EFI Reggiani reveals Bolt XS

EFI Reggiani used its presence at the ITMA textile show to announce a new single pass press, the Bolt XS, and to show off a series of printers running its EcoTerra pigment ink as well as to demonstrate the high productivity Hyper machine.

Scott Schinlever, EFI’s Chief Operating Officer, told journalists at EFI’s press conference: “We are using ITMA to really transform and reinvent our textile business to be one that’s truly digital.” Thus the new Bolt XS can run at up to 100mpm, up from the 90mpm of the existing model, with Schinlever claiming that at this speed the press can challenge against conventional rotary printers. 

It takes woven and knitted fabrics up to 1950mm wide with a maximum print width of 1840mm. However, the Bolt XS is far more than a simple evolution or update to the existing Bolt machine, which was first annnounced in 2018 and then upgraded in 2021. Rather, the company seems to have gone back to the drawing board and redesigned the press from the ground up. 

Doug Edwards, Chief Technical Officer for EFI, told me: “It’s a much smaller machine. We have simplified it and reduced a number of parts. We have got more productivity from the heads and the ink delivery. We have simplified a lot of the sub systems. And when you do that you can bring the cost down a little bit. And there are a lot of features in there, such as a new inspection system that we designed ourselves, that are important because you only get one chance to get it right with single pass.”

The existing Bolt machines use Dimatix printheads but EFI has switched to a new supplier for the new model. Edwards wouldn’t say which heads the Bolt XS uses, other than to note: “We are big believers in thin film piezo.” He added: “I think it is a more reliable printhead. It has a lot more flexibility in terms of the ink and the viscosity of ink that it can handle, which is a big challenge in textile.”

The new printhead has allowed EFI to develop a very compact print chamber, with extractable printing beams that should make it easier for operators to access the printheads. Moreover, the heads feature an automatic calibration system that should allow operators to drop in replacement heads without having to spend any time tuning the new head to match the others on that printbar.

The standard press has four colours but it can be configured with up to eight. There are 28 printheads per colour, meaning a total of up to 224 heads. That in itself is an improvement on the existing Bolt, which according to Edwards, can have up to 300 heads. Fewer heads means less cost, and less points of failure. 

The new head produces variable drop sizes from 5 to 30pl, with resolution up to 600 x 4800 dpi. The head includes full recirculation through the printhead and a new contactless wiping system, which should lead reduce maintenance time and lead to longer life spans for the heads, as well as missing nozzles compensation for dealing with blocked nozzles.

Micol Gamba, product marketing manager for EFI Reggiani

Micol Gamba, product marketing manager for EFI Reggiani, points out: “Productivity without uptime is nothing really so we decided to integrate technology like recirculation and contactless capping.” This is sensible but doesn’t explain why EFI opted to forgo recirculation when it first developed the Bolt. Edwards simply said that the original design predated his tenure at the company.

Naturally the Bolt XS comes with a Fiery RIP plus an option to use InEdit textile design software offline. For now, the Bolt XS exists as a prototype machine at Reggiani’s base. Gamba says there has been a lot of interest from potential customers at the show and that the company is hoping to ship the first unit to a beta test site by the end of this year.

In the meantime, EFI has developed an EcoTerra range of multi-pass printers to exploit its EcoTerra pigment ink, with one of the new models demonstrated at the show. The EcoTerra ink, which was announced last year, builds on the existing Terra pigment ink but with the advantage of not requiring any pretreatment to the fabric. 

Gamba explained: “You can just load any fabric, print it and rewind it and you are ready to go. And it’s not just about turnaround times and being able to service the on-demand market but also about the footprint in the market.”

One of the difficulties in developing a pigment ink is in controlling how the ink behaves when it first lands on the textile. To some extent a pretreatment can help with this but that means an extra process. Consequently most vendors have opted to jet some form of binder first, and then to drop the ink on top so that the binder can ensure that the pigment stays where its meant to and to limit any potential spreading.

EFI has taken a different approach with the binder contained in the ink itself. Gamba explained to me: “We knew that Kornit had a patent for inkjet application of chemistry so it’s a different way to do it.” The process involves printing the image onto the substrate and then passing the substrate to the dryer where there two further processes. Gamba continues: “We heat the fabric and apply chemicals inside the dryer. And then we have two more passes in the dryer to ensure polymerisation. This normally requires 160º to 180ºC because of the quantity of ink. This will fix the pigment and the chemicals that we apply on top.”

The result is that there is no requirement for any other process for either pre- or post-treatment. The printed fabrics have a reasonably soft feel despite the ink sitting on the surface of the material. The EcoTerra ink is available in a seven colour inkset, including CMYK plus red, green and blue.

The EcoTerra printers use Kyocera printheads with full recirculation of inks past the nozzle plate. Gamba says that the ink system is temperature controlled “so we can keep all the ink at a stable temperature to avoid nozzle blocking.” The range includes six printers split across four models, which includes the Gold 8 and Gold  16, which are both 1.8m wide, as well as the Platinum, available in 1.8 and 3.4m widths with 16 heads, and the Titan, also in 1.8 and 3.4m sizes with 32 printheads. The company is taking orders now for delivery later in the year. 

EFI Reggiani has introduced this EcoTerra Gold textile printer.

EFI also announced a new analytics tool, Query, that will show customers how much energy and water is used by each machine, which is something that customers had asked for in order to document this for their customers.

Schinlever noted: “Sustainability is all around water usage, less chemicals, less energy and less space.” He added: “Also the regulations around waste water generation which are going to be tightening very quickly and we certainly see that is coming.”

To underline this, the samples that EFI showed at ITMA were labelled with the ink used and the amount of amount of water used. Schinlever says that the Query system is designed to be used on premises because a lot of customers feel that’s a more secure approach but added: “We will enable it for the cloud later.” 

Quite often, press manufacturers will charge for this type of analytics, even though it’s the customer’s own data that’s being analysed. But EFI appears to be taking a more open approach, with Edwards telling me: “We have a common API that will enable the customers to connect to other people’s software applications such as an MIS.”

EFI also showed the 3.4m wide Reggiani Hyper running on its stand. This was first announced back in 2021 but has now gained the ability to run different classes of ink, such as pigment without binder or pigment with binder. The Hyper has 72 Kyocera printheads, complete with ink recirculation up to the nozzle plate. The heads produce 600dpi resolution. It’s available in several widths including 1.8m and 2.4m but the largest 3.4m wide model can run two rolls in parallel, with different jobs being printed on each roll. The Hyper can run two 1.5m wide rolls at a speed of 10mpm, meaning it can produce 20mpm. Gamba says that this is the same speed that most single pass printers are actually being run at today. This comparison makes the Hyper a very cost effective alternative for anyone needing to print in high volumes. 

Of course, it also undermines the argument for single pass textile printers, which in many ways represent the pinnacle of technical achievement. The idea that people might make the level of investment needed for these printers and then not run them flat-out all the time suggests that there is something wrong with the business model around those presses. 

EFI is betting that the faster, more robust Bolt XS will persuade customers to switch to single pass inkjet from a rotary press, rather than just to supplement their conventional processes at peak times. If the company is successful then that will help increase digital printing’s relatively small share of the overall textile market. But that assumes that productivity is the only bottleneck, where the lesson of digitalisation in other markets such as commercial print is that there also needs to be change in the way that the textile products are sold.

You can find more details on EFI and the Reggiani range, but not the new models, from efi.com.


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