LAC Art Robo and LAC DaVinci replaced (we hope) by LAC Michelangelo NA Evolution and LAC Michelangelo NNV Print

AC Art Robo and LAC DaVinci replaced (we hope) by LAC Michelangelo NA Evolution and LAC Michelangelo NNV

LAC Michelangelo NA Evolution and LAC Michelangelo NNV
The TCG booth exhibited a LAC Michaelangelo printer, VISCOM Italy 2008.

At VISCOM Italy trade show in late 2008, in Milano, the TCG booth (the same booth that had the unique Kiian alcohol-based inks) also exhibited a LAC Michaelangelo printer. There were two posters announcing a LAC printer, each had a different name: Michelangelo NA Evolution and Michelangelo NNV. The original LAC printer was an airbrush system. The airbrush version today is now the Michaelangelo NA Evolution. Quality was okay at 4 meter viewing distance but was not as good as inkjet at close viewing distance.

The inkjet version is the Michaelangelo NNV. But there is no easy way to get the roll-up system fully parallel to whatever you are printing on. So the quality will always be iffy. Frankly it is much better quality simply to apply a printed adhesive material that can nowadays be photographic quality with solvent, eco-solvent, UV, or even water-based ink. In other words, I am still not convinced about any roll-up system (WireJet was another from a different company). But at least the print quality from a LAC printer today is now much better than samples from a LAC Art Robo printer that I saw in Mumbai signage trade show about nine years ago.

These new generation LAC printers are exhibited at FESPA, possibly at DRUPA, and at VISCOM Italy since TCG is their distributor (www.tcgcom.net).

Today, which means most solvent printers from 2007 onward, can print in nearly photographic quality: Roland, Mimaki, Mutoh, DGI, and Seiko ColorPainter can produce photographic quality if sent for multiple passes. Probably half of these printers can even overcome horizontal banding.

Michelangelo NA Evolution reviews
Michelangelo ValJet, TCG booth at VISCOM Italy 2008.

Today there are so many materials to print on, that you can adhere to any wall

Today you can print onto 3M or other materials that adhere directly to brick walls, to even adhere to rough concrete. Today there are so many new inkjet technologies and even more new substrates.

If the printer costs 15,000 Euros, I can see experimenting with it (if you have a hundred clients who need the output on walls and vehicles in your area). But if the printer costs over 50,000 Euros there are too many excellent solvent printers, especially from Mutoh and Roland (the Mimaki JV5 has a few issues). Mutoh printers offer Intelligent Interweaving also. There are even more sophisticated new solvent printers coming now from Seiko, their ColorPainter H-104s.

Lack of acceptable quality with LAC Art Robo in past years

The son-in-law of the owner came to visit me when I was in the university in Ohio, to show improved quality over what I saw in Mubai trade show. But what counts is not what a manufacturer can achieve with in their own demo room, but rather what a real end-user can achieve in a real printshop.

Basically, the original printers did not achieve acceptable quality, not even compared with the poor quality of regular solvent signage printers of the same period, 2001-2003. Mutoh, VUTEk and other solvent printers had significantly better quality than LAC Art Robo or any other LAC model, even in those years.

The other problem was that a printshop in Guatemala bought a LAC Art Robo and found it was not usable for whatever he thought it would be good for. This was circa 2003 or 2004.

Today, actually probably since 2007, even most Chinese printers can achieve quality as good if not better than any roll-up airbrush printer.

Other Models of LAC printers

Vehicle Art Robo

Michelangelo V7

Michelangelo BannerJet

Raffaell F7, flatbed printer

DaVinci 5700, roll to roll airbrush printer

DaVinci 3100, roll to roll airbrush printer

No airbrush painter would be considered “high resolution”. And in today's world of impressively sophisticated inkjet printers, “high resolution” means museum quality. Sorry, but you will not usually get anything close to this from any printer that you roll up to a wall or truck or bus.

To obtain true quality, the material must be flawlessly perfectly directly parallel to the printheads. Even inside a half-million dollar flatbed this perfection is tough to achieve (but actually most printers over $80,000 can achieve excellent quality today). If, if they are a normal inkjet printer.

If you roll a machine up on wheels, and aim it at a wall, you will get an okay image that looks pretty at a long viewing distance. But the same image would look significantly better if it were printed on any traditional inkjet: roll to roll, hybrid, combo, or dedicated flatbed.

The LAC system (the newer version) is not “bad;” it is that airbrush was never intended to be high resolution at close viewing distance, and inkjet requires tolerances down to the millimeter. No way to achieve that pushing the printer across a floor and aiming it at a wall or vehicle.

Raffael Heavy Duty F10 Flatbed

This printer is advertised to print on carpets, ceramic tiles, PVC, metal, wood, plastics, etc. But the price is about a quarter of a million dollars.

Nowadays you can obtain a hybrid flatbed UV inkjet printer for under $80,000 USD (GCC StellarJET 183UVK). You can obtain a combo-flatbed UV printer for under $90,000 USD (EFI Rastek H700). And you can get a 4x8' (or larger) UV flatbed for under $60,000 (Gerber Solara ion V).

For less than a quarter of a million dollars you could get an Oce Arizona 350, one of the highest precision flatbeds around, or you could probably get a Durst Rho UV-curable combo flatbed as well.

My question is, what advantage does an airbrush printer have today (other than lower cost of paint)? The last airbrush printer I saw was from the early 1990's in the VUTEk “museum” in New Hampshire. VUTEk moved to inkjet technology by the late 1990's.

General Comments on air brush signage printer technology

However the LAC company seems alive and well, and every year at VISCOM Italy, and occasionally at other European shows, I see a LAC printer in a booth. It is nice to see that the LAC printers in 2008 can produce better quality than in previous years.

Décor, Architectural Decoration, with wide-format inkjet printers

Many of our readers ask us about printers for printing décor, for interior decoration.

Fortunately, my brother studied architecture at Yale University, and was a senior executive at the Washington DC office of HOK Architects. Another Hellmuth relative works at HOK, not surprising since H = Hellmuth. HOK is the largest architectural firm in the world. My father, grandfather, and great uncle were all architects. So it is not unexpected that I studied architecture also, at Harvard university.

My younger brother, Daniel, studied architecture at Georgia Tech and ETH in Switzerland.

I have dedicated much of my life to the study of pre-Columbian architectural history (Maya architecture of Mexico, Belize, Guatemala, and Honduras).

So I have a background in décor and architectural decoration and it is probably not too unpredictable that I study digital imaging technology for architectural decoration and interior decoration (décor).

But most of this technology for printing on wood, stone, tiles, glass, etc is inkjet, not air brush. And UV-cured, not solvent. There are at least four or five different FLAAR Reports that list and picture the diverse architectural materials you can print on.

Of the other brands of printers offered by TCG, the VALJET R1600 has potential for glass, metal, and other materials. But this is inkjet, not air brush.

But if you, or your clients, have a material that only a roll-up LAC printer can handle, then now you know where to obtain one. Just be aware that airbrush is a technology from past decades. You can obtain higher quality today from inkjet: but…but inkjet inks are limited, and you can indeed pump other kinds of colorants through an airbrush system. So for some niche markets, a LAC printer may be better than inkjet.

ichelangelo NA Evolution, LAC Michelangelo NNV airbrush spray system
TCG booth at VISCOM Italy 2008.

 

First posted January 26, 2009, based on seeing another LAC printer at VISCOM Milano trade show, winter 2008 in Italy.