SwissQprint, which has developed a solid range of wide format flatbed devices, has now announced a new UV roll to roll printer, the Karibu, launched at this week’s Fespa show.
The Karibu is a 3.4m wide printer. The imaging system has been adapted from the flatbeds. So it uses the same A-grade Konica Minolta 1024i printheads, complete with coated nozzle plates as the flatbeds. There are nine channels, meaning CMYK plus five channels for any combination of light colours, white or varnish inks. The standard configuration is for a single row of printheads but you can add a second row, giving two heads per channel to double the productivity.
It can produce up to 212 sqm/hr at 1080 x 360 with one pass though Steve Pridham, SwissQprint sales manager for UK distributor Spandex, says that you’ll need two passes for production mode quality at 106 sqm/hr. The curing is through LED arrays, so the printer should handle heat-sensitive materials.
Naturally a roll-fed printer is going to need more flexible inks than a flatbed does, so SwissQprint has developed an ink set specifically for the new Karibu roll to roll printer. The inks themselves are NVC-free and Greenguard Gold certified so that prints can be safely used in hospitals, schools and so on. SwissQ has invested a fair chunk of money to build a chemical lab to test inks, but this ink has actually come from NuTec in South Africa, which is slightly surprising since Sun Chemical supplies the ink for SwissQ’s flatbeds.
SwissQ has developed a roll handling system that greatly simplifies the loading process. Essentially, an operator just has to pull the media through from one roll to the take-up, and then a close a cassette on either side of the machine, which automatically wraps the tension bars around the substrate. This should make for very quick loading, without the need to thread the end of the roll through the tensioning system. The cassettes are independent so an operator can load the feed from the back and then deal with the take-up at the front.
The Karibu can be fitted with dual rollers so that you can load one whilst printing on the other, which is one of those really useful productivity features that seems fairly obvious but is not that common. However, this does cost an extra £18,000. Each roller can take two different rolls, each up to 1.6 metres wide, with independently driven spindles so that those rolls can hold different amounts of media.
It has a very unusual vacuum system built into the top of the platen, controlled by 136 Tip Switches ranged across the print bed width, rather like a piano keyboard. Each switch controls a very narrow channel across the platen, which gives a great deal control over where the vacuum is. It’s also possible to turn all the vacuum switches on or off in just four seconds simply by running your thumb across the switches, like a piano virtuoso. It’s a clever idea and no surprise to find that SwissQprint has filed a patent application for it.
There’s a mesh kit that’s effectively a 600mm long drizzle tray that runs right to left following the print carriage. This catches any waste ink to a waste roll, where it cures like any other print so that it can be easily discarded, without having waste ink everywhere that has to be cleaned up. It’s a neat idea that makes for a clean working area.
The Karibu also boasts a Light box function, split across 48 LED segments, to let the operator check backlit prints immediately and continuously. You only need to turn on the segments that correspond to the image section that you want to check, and they can be dimmed to the desired level. The Karibu supports multi-layer printing up to 18 layers, which is useful for complicated backlit prints, though I can’t see why you would need that many layers.
There are four status indicators located on each corner of the print beam, so that an operator can see if the printer is working or not from a distance. Again, not a new idea, but done with a nice degree of style.
The printer runs on-board software, called Lory, which has some nice functions such as allowing an operator to drop a file anywhere with the software automatically placing this to optimize the media usage. The Lory software also includes a database of material profiles, including things like the amount of web tension and vacuum suitable for any given substrate. It also stores all the job data, including printing time and the costings for each job. The RIP itself comes from Caldera.
Naturally, SwissQ has been running a couple of beta machines over the last six months, with one installed at a wide format service provider that’s already using SwissQ flatbeds, and a second with a customer that’s new to SwissQ. There have been no call-outs to either site during those six months, which is encouraging given that the Karibu is SwissQ’s first attempt at developing a roll to roll printer.
The Karibu starts at £250,000, going up to £330,000 for two rows of heads and six colours with white and varnish. It’s commercially available from September. It’s expensive but Pridham says that SwissQ is expecting these machines will have a lifespan of 10 years, which will help lower the total cost of ownership. I’d be surprised if this is not another winner for SwissQ, given that it was hard to get close to it at Fespa because of the sheer number of people crowding around throughout the three days that I was at the show. You can find further details at www.swissqprint.com.