has ample experience in marketing grand format printers
Individuals whose comments I value have indicated that the personnel who now form One Solution have ample experience in marketing grand format printers via the European office of NUR (before it was purchased by HP). But the melt-down with Meital after DRUPA was not an auspicious beginning (for either side). It would be essential to understand what happened.
Vega UV flatbed printing press from One Solution comes in several configurations
Vega 4000, Vega 8000, Vega 16000, Vega 3200 are a series of options. You can upgrade the Vega 4000 to either a Vega 8000 or 16000. You can upgrade a Vega 16000 to a Vega 32000.
Reportedly (by all third-hand sources), “the Vega is made in Italy.” Notable is that it uses the same Xaar 1001 printheads as did the Meital when the Meital was being handled by One Solution. It appears that a few aspects of the Meital were taken over by the Vega. But not the moving second table. The Vega has only one table.
“Our own ink,” “Our own RIP”
It is common industry practice to claim the ink is from the printer manufacturer. Yet this claim is true only for HP (Tech Ink via former Scitex Vision), Neo Evolution (Sun LLC, Russia), for Milano (Trident) and very few other printers.
For most other printer manufacturers this claim varies from illogical to unlikely. DuPont's claim of making their own UV ink was potentially simply untrue (in other words alledgely a lie). Half the printer manufacturers do not have their own ink chemistry lab even. So a printer distributor does is all the more unlikely to have their own ink factory and rarely even their own ink chemist in-house.
It is more realistic to simply state that it is OEMed ink from a major ink manufacturer, etc etc. This is acceptable. To say the ink is your own invites the question of whose ink is it. When no answer is provided, that invites other questions. In other words, it is more realistic simply to say up front where your UV ink comes from and be over with it.
With RIP software making your own RIP is all the more unlikely: not impossible (Canon, Mimaki, and Mutoh have made their own RIP-like software), but 95% of all wide-format printer manufacturers are totally lacking in software code writers to prepare their own RIP. Probably half do not even write their own firmware.
Caldera, Wasatch, ErgoSoft, Onyx are the top four software RIPs. There are a few others that are potential candidates. I have visited the world headquarters of Caldera (France) and Wasatch (USA) and can vouch for their capabilities. ErgoSoft has years of experience and I know people who say their tech support is excellent (especially for fine art giclee in the US). Onyx is a major brand as well and used around the world, as are two or three other brands (there are actually over 70 brands of RIP software in the FLAAR Reports inventory of RIP options). But of these 70, few have survived to 2009 and even fewer are capable of handling the requirements of a grand format UV-curable printer and ICC color profiling.
It would be so much easier if the actual brand and version of the RIP software were clearly listed in the spec sheet.
Adhesion and abrasion: some materials need primer before printing
I compliment One Solution for being open and honest that some materials require a primer to be sprayed on before you can expect adhesion and/or abrasion resistence. They list three different aerosol printers, for acrylic, polycarbonate, and glass.
GCC, such as with the StellarJET 250uv, offers special primer and workflow for printing on ceramic tiles.
One Solution Vega printer will have competition from HP Scitex FB7500
The Inca Onset was the first serious production printer (in the 3-million dollar range). A fast production printer at 10% of that cost is the GRAPO Shark (at $300,000+ obviously not intended to be a three-million dollar printer, but it does quite well for being 90% less expensive!).
Then came the VUTEk DS8300, presented at DRUPA 2008 (but never reappearing again). The VUTEK DS8300 was conspicuously absent at FESPA 2009.
The two printers that should be compared and contrasted with the One Solution Vega are the Durst Rho 1000 at the high-end and the Shark from Grapo at the mid-range. You can probably buy three Sharks for the price of one Vega. So the question is simple: even if you have only two Sharks: which can produce faster and better and more reliably: two Shark printers or one Vega.
Next question is which can produce more output, more reliably: one Durst Rho 1000 or one Vega? If your budget is enough for a Vega you can probably afford a Rho 1000. If you want the production of a Vega but are unsure of a printer brand not seen before, one or two Sharks probably cost less and may produce more.
Or, when we have a chance to test the Vega ourselves and see it inside a printshop in Europe, perhaps we will have a different impression. But you only have to watch the Durst Rho 1000 for 10 minutes and you can see its awesome power. And when you are inside the GRAPO Technologies factory, and see the Shark function, that too leaves a favorable impression.
The reason for these comments are because I expected the Vega to feed and off-load from the giant gizmos that were in front and behing the printer. But nothing in that area moved or did anything whatsoever. What loaded and off-loaded the media seemed to be the gantry itself. This means that the gantry is not printing (or is printing zero square meters per hour) while it is loading or off-loading.
Thus I do not yet understand what are all the mechanical things at the front and at the back? Why don't they load and offload media and let the gantry be printing the entire time?
So hopefully at a factory demo and site-visit case study I can better understand all this. FESPA was so busy with 23 different other UV printers to inspect that it is not realistic to spend all day in one booth.
No information on the origin of the Vega UV flatbed printer is provided, as is usual
Other than that the printheads are Xaar 1001 printheads, there is nothing else known about this printer.
FLAAR Reports are preferably based on a factory visit, testing a printer in the demo room, and when possible, a site-visit case study of the printer in the actual printshop. By asking the printershop owner, by asking the printer operator, and by using the FLAAR inspection format it is possible to gain a perspective of how a printer functions out in the real world. The resulting full-color PDFs can be downloaded for brand after brand after brand. We try to offer as many different reviews of competing brands as possible.
A good example would be inspecting a GRAPO Octopus and a GRAPO Manta inside a screen printing company in northern Germany. I then inspected a Gerber ion X printer in a screen printing and offset printing company in Chicago. And early in 2009 it was possible to visit another screen + offset printing company near Wurzburg that had a GCC StellarJET 183uv.
A crucial stage in evaluation and review of a UV-cured inkjet printer is an inspection of the factory and adjacent demo room in the world headquarters of the manufacturer. FLAAR has also been at Durst five times in 2008 and three times at GRAPO Technologies. So we know these printers are reliable.
All this effort provides a clearly defined system of evaluation that has become the de-facto reference for UV printers over the last nine years (since DRUPA 2000). Every industry has an evaluation resource. The advantage of the FLAAR system is that the cost is much less than having a commercial company do the evaluation. Plus commercial companies, if they do an evaluation for profit, tend to produce a wishy-washy Success Story that defeats the entire purpose of a true review.
An honest review needs to list both pros and cons, and more importantly, needs to be updated when fresh new information becomes available. I have yet to see any Success Story that mentioned the dubious aspects of a wide-format printer. But a printshop owner needs to know the reality, not the PR-release kind of Success Story or pseudo-review or simply a sham evaluation.
The exterior of the Vega looks professional engineered and capably manufactured, so if ever in the future it is available to be inspected, we can consider doing an evaluation. But in the meantime we at least mention the presence of this printer at FESPA. But mention is not a recommendation nor a lack of recommendation: it is merely a listing. Nothing further is practical until I have had time in the demo room to inspect the Vega printer and do test printing.
We have visited the factories of Spuhl (twice), Durst (five times), Gandinnovations (twice), NUR (twice; now HP of course), ColorSpan (many times; now HP), Oce (near Vancouver), Grapo (three times), Keundo, Dilli, IP&I, VUTEk (four times), even the Eurotech UV printer factory 100 km from Istanbul. It is tough to have time to handle every brand, but we do try.
What happened to One Solution and Vega UV-cured printers?
One Solution and Meital have long ago parted ways. That split is another chapter in industry politics. But of the two former partners, now (since SGIA 2012 and ISA 2013) Meital has survived and has returned to exhibiting (at least in USA).
One Solution, in distinction, long ago no longer exhibited at any significant major international printer or signage expo.
What used to be the company web site (auniquepartner) no longer exists. The relationship with Lacor ink is another chapter in this saga.
This might be a series of questions to be wary of acquiring a used UV-cured printer of any brand which has not enough presence to be at major printer or signage expos. There is a lot of PR on the printer, virtually all from the year 2009!
Wide Format Printers