Oce Arizona 550 GT, a faster UV flatbed printer Print

2009 was a year of uncertainties in the market, with many companies suffering the effects of the recession.

2010 However promises to be a year where many companies will recover. Just in the first days of January and February there have been news and announcements of many new printers from several manufacturers being launched early this year.

Océ has announced the launch of another printer, the Oce Arizona 550 GT.

New Printer, but based on earlier models

This UV-cured flatbed printer based on the previous Arizona models. In fact this new printer shares most of the features of the earlier models, for example, it handles 49.2” x 98.4” (just the same as the Arizona 350 GT model). The ink system is configured to offer CMYK, but White is optional. We know the previous Arizona UV models use Toshiba Tec CA4, and although the spec sheet of this new model does not clearly state the brand and model of heads, the printing technology is referred to in the same way as in those models using Toshiba Tec CA4. “ Piezoelectric print heads includes Océ VariaDot TM imaging technology ” is the phrase used in all the spec sheets of the Arizona UV flatbeds. This new version also has optional roll-to-roll mechanism.

In spite of being based on past models, Océ does list a number of upgrades for this model.

What's New?

The main feature in this new printer is speed. The Arizona 550 GT is claimed by the company to print at 433 sqm/h. which is almost twice as fast as the Arizona 350 GT

The 550 GT model can print on rigid media up to 2” thick (5.08 cm), whereas the previous models could handle only 1.89” (4.8 cm). The UV lamp technology is said to be improved to produce more curing energy per cm 2 and produce less heat. The system to shield UV light is also said to be improved. FLAAR correctly listed the UV light leak of the Arizona 250 and 350 as among the worst in the industry (only Chinese UV printers were even more potentially harmful for your eyes). It is noticeable that no trade magazine listed this potential hazard. Perhaps this is why readership at FLAAR increased significantly during 2009, as did the number of pages.

During this same year most everything else in the industry downsided. FLAAR had to hire more people to keep up with the readership.

As you can see in the following charts, the print speed is the key factor of the Oce Arizona 550 GT.

Please note that the print speeds information is extracted from each model's spec sheet, and unfortunately there is no standard to classify print modes. It is unclear what each manufacturer calls “production mode”. For example Oce scales its print modes in Express, Production, Quality and Fine Art; while InkTec Jetrix lists Production as their fastest print mode, then Quality 1, Quality 2 and Fine Art. It is also well known to most savvy printshop owners and managers that “production speed” is usually a myth.

It is important to know other factors especially when the price information is made available.

Printhead issues: why do not PR releases warn you of this issue.

It is also notable that not one trade magazine dared to mention that a small percentage of owners of the Arizona 250 had serious printhead issues. And I don’t mean hiccups, I mean serious issues. Since this issue (totally breakdown of the entire printhead) was only on some printers, it is hard to know whether it was a bad lot of ink, or a bad production run of printheads, or, as the local Oce or Fujifilm dealers tried hard to claim, it was conditions inside the printshop.

So I visited one of the printshops (this is the hallmark of a FLAAR Report: we actually go out and study the situation). His was fully professional shop; not opeated by minimum-wage employees. He had plenty of experience with UV printers and printing in general. The issue was pretty much squarely the fault of the printheads and/or potentially the ink. But I would wager it was a printhead issue.

Besides, if a printhead and printer can’t operate in a normal printshop conditions, then why waste time with this brand? This same identical printshop had other brands of printers and only the Arizona 250 had problems.

I have heard of the same issues in Mexico and a client in US. Other people in the industry, when asked “what one brand of printer has the most issues that you have heard about” they may mention the Oce Arizona 250 and its Fujifilm clone. But I will also add that I personally know and have visited end users that have these printers with no printhead issues. Nonetheless, I would be wary of this model with that printhead if avaialble used.

Fortunately the 350 and 550 have an improved printhead situation. Plus I would point out that Ricoh had even more dramatic issues in the ColorSpan 5440 and its HP Designjet copy. Here it was most if not all of the printheads for several years (until the problem was so obvious that neither the printhead manufacturer nor the printer manufacture any longer denied it). So again, here is another printer not to buy used.

The point of this is that a full evaluation of a printer needs to be both from an outside resource and from a resource that can explain the actual factual reality. You do not get this from commercial PR agencies that give awards for Best Printer or Best Buy. I have yet to see a report from so-called “Labs” or from commercial companies that provide for-pay awards that admits the downside of any of the above-mentioned printhead issues.

And why do these “labs” and “best awards” not mention deficiencies in the inks that require primers for Coroplast, nor do they mention that if you cuts prints on Sintra or some other materials that the ink splits off?

Actually we should not mention the sham awards because these pseudo reviews are our best advertising! Any end-user who sees a pseudo-review and then finds out the defects quickly realizes the weak point of PR-based awards that claim anything is “best.” I would also ask if anyone on the best-award system had experience with the competing printers that did not have defects.

The future as we go into 2012

2012 is an important year in the wide-format printing industry because it is a Drupa year.
Through 2012 we will get more information about the secondary effects of Canon-acquiring-Océ situation in the market. For example, will the OEM relationship continue with FUJIFILM? If so, will there be an Acuity version of this new Arizona 550 GT printer?

 

 

First issued February 10, 2010.