Fujifilm launches Samba G5L printhead

Fujifilm Dimatix has announced the latest addition to its range of Samba printheads, with the new Samba G5L. This is a variation on the existing G3L, and is also aimed at single pass printing with Fujifilm planning to target different applications with each of the two heads.

The Samba G5L has a larger 3.5pl native drop size and is targeted at single pass corrugated packaging and textile applications.

The main difference is that the native drop size has increased from 2.4pl in the G3L to 3.5pl for the G5L. The G3L can produce drops up to 10pl but the G5L can manage drops up to 13pl. This gives the G5L a much greater flow rate, up to 450 nm-kHz from the 360 ng-kHz of the G3L. Fujifilm claims 25 percent more productivity for the G5L over the G3L based upon the higher flow rate that the bigger drop size enables. This larger drop size also means more fault tolerance for errors while printing which translates into faster print speeds. 

The larger drop sizes also allow for a greater standoff distance, up to 4mm for the G5L whereas the standoff for the G3L is up to 2mm. David Grose, Fujifilm Dimatix’s product manager for the Samba heads, notes: “With that higher standoff you are less likely to contact the substrate and it gives you better uptime.” However, it’s usually best in inkjet to keep the nozzles close to the substrate because the movement of the substrate in a single pass printer, or of the head carriage in a scanning device, plus the constant jetting create a lot of turbulent air that makes it harder to accurately place the ink drops in the right spot. It’s possible to increase the standoff distance by adding an air assist feature – a curtain of jets that create a uniform airflow – but this adds extra cost and complexity to the overall system.

The airflow can also lead to an unpleasant woodgrain effect, as Grose explains: “We found that if you look at airflow going under the printhead, if you have a very high standoff or if your nozzles are bunched close together, you’ll see that the drops will then form on the substrate and follow the airflow and that kind of looks like wood grain, and that’s not desirable. So we’ve designed our printheads to minimise that effect.”

Fujifilm mainly sees the G3L as being suitable for markets such as commercial print, UV label, flexible packaging and PCB manufacturing. The new printhead will help Fujifilm reach new markets. Grose says: “We think that the G5L is especially well suited to the corrugated packaging and textile market segments. That’s not to say that it can’t go after other applications.” But he points out that these markets are characterised by the need for higher standoff before the woodgrain effect becomes apparent, bigger drop size and higher laydown.

He adds: “Corrugated needs very high print speeds and high standoff and when you get that high standoff you need high reliability to be able to do all that. So that’s the key to corrugated packaging printing.” Indeed, the G5L has already been used in BHS Corrugated’s RSR digital print unit, which has been developed by Screen and its UK subsidiary Inca Digital. This runs at 300mpm, with a print width of 2.8m and is aimed at corrugated box plants.  

Grose continues: “And then textile is similar. With the one difference being that you really need high coverage. If you look at the grams per square metre, which is really a metric for laydown, and how much ink needs to go down on the substrate, with corrugated it will be probably 7-10 grams per square metre, whereas textile is probably 13-15 grams per square metre, so significantly higher coverage is needed for textile. So that’s where the G5L shines, as well as the high standoff.”

Grose points out that although these are 1200 x 1200 dpi printheads, they can be run in different models, such as 1200 x 600dpi, which leads to much faster print speeds – up to 300mpm – with the same degree of coverage. 

Screen showed off this printbar with Samba printheads, developed for BHS Corrugated, at Drupa 2016.

The G5L can handle aqueous and solvent fluids though Fujifilm is not recommending it for use with UV inks. Grose explains: “It’s not like it’s not compatible as far as ink goes, it’s just that because of the jet design, the G3L actually outperforms the G5L with UV inks. So you could use the G5L with UV depending on your needs but I think that you would find that in almost every case the G3L would outperform the it so we are not recommending it.” There’s a slight difference in the viscosity range that each head will accept, with 4-8cPs for the G3L and 5-9 cPs for the G5L. Grose notes: “That generally follows the trend that as passages and nozzles get bigger the viscosity tends to want to be a little bit higher.”

Otherwise, the new G5L shares all the characteristics of the existing G3L. The Samba heads all use a silicon MEMs nozzle plate combined with MEMs sputtered PZT. Both heads have 2048 nozzles, with a print width of 43mm, resolution of 1200 dpi and firing frequency of 100kHz.

They use Fujifilm’s Versadrop feature to produce multiple drop sizes. Grose says: “This is where you can dial in the drop sizes that you need for your application. So it’s not just greyscale – our printheads are open architecture so that customers can develop wave forms for the precise drop size and location accuracy that they might need. So we are not locking anybody into any one drop size.” The different drop sizes are formed by merging drops at the meniscus. Grose adds: “With some of the competition the last drop catches up with the first drop and then it merges in flight. We like to form ours right as it is expelled.”

The Samba heads also use Fujifilm’s Redijet ink recirculation, which helps with quick priming and avoids the risk of ink drying in the nozzles and generally helps to reduce the amount of maintenance required. 

The samba heads can be used at temperatures go up to 60ºC. Grose explains: “We do not have a heater within the samba. We help customers heat the head through the ink circulation. We have a pretty sophisticated circulation route within the head which then gives you your thermal transfer to get the temperature you need. For single pass we think that works really well and that’s the feedback we are getting from our customers as well. We do have thermistors and temperature sensors in the head to assist with temperature control.”

Another characteristic of the Samba design is that the printheads can be slotted directly next to each other to create a very compact printbar. They use a dovetail bracket for simple assembly and field replacement, complete with a parallelogram design for inline stitching. 

The G5L is shipping now. There’s no difference in price between the G3L and G5L – the overall architecture is the same so it’s just a question of which type best suits any given application. You can find more details about the Samba G5L and other printheads from fujifilm.com.

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