X marks the spot

Inca Digital has been showing off the latest incarnation of its large Onset flatbed printers, which are sold by Fujifilm. The Onset X series look exactly like previous Onsets, and share some parts, but the underlying platform has moved from eight ink channels to 14.

The Onset X3 is Inca's fastest printer, with a triple set of CMYK printers and capable of producing up to 900 sqm/hr.
The Onset X3 is Inca’s fastest printer, with a triple set of CMYK inks and capable of producing up to 900 sqm/hr.

This has opened up several different configuration possibilities, which Inca has grouped into three distinct models. The X1, with a single set of CMYK inks, can produce 560 sqm/hr or 112 full-bed sheets/hr, while the X2, with two sets of CMYK, can produce 725 sqm/hr or 145 beds/hr. The X3, with three sets of CMYK, can produce 900 sqm/hr or 180 beds/hr. The remaining channels in each of these can be configured with a combination of light cyan, light magenta, white and orange ink.

The main market for these printers is retail. John Mills, CEO of Inca Digital, says: “The market for ultra high end machines is about burst capacity. They have customers that want to get their work done extremely quickly. The only way you can produce a 2000 sheet job in a day is with one of these machines but people aren’t doing this every day.”

However, Inca and Fujifilm are also keen to exploit a developing market amongst corrugated board printers. Steve Wood, marketing manager for Fujifilm, says that the sweet spot for these printers “seems to be 1000 sqm per hour.”

Both Inca and Fujifilm are aware that there is an underlying trend toward faster, more productive machines, which will replace multiple slower machines, leading to less overall machine sales while seeing more ink being used. Indeed, Steve Wood says that digital ink now outsells screen ink.

It’s fitted with Q-class printheads from Fujifilm Dimatix, with a choice of 9, 14 or 27 picolitre drop sizes but Mills says: “We found that 14 picolitres is the sweet spot so the drive to smaller drop sizes in wide format has fallen back a little.” The new machine can vary the drop size from 11 to 17, another reason why the 14 picolitre is likely to prove the most popular option.

Inca has also worked hard to maintain the printheads. Mills says: “Our competition use printheads like a commodity because the UV inks cure on the nozzle plate and have to be changed. We believe that we should not ever have to change a print head in the field because that affects productivity.”

Thus the new heads have a recirculation feature built in so that white ink in particular can be recirculated in the heads as well as in the tanks and ink channels. This in turn should remove the need to ‘spit’ ink from the heads. Mills says: “The underlying technology in the heads is key to this machine because if you have 392 heads in a machine then you don’t want to replace them.”

Naturally the printer has been designed around Inca’s Onset Scaleable Architecture, so it’s easy to reconfigure the machine from, say, an X1 to an X3. Mills says: “We can completely change the target market for the machine simply by changing the printheads with different nozzle sizes.” Inca markets this as protecting the customer’s investment in the machine and this is certainly true. But it’s also worth pointing out that if Mills is right and these kind of high productivity machines mean there are less printers sold, then companies like Inca will have to sell more upgrades to their existing customers.

Inca has also redesigned the vacuum table and claims to have eliminated the need for masking, even if 25 percent of the holes are left uncovered. This in itself should save a significant amount of time. But masking also helps to protect the printheads from stray ink and so Inca has developed a new masking pack that can cover the nozzles if they are over areas not being printed.

The X-series also boast a new interface with a touch screen that’s much more intuitive. Thus, for example, you can save all the parameters that you need to run a job and pull it up more quickly.

There's a new interface that's said to be much simpler and more intuitive to use.
There’s a new interface that’s said to be much simpler and more intuitive to use.

Inca has also improved its onboard Vision software that measures how the machine is performing. This sends information back to Inca so that engineers can assess how each printer is performing. Mark Noble, Inca’s service manager, explains: “There’s an alarm dashboard that shows up problems and will alert the engineers who can then call the customers. We can count the number of deviations and can see if the operator is doing the daily maintenance correctly. We are very keen on promoting the maintenance regime to protect our customers investment.”

The Onset X is available now, with quite a few already in the field since Inca has been quietly using the new platform for every machine built since February of this year. This means that recent machines can be field upgraded to the new spec, and some features of the new series such as the masking pack, can be added to older machines.

Prices depend heavily on the configuration of each individual machine but expect to pay somewhere around a million pounds.

More details from Inca Digital and Fujifilm.





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