Sun Chemical Digital FastJet UV printer for corrugated packaging Print

The FastJet was introduced as a prototype at DRUPA 2000. Then it disappeared for several years. Then it gradually appeared as a test prototype at a few locations but has not been shown at any recent digital imaging trade show. It was not even shown at DRUPA 2008; instead there was a bus or something to take you to a beta site. But I was discretely told that “it's still not finished and has some glitches” so I did not waste my time going to a smoke-and-mirrors staged PR event.

In the meantime, the competition is the Scitex Vision CORjet (originally the Belcom 2000 and now the HP Scitex FB6700) and for a year or so the Durst Rhopac. We have a FLAAR Report on the Durst Rhopac that most technology of those years is now surpassed. Of course today the Rhopac is unlikely a current model. Two of our clients (people who come to FLAAR to ask for assistance) have inspected the Durst Rho 1000 and provided their feedback to me. The results of their inspections were quite different from what I would have expected.

There is also a preliminary FLAAR Report on the Sun FastJet. Indeed we are very much looking forward to seeing the next-generation FastJet and seeing how it compares with the HP Scitex FB6700. The HP Scitex FB6700 we have seen at the Sign Spain and the Graph Expo trade shows, both in 2006. This is a very impressive printer, that produces high quality considering its speed and the cheap cardboard it is printing on.

The politics is complex on the Sun FastJet printer: Inca Digital (which manufactures the FastJet for Sun chemical ink company) is owned by Screen but distributed by Sericol ink company which is owned by Fujifilm. The Inca Digital facilities (their two adjacent factories: Inca and FastJet) were very impressive.

Sun Chemical Digital FastJet evaluations
Here is Dr. Nicholas Hellmuth (at the right) at factory visit for FastJet company, 2007.

FLAAR will feature Printers for Corrugated Packaging Materials

Packaging has been a major market for flexo, offset, and gravure printing processes. But if you need short runs, and especially if you need proofing, there is a lot of uncertainty if your world is flexography, offset printing, or gravure. The situation is exasperated by all the PR releases that herald everything as a Success Story. So sophisticated packaging printing owners and managers are coming to FLAAR discretely and asking for help moving to digital inkjet.

We at FLAAR are especially interested in all printers that can handle flat and rigid materials as a way to make cut-outs for museum display.

One of the first attempts at a UV printer specifically for packaging was the Durst Rhopac. The Rhopac and FastJet both use UV-curing ink chemistry with traditional industrial piezo printheads. The Scitex CORjet uses Aprion printheads and water-based inks.

The Durst Rhopac was a relatively straightforward combo-style UV printer accommodated for packaging materials. The FastJet is a million dollar production factory. Today, in 2009, there are newer options from other companies (again, this is why packaging companies ask FLAAR for consultation, because many of the options are not yet pubished elsewhere).

The HP Scitex FB6700 CORjet printer has a three or more year head start. Yet the FastJet, because it newer, may have advantages. But (as we mention at the end), the FastJet printer seems to have disappeared again: it was absent from the biggest trade show in Europe: FESPA '07 in Berlin. And was absent from FESPA '08 and FESPA '09!

These are all questions that FLAAR will be asking. Since this is complex technology, time will depend on industry funding for training and visits to the respective factories and demo rooms of each company. No university in the world has money to send its professors around the world to receive in-person documentation, training, and experience of this nature. All universities depend on sponsorship and funding from industry.

Being an independent research institute offers advantages. Since we are not a trade magazine, we don't have to accept advertising. Since FLAAR is a non-profit educational institute, we do not need to accept sales commissions. Our reward comes when we get an e-mail back from our readers thanking us for having helped them learn about the new inkjet printing technologies.

When we are at a trade show, every hour print shop owners come up to thank us for having helped them decide which printer, which RIP, which color management solution to consider. But for us to be able to provide these services, we do need sufficient income, which is why we appreciate sponsorship and when you, our readers, when you order FLAAR Reports.

Sun Chemical Digital FastJet printer Image of Sun Chemical Digital FastJet printer reviews
Picture of Sun Chemical Digital FastJet compared with Durst Rhopac and HP Scitex Vision CORjet (HP Scitex FB6700) Photo of Sun Chemical Digital FastJet corrugated carton press
The best way to learn about a UV-cured flatbed printer is to visit the factory and look at every aspect of the printer. Since an increasing number of print shops are using FLAAR Reports as their homework for learning which printer to select, for the years to come is to visit more factories so we can bring to our readers unique documentation that is not available in PR releases or pseudo Success Stories.

Here is Nicholas at the development site of Sun Chemical's inkjet printer division in the Inca Digital factory, Cambridge, UK. This is a pleasant two hour drive from London's Heathrow airport. We had an outstanding opportunity to learn about both Inca's own printers as well as the separate Sun FastJet machine.

reviews of the Sun Chemical Digital FastJet
Samples printed by the Sun Chemical Digital FastJet UV printer.
Sun Chemical Digital FastJet UV printer for corrugated packaging

What is the current status of the Sun FastJet?

While at the Sun FastJet factory several years ago we were told that this printer was being shipped to a beta test site in Europe, and that it would be possible to visit this site before FESPA 07. It is not appropriate to issue any recommendation until we learn how (or whether, or if) a printer can function in the real world.

But we never head back about the beta test site despite writing several times asking, and the printer was not at FESPA '07 trade show. Plus I did not hear one single colleague speaking, or asking, about the Sun FastJet all five days of FESPA.

I had intended to visit the Sun Chemical booth, but when I saw they had zero printers and since no one elsewhere at the show even mentioned it, I skipped the booth since there were so many other exciting printers that were present to inspect, such as the Durst Rho 351and Durst Rho 800. Besides, technology does not stand still, and during the now FIVE YEAR DELAY, other technologies are available from competing companies.

Status of the Sun FastJet in 2009-2010

I heard through the grapevine that there was a wider version of the Sun FastJet now. Unanswered is the question: if the narrow version was never fully finished, why did they risk a wider version?

In late 2009 I heard a comment that there were continued issues. Since you don't get this kind of admission if you are trying to buy a million-dollar printer you can see why so many packaging companies come to FLAAR to ask for an independent assessement.

All you get on the Internet is commercial PR agencies repeating what the manufacturer's PR agency wants you to believe about these printers. Why have there been no reliable reports on the Sun FastJet? And why is the Inca Digital Onset functional whereas the Sun FastJet has issues? Both are made in the same factory (actually in adjacent buildings). Another question is to what degree is the choice of Sericol ink a factor in any of this?

In early 2010 I heard an additional disparaging comment on the Sun FastJet, so unless I can see it in action myself, either in the factor or at a beta site, II will rely on comments of the other printshop owners who kindly provide feedback to FLAAR.

It seems that if a printshop needs a digital inkjet to replace a flexographic, offset or gravure packaging printer, that there should be a more realistic source of reliable information than PR agencies (now you see why people fly the FLAAR director across the globe, since it is a lot more economical to cut to the chase and get the facts on what is really functional and what is just a Success Story by a PR agency).

What kind of transport mechanism for short-run packaging

With UV-cured printers you have many options: dedicated flatbed, moving transport belt (combo), roll-to-roll, and several other methods to move the packaging material. Naturally the engineering system depends on the size, weight, thickness, and other features of the packaging material: what if the material is thin? Maybe the extreme heat of the UV-curing lamps would melt or distort it!

So here is another reason why packaging company managers and owners like to speak with FLAAR: we already have twelve years in the inkjet printing world. Plus there is a lot more to packaging printing than production: the world of proofing is crucial. And often the brand owner wants to test a new design or new color in a specific market: here is the obvious need for figuring out which new ink, which printer, can handle proofing and perhaps short run. Or do you need a separate printer: one for proofing and one for short-run production!

The seeming failure of year after year after year, of millions after millions of dollars from Sun Ink, and still no resounding success, naturally raises the question of what other companies are also having issues. And which other company is having success.

We have our own short list of printers that can replace flexo for packaging. We have initial pros and cons, and have basic knowledge of issues and benefits of each platform: this is information you will not get at a demo room, not get from a sales rep, and never see in any trade magazine. These are all reasons why packaging printing companies come to FLAAR. Indeed we are also consultants for custom-made packaging printers: we access whether a packaging company should consider a custom-made machine.

So download our information on consulting and let's see how FLAAR can assist in your search for an optimal printing for packaging (and how to discretely avoid printers that look good at a trade show booth, but have issues once they are out in the real world).

Considering how much you will pay for the wrong printer, the consulting fee is a good deal. At least we can alert you to a reality check printer-by-printer.

Most recently updated February 8, 2010.

First posted Jan. 5, 2006. Updated Oct 30, 2006, Nov 27, 2006, June 18, 2007, Nov. 13, 2009.