Conversion brings BigPrinter to UK

The Russian company BigPrinter is to start selling its wide format BigJet printers and BigZee routers in Britain through distributor Conversion UK. I dropped by the recent Sign and Digital show at the NEC Birmingham, to take a look at one of these printers.

This BigJet UV flatbed from BigPrinter takes up to eight colour channels.

The man behind BigPrinter is Arkadiy Agamirov, who started off some ten years ago distributing wide format printers in Russia from a number of well-known brands. He says that the experience of dealing with customers frustrated over some of the limitations of these printers led him to develop his own machines. He had already developed a range of CNC routers so it seemed like a logical step. There are roughly 150 of these printers running in Russia and over 500 of the CNC routers. The company has expanded recently into Germany, France and Italy, and now the UK.

The BigJet is an impressively solid-looking machine for the price. It’s a large flatbed, with a 3100 x 2020mm bed that takes substrates up to 105mm in height and 50kg in weight. The bed itself is divided into four vacuum zones. 

It’s fitted with Konica Minolta 1024i printheads, with a choice between 6 or 13 picolitre native drop sizes, giving users a choice between better image quality or faster speeds. These are greyscale heads, with up to eight levels from 0 to 42pl, though Agamirov was at pains to point out that using multiple drop sizes slows down the printer because Konica Minolta achieves the larger drops by multi-pulsing – firing multiple 6 or 13 picolitre drops so that they merge to form larger drops. 

It can take up to eight heads for CMYK plus light cyan, light magenta, white and varnish. Alternatively, you could forgo the light colours and use two channels each for the white and varnish, or even just run two sets of CMYK, depending on the applications you’re trying to serve. You could also mix and match the heads, using say the 6pl heads for the colours and the 13pl ones for the white ink. There’s a recirculation system for the white ink that recirculates the ink through the piping to the head and back.

The ink comes from a well-known Japanese ink supplier – Agamirov prefers not to say who – but it won’t come as a surprise to anyone reading this site, and Agamirov confirms that Konica Minolta has approved the ink for this printer. 

It will print to all the usual wide format materials as well as substrates such as glass without needing a primer. 

For now the BigJet uses conventional UV curing, though Agamirov says that he is developing an LED version, which will be cheaper. The LED version should be shown at Fespa. In the meantime, it uses air cooling on the carriage to keep the media from overheating.

Arkadiy Agamirov, general manager of BigPrinter.

For now the BigJet is available in two versions. The Standard configuration uses 120 watt UV lamps and is available with either 6 or 13pl heads. The 6 picolitre heads produce 20-28 sqm/hr with a maximum resolution of 1016 x 1440 dpi, while the 13 pl versions print at 21 – 30 sqm/hr with resolution up to 720 x 1440 dpi. The Standard edition comes with a PhotoPrint RIP and costs £88,000.

The Professional variant gains a number of advantages, including much more powerful 200 watt lamps. It also has a linear motor for moving the print carriage on the X-axis as well as linear encoders for the X and Y axis, which together add up to more accurate and repeatable movements of the print carriage, and therefore better image quality. Better still, the white channels are fitted with a slightly different version of the 1024i heads to extend the recirculating system through the printheads. Print speeds for the 6pl heads range from 28 – 39 sqm/hr at 1270 x 1440 dpi while the 13 pl version runs at 30 to 43 sqm/hr with resolution up to 1016 x 1440 dpi. 

This costs £120,000. This includes an Onyx RIP though customers can specify a Caldera RIP for a slightly higher cost. 

I saw one of these printers running at the Sign and Digital show and I have to say that the print quality did appear to be extremely good, though it obviously follows that any competent vendor is only going to risk printing files that they’re very confident about in a public forum like a trade show.

Agamirov says that some customers in Russia buy the Standard version and upgrade the lamps to the 200 watt of the Professional models, which is a good compromise though frankly I think that even at full price the Professional version is extremely competitive and will be hard to beat. Agamirov says that you need the more powerful lamps to print to cheaper media.

The CNC router, the BigZee, is available in several sizes ranging from 1000 x 1600mm up to 2100 x 3200mm. You can find further details on the machines themselves from www.bigprinter.com or from the UK distributors at www.conversion-uk.com (who also handle the Highcon digital finishing machines).


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