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EFI VUTEk GS3200 UV Combo Printer (and new versions): GS3250LX and GS3250r Print E-mail

EFI continues to expand its range of UV printers with the DOWNLOAD upgraded versions of the GS3200 printer, which was replaced by the GS3250, in addition to the GS3250LX and GS3250r models.

If you Google for the VUTEk GS3200 or GS3250 you will actually find it as a "hybrid", but a hybrid is any printer with pinch rollers and grit rollers.

Any printer with a moving transport belt is called a combo flatbed. But since there is no industry standard definitions (other than those published on the FLAAR Reports) each manufacturer uses whatever terms they prefer.

EFI Vutek GS 3200 at the Manufacturing plant

How does the VUTEk GS3250 and its new variations stack up against its competition

There are dozens of UV combo printers out there but what called my attention is that, with its 3.21m (126.5") print width, the GS3200 and the new GS3250r is one of the larger printers with this feeding mechanisms if you consider that most combo printers are in the range of 2m to 2.50m print width. This is the case of the HP Scitex FB950 and the Agfa :Anapurna M2050.  

Even the Durst Rho 1000 has a print width of 2.5m.

The only other wide-format UV combo printer that I can think of that goes beyond the 2.5m print width is the Polytype Virtu RS35 which prints media up to 3.5m wide.

But the status of those models is unclear, since Polytype has not exhibited its models in 7 major trade shows in a row so far.

The last time a Virtu printer was exhibited at a major US trade show was SGIA 2011.

Besides, the very WIFAG-Polytype website no longer features any wide-format UV-curing printer. It doesn’t even have a hint of a wide-format or inkjet related product.

EFI is a company that does not try to impress you with new extravagant prototypes on every tradeshow.

Instead, the portfolio of wide-format printers has been progressively updated based on the idea of improving tried and true versions (and acquiring a couple of companies).

The company does try new concepts, such as the EFI VUTEk HS100 Pro, an impressive dedicated flatbed that was introduced at SGIA 2012, and then exhibited at APPPEXPO 2014, in Asia, and most recently, at SGIA 2016.

Price of almost all UV printers varies by country, so the price of the GS3200 is not readily available but at least we can say the GS3200 and the WP Digital RS35 are in the same price range, and indeed very similar.

In general, FLAAR does not dedicate much time in printer models advertised as new, unless they really are, or unless such models have significant upgrades over the original model. This is because too many companies advertise a printer as "new" because they changed the number of printheads. That was the case of the ill-fated HP Designjet H3500 which had 3 or 4 versions but the fact that those models had so little differences one from the others made everybody think it was more a marketing strategy that a real widening of the options offered.

That said, the new EFI VUTEk GS models do have important upgrades worth the mention.


The new Variations: GS3250r and the GS3250LX

The GS3250r is a dedicated roll-to-roll UV printer, that seems like the replacement of the aging QS3250r. In fact, the website no longer offers a specific datasheet on the QS3250r.


EFI VUTEk GS 3200 Media Master
EFI Vutek GS 3250r at ISA 2013 Trade Show


The EFI VUTEk GS3250LX's main feature is the LED technology in the UV-curing lamps. In general terms, LED lamps mean less heat, which enable you to print on more heat-sensitive substrates such as paper and some plastics. Reportedly the LED lamps last the productive life of the printer, whereas traditional mercury-arc lamps have to be changed every certain time. This means a significant reduction of consumables costs.

Although the printheads are the same brand as in the original GS3200 (Seiko), the printhead model might have changed.


MediaMaster, the automatic board feeder to increase print speeds

EFI VUTEk GS 3200 Media Master
EFI Vutek GS 3200 Media Master

The MediaMaster is an automatic media feeder mechanism that accelerates production times and eventually reduces production costs in the sense that less personnel is needed: with the MediaMaster, one operator can handle two printers.

The system is based on suction vents that lift the boards from a stack to place them on top of the table which will then transport the boards into the printer. Once printed on, a similar front table moves the boards away and a second set of vents move the boards from the end of the front table to a stack of printed boards.

A couple of other wide-format UV-cured inkjet printers have automatic feeder-stacker mechanisms, but only EFI's MediaMaster can handle 3 boards simoultaneously.

The first time we saw the MediaMaster was at the factory in New Hampshire, back in 2011.

By that time, the MediaMaster was designed to work as an addition to the GS3200.
But now, this feeding mechanism seems to be adapted to the flatbed printers, the efi VUTEk HS100 pro and efi VUTEk HS125 pro.


EFI VUTEk GS3200 UV combo printer hybrid flatbed applications
Samples printed by the VUTEk GS3200 at PRINT' 09.

Resulting evaluations from visiting EFI's headquarters

Full evaluation reports based on a visit to EFI's demo room are available in the following links.

One report on the VUTEk GS3200 with comments on the MediaMaster, and one report on the GS5000r 5-meter roll-to-roll UV printer.


Brand position in the market

EFI VUTEk printers already have an important share in the market, and because they are a known brand, people will buy an EFI VUTEk no matter what.

But I would suggest to companies like EFI to start experimenting with new and different applications other than signage. WP Digital is already experimenting to print on glass and many other architectural and interior decoration media.


Inks and Printheads

Inks for the EFI VUTEk printers are designed and manufactured by EFI InkWare. The GS3200 comes in an eight color configuration (CMYK, lc, lm, ly lk) but can be switched to a five color setting (CMYK+W), with which the production time improves from 1200 sq ft/hr to 2400 sq ft/hr. The printer has different settings to better control applications with white ink. You can do:

- Overprint
- Underprint
- Spot
- Underspot
- Fill and
- Overspot

EFI VUTEk GS3200 UV combo printer hybrid flatbed evaluations
EFI VUTEk GS3200 utilizes a moving transport belt to provide for flatbed and roll-to-roll UV-cured printing. PRINT' 09.

What continues to be a riddle for me is the selection of printheads for the EFI VUTEk printers. Most entry-level UV priners will tend to use XAAR heads. Most mid-range UV printers will tend to use either Konica Minolta 512 or Toshiba Tec CA4 or CA5 or RICOH Gen3 E3.

And odds are a high-end wide-format printer will use any of the models of Spectra heads. But all the EFI VUTEk printers use Seiko heads. Actually this is perhaps the only company I have heard of using this model of head. Not that Seiko heads are bad, especially with the GS 3200 offering 12pl. But if everybody else in this range is using Spectra, why did EFI VUTEk choose Seiko?

Of course this printhead trend is not a rigid rule. During the first trade there was a low-priced chinese hybrid printer that was using Spectra heads. But those must have been the new affordable model of Spectra.

The EFI VUTEk GS3200 UV combo flatbed printer, comparison with similar UV printers in the market
Here is the VUTEk GS3200 printer at the Antalis booth (distributor) during the Sign Africa trade show 2009.

reviews of the EFI VUTEk GS3200
Here is the VUTEk GS3200 printing samples at PRINT' 09. The VUTEk GS3200 has eight color configuration but can be swiched to a five color setting (CMYK + W).

Most recently updated May, 2017
First posted October 27, 2009, updated December 2010, updated October 2011, updated May 2013.



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