Sign and Digital 2014

This year's Sign and Digital show was busy.
This year’s Sign and Digital show was busy.

The Sign and Digital Show is a difficult one for journalists like myself to call – we naturally tend to focus on the news angle and to look for new products – but for most visitors this show is mainly about a day out to network and to learn about new opportunities. That said, this year there were several new machines to look at and the show seemed to be really busy.

AEG used the show to launch its first wide format printer, the Voyager Pro, which is part of a determined push into the printing sector. This is a hybrid UV printer, which AEG claims is the first to offer metallic printing. Karim Ladhu, CEO of AEG’s UK professional printing division, says that the UV market is forecast to more than double in the next five years, adding: “And there’s not really that many major brands in this space. We feel that we have a huge heritage of engineering experience and know how and can shake this up a bit.”

The Voyager Pro uses Xaar 1002. The basic model prints in CMYK but it can be field upgraded with up to eight colours, including white and metallic, with AEG in the process of developing further colours for extended gamut. It’s available in 2050 and 3200mm versions. There’s also a standard Voyager model, available in 1650 and 2200mm widths, that also takes up to eight colours, but doesn’t appear to support the metallic ink.

AEG is hoping to make a splash in the printer market with the Voyager Pro, a hybrid UV printer.
AEG is hoping to make a splash in the printer market with the Voyager Pro, a hybrid UV printer.

Roland took its first leap into wide format flatbeds with the new VersaUV LEJ-640F. Essentially, Roland has added a bed to its existing LEJ-640 hybrid, something which product manager Brett Newman says customers have been asking for. It has a print area of 1.6×2.5m, and takes media up to 150mm, considerably thicker than most printers which usually take media up to 50mm thick. It’s a CMYK printer with an option for either white ink or gloss in two further channels or one of each. The gloss inks do give some stunning textured and embossed effects. It costs around £75,000. Its available now with the first couple already sold.

Roland's new flatbed, the LEJ-640F.
Roland’s new flatbed, the LEJ-640F.

The Mimaki stand was crammed with printers, including two new models. There’s a new flatbed, the JFX200-2513, which is remarkably compact despite having a 2.4 x 1.2m bed that is suitable for 8×4 boards. It’s a UV machine with LED curing. Better still, it’s priced at just £59,995. Mike Horsten, Mimaki Europe’s marketing manager, says that production speed should be between 18-25sqm/hr and the print quality certainly seemed fairly good at that sort of speed.

Mimaki's new JFX200-2513 is both compact and affordable.
Mimaki’s new JFX200-2513 is both compact and affordable.

Mimaki also showed a new roll to roll printer, the UJV500, a 1.6m wide roll-to-roll UV printer capable of high production volumes that is aimed at the wallcoverings, vehicle wrap and display graphics markets. This will run at up to 60sqm/hr though a more likely production speed is 40sqm/hr.

Both of these printers use the latest Ricoh Gen5 printheads. For both there’s a choice of two inksets, for a harder, more resistant finish or a more flexible ink.

Ricoh was at the show for the first time, demonstrating its latex printer, the Pro L4100, which is essentially a rebadged Mimaki printer. Ricoh also showed off a Pro C751EX digital press, the first time we’ve seen a commercial digital press at a sign show. Gareth Parker, Ricoh’s strategic marketing manager, says that Ricoh has seen growing interest in wide format from commercial printers.

Elsewhere, HP showed off both its new latex printers and the new 60ins Z-series models, which I’ve already covered here in some depth.

Epson showed off its new  SureColor T-series of aqueous ink printers, which I’ve already covered here. Epson also showed off its F2000 direct to garnet printer, a compact printer for adding graphics to items such as T-Shirts. Nick White, Epson’s business manager for professional graphics, says that it’s had a lot of interest, mainly from companies in the promotional gifts market, as well as some sign makers.

Colourgen showed the Mutoh ValueJet 1638X, which claims high print quality at high speed and includes two new resolutions: sprint 360 x 360 dpi and billboard 360 x 720 dpi. It includes many enhancements, including simplified installation, setup and calibration for both installer and machine operator.

On the software front, TimeHarvest demonstrated its MIS, which is based on a FileMaker database as an affordable solution. It compiles quotes from simple ‘pick lists’ of pre-defined values for each process. Once specified, quotes are sent as a PDF attached to an email and automatically addressed to the client. Each quote can carry a promotional message chosen for that client. Successful quotes can be converted into jobs with one click and a colour-coded production board with linked work tickets allows jobs to be moved forward and signed off quickly and efficiently. Branded delivery notes and other job documentation can be produced on completion, right through to the invoice.

Media

Soyang showed its G-Floor, based on a high density, clear, flexible PVC substrate, capable of being printed on the underside, using either UV or solvent inks on a grand-format printer. It has a thick wear layer protecting the integrity of the graphic and is repositionable, with low noise and sound absorbing characteristics. The hard-wearing grip surface is ideally suited to retail, business and public space applications, with a solid white media option available for surface printing where production capability is limited to 4 colour process.

Soyang also showed AlumiGraphics, an aluminium foil base material that conforms and holds to the texture of any surface that it is applied to. It has high durability, resistance to heavy pedestrian and rolling vehicle traffic and is available in smooth or high-grip surface finishes. It can be used with UV curable, latex and solvent printers.

Fujifilm concentrated on its Euromedia brand of media for large format printing, including the UK debut for SmartTack Ghost, a crystal clear, PVC-free polyester self-adhesive film for short and medium term use on smooth flat surfaces. The film’s transparent adhesive makes the material easy to apply and repositionable, but Fujifilm says that it can still be removed after up to three years without leaving a residue. In contrast to many other similar products, repositioning the media does not lead to a reduction in adhesive strength. It’s compatible with eco-/solvent, latex and UV inks.

I-Sub demonstrated its Digi-Foil, digital hot-foiling system, designed  for the packaging, personalisation, awards and display markets. It can produce colour accurate mock-ups and hot-foiling effects in minutes, cutting days or weeks off traditional processes.

QPS demonstrated a new ink, Nazdar 202, at the Sign and Digital show. This ink has been developed specifically for several Roland printers, the Soljet Pro4 XF-640, XR-640 and the VersaCamm VSi range. QPS says that its colour-matched to Roland’s own Eco-Sol Max 2 and offers improved alcohol resistance and superior scratch resistance and rub resistance. QPS also demonstrated Nazdar TX650 dye-sublimation inks on a Roland VersaArt RE-640 printer and the Nazdar LWS133 series inks on a Mimaki CJV30 print-and-cut unit.

All in all, it seemed to be a successful show with plenty of visitors and a good range of kit, despite the Fespa show being just around the corner, which is testament to the strength of the UK wide format market.

 

 

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