3M keeps trying to get into the UV-curable wide-format printer market with Piezo Ink Jet Ink 2700UV Series Print

For years 3M was a leader in electrostatic printers (3M Scotchprint 2000). This technology began to wane already by 2000 and by 2002 was dying and is effectively zilch today. This is ironic, since most printshops that still use 3M and Xerox (Versatec) electrostatic printers are earning a bundle of profit and print day and night. But electrostatic printers had too many quirks, color management was a nightmare, and there was simply no new technology available to generate improved models.

FLAAR is offering personalized consulting at each trade show. You can walk-the-floor with the Senior Editor of FLAAR and get his comments on any and all printers, inks, RIP software, color management, substrates, applications, etc.

So if you wish to learn about the difference between combo, hybrid, and dedicated UV printers, how latex ink compares, about textile printers, etc. contact FLAAR to obtain consulting.

You can also get consulting before ISA or FESPA anywhere in the world: Dubai, India, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, China, Korea, London and more.

UV-curable inkjet printers came on the scene by the late 1990’s (Sias Digital and Mechatron, sold by PerfectaPrint). By 2000 Durst was showing its Rho 160 and Sericol was showing the Inca Eagle. By 2001 L&P entered the market with their first Virtu model UV-cured printer. Since L&P was not previously a printer manufacturer, nor an ink manufacturer, they selected 3M to help market their printer.

Unfortunately people who used this early 3M uv-curable ink said it had many issues. And 3M is not really a printer company: they are a consumables company. This is a polite way of saying that their attempt to sell the L&P Virtu printer was not successful. Thus it’s rather strange that the 3M Printer 2500UV is still featured on the 3M web site as recently as September 2007!

In the meantime, L&P long ago offers other kinds of UV inks, and for Europe Spuehl sells these printers.

Chemical and ink companies all want part of the growing UV market

There is more profit in selling ink then in selling printers. So many chemical companies that make ink hope to earn some of the profits from the growing UV market.

The problem is that to sell your ink, there must be a printer that requires just your ink. Otherwise these printers will use someone else’s ink.

So far the only ink company that has been successful selling printers is Sericol (they sell the Inca Columbia Turbo and Inca Spyder 320).

Agfa tried to sell it’s own eco-solvent ink on its Grand Sherpa Universal solvent printers. This venture failed due to problems between its ink and the Epson printheads.

Agfa then tried to develop a new UV printer, in order to create a market for its UV ink. The Anapurna 100 was a fabulous printer. Unfortunately it was before its time. The FLAAR Reports on this printer indicate why it failed.

DuPont also decided they needed to get into the UV printer ink business. But no other printer manufacturer wanted to use their ink (not because it’s a bad ink, but because Sericol and Sun Chemical already control the market). So DuPont visited most of the Chinese printer factories, and selected the factory that makes Flora. Unfortunately the first manufacturing runs were virtually unusable; and even the final printers were not as good as printers made in Taiwan, Korea, and nowhere near as capable and productive as printers made in Japan, Canada, the US, Europe, or Israel. So unfortunately the DuPont foray into selling printer hardware ended sort of the same way as did Agfa’s eco-solvent ink and 3M’s initial joint-venture with L&P.

The lesson learned: a chemical company may be good at making chemicals, or good in allying with other chemical companies (since some of this UV ink is a joint-venture). But selling and servicing hardware is a risky business, probably best left to companies with prior success in selling hardware.

3M flexible UV inks for vehicle wrap for Durst Rho 160R printer

3M flexible UV inks for vehicle wrap
3M booth at ISA 2007

But the allure of profit encourages the chemical companies to keep trying.

3M Piezo Ink Jet Ink Series 2600 UV is a flexible UV-curable inkjet ink announced for 2005. I have not heard of many people using it.

3M’s Piezo Inkjet Ink Series 2700UV inks is an improved flexible UV-curable inkjet ink announced in 2006. The 3M MCS warranty offers 5 years outdoors and 7 years indoor longevity.

In order to create a printer that would require it’s 3M ink, 3M worked out a relationship with Durst. Since SGIA ‘06 there have been PR releases about the Durst Rho 160R printer, a rebirth of the circa year 2000 Durst Rho 160, but with 3M inks.

However the Durst Rho 160R printer is effectively invisible. I have not seen it at any US trade show, and if shown at FESPA it was not noticeable. Actually I have never seen the Durst Rho 160R printer anywhere, neither in a 3M booth nor in a Durst booth.

Durst Rho 160, 3M Piezo Ink Jet Ink Series reviews
Durst Rho 160R, 3M at Durst factory visit 2008.

Plus it’s a challenge to find it even on the 3M site. I gave up after trying the 3M search engine that spun endlessly for several minutes without a single result.

3M flexible UV-curable inks available for ColorSpan 5440uv printers.

GBPm inks are available for the ColorSpan 5440uv series of printers. They replace ColorSpan’s Solachrome UV inks (from Sun Chemical). The 3M GBPm inks are covered by 3M MCS warranty.

How this 3M ink option will be affected by Hewlett-Packard’s purchase of ColorSpan remains to be seen.

FLAAR now offers consulting services for ink companies

Having seen so many ink companies lose millions of dollars, FLAAR now offers consulting services for ink companies. So you will increasingly see new coverage of wide-format inkjet inks on our web sites.



First posted October 1, 2007.