Roland shows off textile and decor prototypes

Roland DG used last week’s Fespa show to demonstrate a number of new concept machines that have been developed by Roland’s European operation, based on existing printers that have been built by Roland Japan, but targeted at specific applications, including textile printing and wall coverings.

Roland has developed this Texart XT 640S, which uses pigmented inks to print directly cotton, taking up to 12 jigs at a time.

Michael Møller Frederiksen, head of service and QA manager for Roland EMEA says that Roland DG’s Japanese headquarters is happy for its European subsidiary to build upon its core technology, adding: “We want to cater for people’s requirements on a regional basis.” 

This includes the Texart XT640S, where Roland has basically taken the print carriage from its Texart 640 roll to roll machine and put this onto a flatbed from the Italian company SmartColor. The Texart is a dye sublimation printer but this new model uses pigment inks that are suitable for printing direct to cotton for applications such as tee shirts and tote bags. It prints CMYK plus a high density white ink. 

The flatbed has a vacuum pump built into it so you could put larger fabric items such as banners direct onto the bed. But, far more interestingly, Roland has an adaptor plate that sits on top of this, where you can attach a number of jigs. The jigs come in two sizes, with nine XL-sized or 12 standard size, which are designed for holding cotton tee shirts in place. It takes 15 minutes to print to all the jigs. However, Frederiksen points out that you can be loading or unloading the jigs at the front of the bed while it’s printing to those at the back so it should be capable of a very reasonable throughput. 

The tee shirts still need to be heat-cured after printing. Frederiksen adds: “The printed tee shirts might feel a little rubbery but after the first wash the remaining pre-treatment disappears.”

The XT640S will initially be offered to the European market, though presumably Roland will also sell it into other regions if there is enough market demand. Actually, Roland has been working on this project for a while, first showing it off at last year’s Fespa and several other shows to judge feedback and is currently planning to launch it by the end of this year. Frederiksen says it’s had very good feedback, which is hardly as it looks like a very sensible idea.

This EJ640 Deco has been modified from a standard solvent printer to take aqueous inks for the interior decor market.

Roland also showed off a wall covering solution, the EJ640 Deco, which has been adapted from a standard EJ640 solvent printer by replacing the solvent inks with water-based resin inks . This ink contains binder components so that it will print to uncoated materials. The base printer is using Epson DXF printheads but the aqueous ink is not from Epson. 

Stefan Höfs, Roland’s business development manager for Industrial printing in central Europe, explains: “We essentially designed it for wall papers but it’s also good for all kinds of interior decor applications. We can print to polyester materials for things like window blinds. The advantage over dye sublimation is the light fastness as it will not fade.” Other applications include things like lamp shades with Höfs noting: There is a lot of interest because the demand for ecologically-printed products is growing.”

Roland changed the ink supply to take 1 litre pouches because printing wall coverings requires long unattended runs. There have also been some small modifications to the take up winders so that it can rewind to the degree of accuracy required for wallpaper use. Roland has also added an ErgoSoft RIP. However, the actually printing and drying systems remain unchanged from the original solvent printer design. 

It’s currently being field tested, although customers can order one now. It should be officially launched by September, and is likely to cost around €25,000. It uses two sets of CMYK inks, which should cost €95/ litre approximately though understandably Roland won’t finalise the price until after the field tests.

It’s worth noting that Roland Europe has worked with SmartColor on other projects, including the Versa UV S-series flatbeds, which are aimed at industrial applications. SmartColor has developed a heavy duty table that allows the print carriage to be supported above the table, at an adjustable height. The advantage is that you can print onto much higher objects than standard. At Fespa, Roland showed a version of its LEC 330-S that could print to objects up to 550mm high, which makes it suitable for a wide range of direct to object applications. SmartColor itself showed a Roland printer with a jig for rotating cylindrical objects beneath printheads.

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