Canon has just announced a new range of Océ Arizona flatbeds, the 6100 series, which is likely to be one of the highlights of the Fespa show. It’s a considerably bigger machine than previous Arizonas, and sees Canon attempting to move up into the mid-volume production market. It can produce 100 sqm/hr in its Production mode, or roughly 24 8×4 boards per hour, and up to 155 sqm/hr in its Express mode.
As it happens, I visited Canon’s Vancouver facility a short while back to see a prototype of this new model. There was a Canon banner on the front entrance, but the place has been through a few different guises. Canon acquired it along with the rest of Océ back in 2012. Before that, it was part of Cymbolic Sciences and then Rastergraphics. But the company’s original genesis was in making parts for NASA’s space programme, with the optics behind some of the high resolution cameras used to photograph the earth from space having been developed there. Not surprisingly there was a real can-do attitude amongst the people working there.
These days they make the Arizona flatbed printers. Since the first Arizona, the 250GT, Océ has filled out the range with faster and bigger machines, developing some 20 different models in just seven years. The 6100 series is a completely new platform and Canon will undoubtedly use it as a base to develop further printers. For now there are two models: the 6160 XTS is a six-colour machine, having CMYK plus light cyan and light magenta; the 6170 XTS uses seven colours, having an extra channel with white ink. However, there is space in the machine for an eighth channel, which could in the future be used for an additional white channel, a varnish or even for adding extra colour sets.
There are 42 printheads, six per colour. Canon says this printer is the first to use this type of head, and although Canon won’t say which heads it’s using, Jeff Edwards, international product marketing manager for Océ display graphics, did confirm that it is the same vendor as with previous Arizonas, which would make them Toshiba Tec heads.
Fred Robinson, project manager for R&D, explains: “When we first looked at printheads there were several vendors. We did an extensive study which took about two years and we focussed on the quality and the reliability of the printing technology and based on all these factors we decided to go with the multiple drops. At the time it was one of the first multiple drop printheads on the market. We feel it’s still the best technology.”
These are greyscale heads, with a basic six picolitre drop, rising to 42 picolitres in seven stages. For reference, six picolitres is about a third the size of a human hair. When the bigger drops are fired they stretch out into several smaller drops and then combine in flight to make one large droplet. Robinson says: “The idea to put bigger drops to build up the size is key to productivity and quality.”
The bed is 3.5x2m and is completely flat to a tolerance of 350 microns. The flatness is important in controlling the distance that the drop is fired from the head to the media surface. The smaller droplets won’t travel very far regardless of how fast they are fired at the media because they don’t have enough mass to develop much momentum so the engineers aim for a gap of just 1.5mm.
For this new platform Canon has developed a dual beam carriage to support the weight of the heavier print shuttle. The beams are made of glass, which can be perfectly straight and flat. The carriage itself sits on air bearings so that it floats along the beam.
There’s no option for roll-fed materials and Edwards makes no apologies for this, saying: “It’s absolutely optimised for sheet media production.” This in turn means that the inks have been formulated for rigid media, and are better suited for printing to plastics.
The first installations should start from September. Canon hadn’t fixed the price when I saw the machine other than to suggest that it would be in the region of €300-350,000. Pierre-Olivier Esteban, European marketing director for digital graphics for Canon, says: “Our ambition is to come with a high quality at the price where the market is today.”
He estimates that the market size in Europe for this speed and price is around 300 machines. He adds that the Arizonas have around a third of the European market for the sector they currently compete in, something which is bound to give competitors such as Durst and SwissQprint something to think about.
Fujifilm will also rebadge this as an Acuity, explaining why it decided against the Avoset prototype, developed by Inca Digital, that it showed at the London Fespa show last year. Meanwhile Screen, which has named its version of the Avoset as the W3200UV, has just added another row of heads, nearly doubling the print speed and making it a formidable competitor.
Most of the customers that Canon showed the prototype to seemed impressed, with several that I spoke to saying that they would probably order one.