A show of two halves

Earlier this month I dropped by the Fespa Digital show in Amsterdam, which turned out to be the tenth anniversary of the Digital only event. It was a busy show with a good turnout of visitors.  There was an interesting mix, as much about applications as new equipment, which seemed to work well for those visitors that I spoke with.

Fespa2016Getting into the show proved more difficult than expected since no one had told the security that the press office would open an hour before the main event. After five minutes of gesticulating and shouting at a security guard through sound proof glass I finally found a Fespa person to let me in and left her to argue the foolishness of opening a press office if they weren’t going to let journalists in.

To my mind the most interesting product shown at Fespa was the Durst WT250, which just feels wrong since it was also the most interesting product at last year’s Fespa show. But Durst has refined the drying system and it’s now due to be commercially available this May. It uses a hybrid water-based UV ink that produces a very vibrant, glossy image, with a low film weight. It can print to paper and board and Durst is testing it with plastics such as polyester and flexible films so that it will be suitable for short run packaging applications. Print speeds range from 120 sqm/hr for high quality up to 400 sqm/hr for cardboard. It was shown at Fespa in a flatbed cut sheet configuration but can also be fitted out for roll to roll production.

Fespa2016HP announced a new flatbed printer, the Scitex 9000, which would have been the most talked about printer if it had turned up. But instead we’ll have to wait till Drupa to see it. Then again, it’s essentially a stripped down Scitex 11000 that allows printers to buy a high volume production printer without necessarily having the volume to fill it from the start. As customers find their work load increasing, so they can add more automated loading features, upgrading the machine to the same spec as the Scitex 11000. It’s a neat idea that overcomes the single biggest hurdle in buying a printer of this scale.

Fujifilm showed an interesting new printer, the Uvistar 320 Hybrid, based on a Synergia printer from Novus Imaging. It’s a 3.2m wide hybrid that uses 72 Fujifilm Dimatix Q class printheads. It has nine colours – CMYK plus light cyan, light magenta, light black, orange and white. It has a very wide top platen that makes it easier for boards to be fed continuously so that it keeps printing more or less non-stop and can print up to 201 sqm/hr. It will be officially launched at Drupa.

EFI made a big effort, launching several printers, including a new version of its flagship HS Pro model, the HS125, which can produce up t 125 boards per hour. There’s also a new version of its mid-range 3.2m hybrid with LED curing, the LX3 Pro and a new version of the Matan Quantum, which was shown at the last Fespa, prior to EFI’s acquisition of Matan. EFI also showed two new variants of its entry-level H1625 LED, one which take SD inks for thermoforming and the other taking inks developed with 3M specifically for printing road signage.

Apart from these, the other thing that caught my eye was a robotic system demonstrated by Zund with an S3 M800 cutting table, which was used to take cut graphics from the conveyor bed. This was combined with a sheet feeder for loading, giving a fully automated solution, costing around €135,000 including the cutting table. It’s a fairly standard robot and Stefan Lang, head of sales and marketing, says that it should be possible to integrate any existing robotic system. It comes with a universal head with a set of grippers that can be positioned according to the demands of the job. Lang adds: “We can also equip it with different heads.”

Fespa2016But perhaps the clearest trend from this year’s Fespa was the continuing development of digital textile printing. Several vendors showed new textile printers, including Durst, which launched a new 5m wide Rhotex 500, and EFI, with a new Reggiani printer that I’ve already covered, as well as garment printers from Kornit. But the textile market is too complex to cover here, given that it includes garments, home furnishings and decor as well as soft signage so will have to wait for another day.

For those of you that are interested, the coffee in the press office was drinkable, though it needed a degree to work out how to use the machine, and the Espresso option was best avoided.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *