Roland VersaUV LEJ-640, the company’s first approach to a solution for rigid substrates with UV-cured ink Print

After years of not adding UV printers in their range of products, finally Roland does a first discreet approach to the rigid substrate printing industry with a UV-cured inkjet printer: the VersaUV LEJ-640, a hybrid printer whose concept is based in Roland’s first UV printer, the VersaUV LEC-300 launched in late 2008.

Roland Versa UV LEJ-640 hybrid flatbed printer

Roland Versa UV LEJ-640 hybrid flatbed printer

Roland VersaUV LEJ-640 at ISA 2011.

I don’t mean discreet in the sense of a bad quality - the print samples at ISA 2011 were very good - but discreet in the sense that a hybrid printer is the less expensive platform in UV printers, as compared to a dedicated flatbed printer or a combo (with transport belt mechanism). But at the same time, a hybrid printer is the less effective feeding mechanism to handle rigid substrates. Read further on too see why.

Roland Versa UV LEJ-640 hybrid flatbed printer
Roland VersaUV LEJ-640 at ISA 2011.

Specs and Price

The printer handles both rigid and roll media up to 64” (1.62m). Notice that you can’t print edge-to-edge in the full width; there is a margin of about O.2” at each side. The maximum thickness is 0.5” (13mm). The printer comes with CMYK+Varnish+White.

The list price is US$67,995.00.

UV LED Lamps: Less energy consumption

Roland engineers went the right direction about UV lamps, they chose LED technology, which consumes less energy and does not produce as much heat as traditional mercury-arc UV lamps. A few months ago, FLAAR made a chart to compare the energy consumption of different wide-format inkjet printers. Here is part of the information collected:

content table UV LED Lamps Less energy consumption

However LED lamps have not always been successful. The Mimaki UJV-160, the JFX-1631 and some Chinese UV printers which use LED lamps have been dealing with the issue: their LED lamps don’t always cure ink totally, resulting in sticky print samples (this means the ink is still liquid, has not dried totally on the substrate). The Mimaki JFX-1631 flatbed had so many issues curing that Mimaki had to add a secondary curing lamp (not mercury arc but not LED either).

Why are UV hybrid printers disappearing from the market?

A hybrid printer is a printer that moves media with a pinch roller-grit roller system. But there are dozens of printers which have presented issues when feeding media because pinch rollers often make media skew or not advance with a constant speed, which causes banding and other printing issues. The Teckwin TeckSmart and the Infiniti UV hybrid printers were infamous hybrid printers because of unresolved media feeding issues. It is unclear whether Teckwin and FY-Union (original manufacturer of Infiniti) continue to manufacture these models but at least these companies no longer exhibit them at trade shows.

In fact 90% of Chinese manufacturers of UV-cured printers have stopped trying to make hybrid printers. Even HP stopped making the ColorSpan hybrid printer: grit rollers under pinch rollers work only for a limited number of media.

Hybrid Printer diagram wide format inkjet feeding mechanism
“A hybrid printer moves rigid and roll-fed media with pinch rollers (a) and grit rollers (b). But rigid media is usually not too thick (less than 1”).”

Although a pinch roller system is not the best option to handle rigid substrates, as mentioned above the quality displayed at ISA 2011 was impressive. But again, the best way to judge the performance of a printer (especially when it is new) is to inspect it in action in a real life environment. FLAAR does this type of evaluations when funding is available to visit a sign shop that is using the printer on a daily basis.

Roland_printer_sample_VersaUV-LEJ-640-hybrid-flatbed_ISA2011.jpg
Here is a sample of Roland printer Versa UV-LEJ 640 hybrid flatbed at ISA 2011.
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First posted May 11, 2011.