Agfa announces interior décor printer

Agfa has announced a new industrial inkjet printer, the InterioJet 3300, targeted at the interior décor market, including applications such as laminate floors and furniture.

This Agfa InterioJet is based on a Jet Tauro but prints water-based inks to decor paper.

Tom Cloots, director of Industrial Inkjet for Agfa, says that it will help the laminated surface market shift from gravure to digital, adding: “It is the ideal cost-efficient solution for medium and short production runs.” He says that it will enable suppliers of laminated surfaces to gain new business by responding to evolving market demands, including printing on-demand and just-in-time delivery. He noted: “The system allows interior decoration designers to let their creativity run free and create customized designs for every order.”

The InterioJet is a multi-pass device, based on the Jeti Tauro large format printer but uses water-based inks rather than UV LED. Consequently Agfa has added a movable infrared heating station to dry the ink without taking out all the moisture from the media. Also, since the décor paper is much thinner than the substrates the Jeti Tauro would normally handle, Agfa has added a rewinding system with a brush and nip rollers to rewind the printed paper without adding any wrinkles.

It takes Digital decor paper, coated base paper or base paper treated with primer. The primer is applied by analog technologies such as gravure rather than inkjet in order to save cost. 

As with the standard Jeti Tauro, this version is fitted with 60 Ricoh Gen5 printheads though in this case Agfa has used a version suitable for water-based inks. Resolution is 635 x 1200 dpi. The Jeti Tauro has a maximum print width of 3.3m but the InterioJet is set up to print two rolls up to 155 cm wide side by side, which Cloots says is to increase the speed of printing and to allow users to print different designs in parallel, or even to do sampling while printing long runs.

The two rolls can each weigh up to 600 kg. Cloots says: “The media transport is fully split to allow independent printing and to guarantee high quality and uniform colour consistency over the two rolls by minimizing the mechanical bending of rolls that are too long.” With two rolls together it can produce up to 340 sqm/ hr in two pass production mode though there’s also a four-pass quality mode.

It uses Agfa’s own water-based inks and prints CRYKlk. It’s fairly common when printing laminated wood effects to use red rather than magenta ink to replicate the same colours as used in gravure printing. However, there is a risk of metamerism, where two colours appear to match under some lighting conditions but not others, though Cloots says that Agfa has selected pigments to minimize this. Another problem with laminating wood is that it’s extremely hard to print an edge band that can match neatly with the facing board under all light conditions. Cloots says: “We also have a UV ink set specifically designed for metamerism-free edge band printing.”

These inks are said to be light- and waterfast, using specific pigments that deliver a high colour coverage. Agfa says that the ink consumption costs can be reduced by 15 to 30 percent by using its own paper primer, as it holds the pigment particles at the paper surface, resulting in a wider colour gamut.

Cloots says that the inks have been specifically designed to match the requirements of the melamine impregnation and panel lamination processes. This impregnation is not done digitally, but as part of the existing standard process used by the panel manufacturer. The ink itself leaves a thin dried ink layer. The ink is said to be suitable for printing both wood and natural stone such as marble effects with the colour management able to convert the colours to ensure they are printed correctly onto the paper accordingly. Cloots says that the inks themselves will not generate texture effects, but the textures made during the melamine impregnation and panel lamination are compatible with the Agfa inks.

Laminate and décor markets

It is worth pointing out that Agfa has previously developed a range of UV inks for wood laminates. Cloots says: “Our UV inks are used to print directly on the panels. With UV printing, the majority of designs – especially the darker images – are incompatible with the impregnation process. Our water-based inks can handle any design printed on décor paper used in the impregnation and lamination process.”

Indeed, Agfa is no stranger to this market, having been supplying inks to other OEMs for printing to wood laminates for some years now. Cloots explains: “These are similar inks capable of reaching the same colour gamut. The systems that we supply inks for are high-end single-pass printers. We learned from customers that they want to use these single-pass solutions for long runs, just like gravure. The InterioJet now enables them to also print short runs with the same colour output as the single-pass systems.”

He adds: “Our InterioJet is also quite effective for medium runs, and not just for adding logos. Typical customers for this system are flooring and furniture panel manufacturers who want to print short and medium runs in house, as well as gravure printers who are supplying these same flooring and furniture panel manufacturers. The latter would print the long runs (multiple tons of paper) on a gravure line or single-pass printer, and the shorter runs of typically up to 3 tons of paper (37,500 m²) on the InterioJet. Compared to gravure, a digital solution is not limited by the cylinder length, and enables printing more complex designs and non-repetitive patterns. Compared to single-pass inkjet printing, the InterioJet is a more cost-efficient solution for samples and small runs.”

Naturally the InterioJet comes with Agfa’s excellent Asanti workflow software complete with a décor printing plug-in for décor image optimisation. Cloots says that the next version of Asanti will gain extra features specifically for this market, focusing on convenient and colour consistent reprints.

Asanti can also work in conjunction with the industry standard AVA CAD CAM software. Cloots says: “AVA is used to match the present gravure printing as closely as possible. Together with AVA’s tech team we make sure that there is a faithful exchange of colour data between AVA and Asanti.”

The InterioJet is available now. You can find further details from Readers may remember that this is the second time that Agfa has adapted the Jeti Tauro to create an industrial printing solution, having also used the 2.5m wide version for its Alussa leather printing solution. 

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