|Fujifilm Acuity LED 1600 uv-curing printer|
It is always nice when there are new UV-cured printers available.
When I first saw this Acuity LED 1600 printer, the natural question was to wonder whether this was a rebranded Mimaki UJV-160. After all, Screen rebranded the Mimaki JFX flatbed (but this Mimaki UV curing printer has been conspicuously absent from Screen booths around the world in recent months ….). There is zero Mimaki JFX flatbed printer in the Screen booth at GraphExpo (because Screen seems to have disappeared from this trade show).
But I don’t remember the Mimaki UJV-160 having Spectra printheads; I would have guessed either Toshiba Tec or Ricoh printheads. The info on the Fujifilm Acuity LED 1600 suggests that Dimatix had a role in this printer, which implies it has Spectra printheads.
Fujifilm also rebrands Mutoh solvent printers and Oce flatbed UV printers. But there is no viable Mutoh UV printer any more (the Zephyr was not very successful and Mutoh Europe had to close its factory in Belgium this year anyway).
And so far, Oce does not have any non-flatbed UV-cured printers (note the comment, “so far”). So it will take a few hours to find out who really manufactures this Fujifilm Acuity LED 1600 printer. Fujifilm owns Sericol ink company, so logically wishes printshops to use Sericol ink. One way to have people use an ink is to make a printer that requires this ink. DuPont tried this ploy, but of course it was a multi-million dollar failure.
Lyson tried to make printers to use its ink; their Tiara printer company went into bankruptcy. Triangle tried to sell Neolt printers; they wisely pulled out of this over a year or so ago. But so far Fujifilm is doing okay selling rebranded Oce printers because often the local Fujifilm dealer is well established.
Although the Fujifilm Acuity LED 1600 uv-curing printer has what looks like Epson ink cartridges sticking out awkwardly at the top (an antiquated system), the PR news release suggests the printer uses Spectra printheads. Mimaki uses Toshiba Tec and Ricoh and will be using Konica Minolta printheads too (plus of course Epson printheads in vintage eco-solvent printers). Roland is the only printer company in the world that seriously tries to use Epson printheads to handle UV-cured ink. But if the ink cartridges are Epson style, this would suggest a Japanese heritage for this machine. Strange, since even Epson itself gave up using that cartridge style (due to problems of ink remaining in the cartridge when the software tells the Epson user to put in more extra ink).
But there is more than 400ml inside the cartridges, so these are more advanced than they look. But still clearly a Japanese solution.
Why does no one question the claims of a PR release?
What is most embarrassing is that every web site, every trade magazine, and every shill quotes the “best in class” productivity phrase that was in the original press release. Not one single solitary press release questions one single claim.
We love this, because that’s why printshop owners, managers, printer operators and manufacturers prefer to read the FLAAR Reports. We ask about the realistic aspect of such silly press releases. Because my first question would be has any single trade magazine who published this ever really looked at LED-curing printers? Is the ink really cured when it comes out of the printer?
In most cases the ink on many substrates is still tacky…. the ink feels uncured (this is why Roland buries their LED “cured” uv ink with an overlay of clear liquid…. this way you can’t notice whether the ink is uncured or not).
Mimaki even had to re-design, and retrofit their entire JFX-1631 printer with a secondary, NON-LED curing system, because the LED lamp alone was not enough. If you have to retrofit your LED curing system with a non-LED curing system, is this not a tidbit of suggestion that LED curing, by itself, is not enough?
But all the LED lamp curing module manufacturers are working overtime to develop improved lamps, and ink companies are working hard too, so I hope the Fujifilm Acuity LED 1600 has an LED system that actually cures the ink, even on PVC ?
LED curing is not as noxious as mercury-arc lamp curing…. But… UV ink is NOT ECO-FRIENDLY
Calling any UV-cured ink eco-friendly is asking to considered possible Greenwashing. Same with latex ink: using tons of electricity is not eco-friendly for latex ink. And the chemicals in any UV-cured ink are not benign.
Safest is to discuss that UV-cured ink can do well; that it is not as nasty as full-solvent, and leave it at that.
Using PR agency-like releases that claim it is eco-friendly is not a clever idea.
The FLAAR Reports have championed the use of UV-cured printers for ELEVEN YEARS, but we concentrate on reality. Merely having no VOCs is not enough for an ink to be environmentally friendly.
Advertising this printer for thick and rigid substrates raises questions
Before combo style (transport belt) printers became popular, hybrid printers were okay (because there was not much else available at entry-level). But even HP gave up trying to convince printshops that pinch rollers and grit rollers can move diverse materials adequately. Early hybrid printers were okay many many years ago because there was not much else available. Today a hybrid printer is anarchism. Even most Chinese manufacturers have given up trying to convince printshops to use a hybrid printer. (Early UV hybrid flatbeds were mostly former solvent printers simply switched to UV-cured and then adding a table at the front and back).
So this was the most surprising part of the news release: why is anyone launching a grit-roller UV-cured roll-to-roll printer in the year 2011?
For example, can your hybrid pinch-roller over grit roller print on 100% of the surface of the board? Or are the last 15 centimeters unprintable because the pinch over grit roller system can’t feed the last 15 centimeters under the pinch rollers ?
Keundo tried to market a hybrid UV printer and failed utterly. Today only Neolt concentrates on hybrid printers (Neolt Aster-JET). Mimaki has not been showing their UJV-160 LED curing printer very much recently (also because the LED curing lamps often do not always adequately cure the ink).
But perhaps they have a double grit-roller system (that Teckwin and Zund each tried to implement). A double grit-roller system can allow you to print on your entire foam board. Otherwise you can’t print on the final several inches, and that media is wasted.
Most trade show booths avoid this issue by printing first one half of the board; then pulling it out; inserting it again, and printing on the second half. This way it looks like 100% of the foamcore is printable.
Of course you might consider this cheating. Presently in the booth at Graph Expo they are printing only roll-to-roll. The boards that are displayed have probably been cut. If the grit rollers don’t allow the last 15 cm to be printed, this is not something they wish to exhibit. If Fujifilm has a solution for this downside, we would be glad to report it if they can show us the printing of 100% of a flat board.
Claiming speed for LED curing is not wise
LED curing can barely cure at any speed; so claiming LED is fast-drying is asking for skepticism. But the printing speed itself is indeed faster than any LED-curing UV printer of this size on the market. When we find a good feature (even on a machine that raises questions with other features) we do list each good feature that we can identify.
But at least they use good printheads: Spectra
After reading the spec sheet, and the very iffy claims for performance, another thing I can find that looks nice are the Spectra printheads from Dimatix.
If it uses Sericol ink, would be useful to check to see whether it can print on Sintra without it flaking off when the Sintra is cut. If it uses Sericol ink, should check whether it requires primer for printing on Coroplast or comparable corrugated plastics. Some newer improved Sericol ink can, but every ink has trade offs for when you need it to do one thing; that need usually causes an issue elsewhere.
The eight color aspect is nice
It would take a bit to convince me that clear (varnish) really functions out in the real world. And we all realize white ink can sometimes be iffy even in a million dollar Durst printer, but the eight ink colors is a good feature nonetheless.
I really do try to find nice things to comment on for this printer. But I simply can’t figure out how a billion-dollar company can launch a UV-cured roll-to-roll printer when printshops today have no need for UV-cured inks on roll-fed materials. HP latex ink is certainly not perfect, but it has sold thousands of printers. And by autumn 2011 and definitely by FESPA 2012, and definitely by DRUPA 2012, there will be so many alternative latex-like and resin-like inks available, I can’t understand why someone would spend money to buy a roll-to-roll UV printer today.
UV-cured ink is great for thick flat materials, but on a true flatbed.
UV-cured ink was great to replace full-solvent ink. But mild-solvent (such as Seiko ColorPainter) and eco-solvent (Mimaki, Mutoh, Roland), albeit rather obviously still a solvent ink, is very effective at bright colors (especially the Seiko ColorPainter).
But if Canon actually gets their resin / latex ink printer to function outside an R&D lab; if all the other companies that we know have resin / latex ink printers get theirs out this autumn and early 2012, the moment these other printers appear, roll-to-roll UV-cured printers begin to look a bit illogical.
In summary, the Fujifilm Acuity LED 1600 is a complete surprise, which we hope is successful. But why in the world a grit-roller UV printer when HP latex ink, Canon outdoor printer, and all the new resin inks are about to replace UV-cured for roll-to-roll?
Fujifilm is a respected name, a billion dollar company. But are they unaware of the trends out in the real-world? This is a bit like launching a horse-and-buggy after Ford’s Model T car began to be successful. I would be very curious to know what kind of trends and marketing information the planners at Fujifilm were possibly using to have launched a printer such as this in the autumn of 2011. Seven years ago it might have had a chance. But in autumn 2011 ? Who is the consultant that encourages a grit-roller printer in today’s reality?
But, if you really want a roll-to-roll UV-cured printer, you have the Mimaki UJV-160, the Neolt AsterJet, and now the Fujifilm Acuity LED 1600 to select from.
Every size, shape, and kind of printer is good for a printshop somewhere. So if you have a Fujifilm distributor near you (and no Mimaki or Neolt dealer in your home town), this would be a logical reason for looking at a Fujifilm printer.
But if I were about to invest xy-thousand dollars in a roll-to-roll printer, I would first want to know what might be about to replace UV-cured ink altogether (at least for roll-to-roll).
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