|WP Digital (Polytype) Virtu RR50, 5-meter roll-to-roll UV|
In 2004 all UV printers were hybrid flatbeds, combo flatbeds (moving transport belts), or dedicated flatbeds. Then at DRUPA 2004 one daring company, NUR, surprised everyone with a roll-to-roll UV printer, the NUR Expedio 5000.
At first not many people could understand, why UV for roll to roll? Everyone was using solvent for roll-fed, and UV only for thick and rigid materials.
Yet within a year NUR was selling so many roll-to-roll UV that Gandinnovations quickly came out with one. Then two years later Matan came out with their Barak3 and Barak5. Durst launched a roll-to-roll UV by late 2005 (first the Rho 350R then the Rho 351R and next the Rho 320R), but at a significantly higher quality, as expected for that brand name from the photo lab era. Then VUTEk came out with their QS3200r, albeit only 3.x meters and not the tank-like construction of the other brands. Then Spuhl initiated a project and announced a launch for November 2008, but the company was sold about that time, so the actual formal launch was rescheduled for February 26-27, 2009. Then Fujifilm began to OEM the Matan Barak as UVISTAR.
The Swiss printer, under the brand name WP Digital, Virtu RR50, is 5-meters, sturdy and precise as would be expected from Made in Switzerland, and thus distinct from the four brands that aim primarily for the lower resolution signage and banner market. Indeed it is worth noting that not one single Chinese-made roll-to-roll UV printer has survived in Western Europe or the US. Many were exhibited in 2007, but not one is past prototype or beta stage still two years later in 2009.
Another distinguishing benefit of the WP Digital roll-to-roll solution is that they have arranged partners to help in their workflow. Fotoba is the leading (for roll-fed materials) XY cutting company in the world; their cutters are on the Scitex Vision TurboJet (HP Scitex TJ8550). Now you can get the same cutting expertise but with the higher quality of WP Digital, plus roll-to-roll is more popular than a drum-based printer. Not even the Chinese have tried to copy a drum-style UV printer (other than one which never got past alpha prototype stage at Shanghai 2007 trade show).
The Virtu RR50 even comes with an AquaSeal 80 UV coater. So you get the complete workflow (especially if you start with Caldera RIP software and BARBIERI spectrophotometer).
WP Digital Virtu RR50 5-meter roll-to-roll UV-curable printer comes in two options
You can select a 30 picoliter version for POP signage or an 80 picoliter version for billboards, banners, and building wrap.
Other options include the ability to load and off-load from the front; or load and off-load from the back. All this is described in the FLAAR Report on this printer.
Virtu RR50 launch ed on Feb. 26-27, Wittenbach, Switzerland, adjacent to the former Spuhl Virtu factory
An In-House event in Wittenbach officially launched this 5-meter roll-to-roll UV-cured grand format printer that was previously developed by Spuhl, partner of Leggett & Platt Digital Technologies in those early years of these printers. A roll-to-roll model was a good idea because it is clear that heavy-duty roll-to-roll printers are a growing trend. But the WP Digital Virtu RR50 was aimed primarily to the higher quality market.
FLAAR was been invited as VIP Guest for this event, so it was possible to inspect this printer in action for several days. This is precisely what provides the end-user with information: experiencing these sophisticated UV-curable printers directly and in-person.
WIFAG-Polytype both have considerable experience in the world of Swiss-quality precision printing equipment. Since newspapers are declining (as Internet becomes a source of news), it is logical to intelligently move into digital printing for short-run editions.
WIFAG-Polytype Group created WP Digital AG to handle L&P Digital Technologies (USA) and the Spuhl (European) portion of that former enterprise. I can still remember seeing the first L&P Virtu printer at the Atlanta trade show were it was launched in 2001. In that year there were fewer than six brands of UV-cured printer: today more than 45 companies have attempted to manufacture UV-cured wide-format inkjet printers.
At one point WP Digital had opened offices in Thailand for Asia and has opened a demo room in the building of Polytype America in Mahwah, New Jersey.
Most of the former employees in Switzerland and in the US have been retained in the initial transition. The new head of the company is Peter Ruth, CEO of Polytype AG in Switzerland.
This web page has been updated after seeing the new WP Digital Virtu RR50 printer at the opening in late February. I was also given detailed visits to WIFAG and to Polytype manufacturing plants in Friberg and Bern. The factory for the Virtu printers is in Wittenbach, near St Gallen.
Several months ago WP Digital was returned directly to the parent company Polytype, though most of the brochures and company web site still say WP Digital. The name of the models will remain the same, Virtu (so Polytype Virtu RR50).
You can experience the Polytype products at SGIA in the US and FESPA in Europe
Polytype America Corp. is listed in the SGIA 2010 exhibitor list, so you can see their products there. Usually they exhibit their combo model (with moving transport belt).
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