Home:: Wide Format Online Ipex 2010 reportback by Andy McCourt

Wide Format Online Ipex 2010 reportback by Andy McCourt

Australia's own print guru, Andy McCourt spent the full eight days at Ipex scouring the halls for wide format news. Here is his reportback.

Some may think to world’s biggest English-language trade exhibition for print media – IPEX – is all about offset presses, computer-to-plate and gooey ink but, as Andy McCourt reports, wide format is an increasingly important part of  everyday life; whatever branch of the graphic arts you are in.

With FESPA, Germany, only a couple of weeks away, you could be forgiven for thinking that wide and grand format exhibitors might have given IPEX a miss. Not so, all the big names were there in an astonishingly sunny and warm Birmingham. There’s just too much business up for grabs as 70,000 print media people (56% from outside of the UK) swarmed the halls over eight days, and wide format is getting more than its fair share.

Offset printers are installing flatbed and roll UV machines in increasing numbers as they seek to differentiate their business, away from total dependency on low-profit and cut-throat sheetfed work. Of course, most full colour offset printers, as well as the gravure and flexo guys, have deployed inkjet wide format printers for some time as proofing devices driven by high-end colour managed Rips. One trend that stood out at IPEX is that these high-end Rips are now part and parcel of wide format hardware offerings.

This can only be a good thing as it brings fractional colour management to the signage and display market – and probably the digital textile sector too eventually. Partnerships between familiar hardware suppliers and the ‘big three’ in high-end proofing Rips; GMG Color, CGS-Oris and EFI were announced in press conferences and could be seen working on the Roland DG, Epson and Mimaki stands to name but three.

With the introduction of white and metallic ink by some manufacturers, the area of proofing and short run packaging work opens up. This requires precision colour management and GMG was delivering this together with the Mimaki UJF-706 UV printer. The profiling follows the same method as in offset, flexo and gravure but with substrates as diverse as plastics, films and even metal foil, the spectrophotometric measurements can be tricky. GMG has found the Barbieri Electronic table spectrophotometer is the best for measuring colour on non-paper substrates. This is due to the fact it has three light sources firing at different angles, and variable apertures. The nett effect is that diffraction is avoided and a truly accurate spectral colour measurement can be taken.

But the applications do not stop there when high-end colour management is combines with wide format. Another Mimaki UJF-706 was set up for printing decals, car dashes and other items that would normally be printed by Pad or Screen methods. The results are vibrant and sharp and, with the UV inks, very durable. The addition of variable data printing means that personalisation can be achieved – a lucrative area if the right products are chosen. Samples shown included mobile phone cases, corporate gifts, pens and coasters.

One other thing struck me on the Mimaki stand and that was the new JFX 1631 UV flatbed printing pin-sharp graphics onto Kapa board, which were then die-cut on Mimaki’s own cutter the CF2-1218. The JFX 1631 uses LED UV curing – something that was a trend to be seen from other manufacturers too.

Roland DG chose to partner with CGS-Oris for their high-end colour managed solutions. Just before Ipex, a global cooperation agreement was announced between the two companies, in which CGS-Oris has written a unique interface to the Roland DG  VersaUV LEC-330. Soon to follow will be a CGS-Oris driver for the new Roland VersaCAMM VS-640 printer/cutter which will add white ink, up to eight colours and genuine metallic ink capability.

Initially targeting flexible packaging proofs, both companies acknowledge that CGS-Oris’s colour management and screening algorhythms will ultimately find their way into the general signage and display graphics sectors, raising the quality bar as end-users demand ISO standard colour and overall accurate, repeatable colour results.

Epson was a surprise package for the show for two reasons. The Japanese wide format inkjet giant showed two printers that were not wide format at all. They were inkjet label presses using Epson printheads and printing labels digitally, with full variable data functionality which is needed for barcodes, versioning and so on. Announced in Ipex’s opening day was the Epson Surepress L-4033A label press featuring a 330mm wide web running at 5 metres/min on papers and 1.4 metres/min on film stock. The front end was developed by Esko Artwork, the industry-leader in packaging design software.

The other new initiative on the Epson stand was the StylusPro GS6000 safe solvent 64” printer running a new type of media from UK firm Biomedia. Mark Sanderson of Biomedia was working from the Epson stand to demonstrate his company’s unique bio-degradable wide-format print media. Over 5 years, Biomedia will degrade to dust and can be safely disposed on in landfill and even composted. This must be the ultimate in ‘green’ media; a range of plastic substrates in various thicknesses, roll and rigid, that can be used for short-to-medium term displays and then either recycled or returned to the ground quite safely. There is even a Biomedia laminate with the same properties. Imagine the carbon credits available to end users of Biomedia-printer signage! Epson is so impressed, it is acting as a Biomedia reseller in the UK.

Hewlett-Packard had the largest stand at Ipex and a significant area was dedicated to wide format. Central attraction was the Turbojet 8600 which was churning out personalised A0 posters at anything up to 480 square meters per hour. Inline finishing from Hostert and Fotoba enabled the delivery of finished, trimmed posters which saves an enormous amount of manual labour carting untrimmed prints to offline cutters.

Some HP-Scitex printers have also adopted Latex ink technology and new models at 3200mm (LX800) and 2600mm (LX600) widths were on display, launched at Ipex. Latex ink seems to be really catching on now that it has grown from the wide-format into grand-format sector. HP also used Ipex to announce an extension of its T300 inkjet web press line to include the T200, a scaled-down version that uses one engine for duplex printing and runs at 61 metres/min in full colour mode. With a 520mm web width, the T200 is aimed squarely at the Screen and Ricoh Infoprint offerings which have the lion’s share at over 40% of high-volume web feed inkjet colour presses; and the Océ Jetstream range, which has enjoyed high sales over the past 18 months.

Fujifilm made much of their wide-format offerings with both Acuity flatbed UV models and the Uvistar roll-to-roll UV printer which was producing giant world maps to the delight of many Ipex visitors who picked them up. The Uvistar comes in 3200mm and 5000mm widths and is a true grand format printer. Also on the Fujifilm stand, although the company is owned by Dainippon Screen, was the new Inca Onset S20 moving-table flatbed UV printer. Fujifilm also showed the much-awaited Jetpress 720, a digital printing press aimed at the B2 offset market. Using inkjet, this is one of the first of this new breed of sheetfed inkjet machines, the other being the Screen Truepress Jet SX which was on view across the aisle from Fujifilm. Although slightly slower, the Screen press duplexes in one pass, and has a slight edge on resolution at up to 1440dpi, against 1200dpi.

While with Screen, the display images from it Truepress Jet 2500UV were just amazing. Renowned photographer Peter Carr supplied the image files which are compositions of several images that result in massive file sizes and ultra-fine resolution. The Truepress Jet UV’s 1500 x 1500dpi resolution combined with Screen’s variable droplet screening deliver results that look as if they have just been processed by a traditional photolab, as the attached photo shows.

Much debate abounded around the halls on the merits of B2 size digital inkjet presses but ultimately the market will decide. For photobooks, B2 sheet size does offer the benefit of 8-page signature printing and finishing on standard B2 bindery equipment, plus B2 posters can be printed off in short runs too.

Canon’s wide format range has received a global channel boost since its take-over of Océ completed in March. Fresh from winning a Bertl five-star ‘exceptional’ rating, the new imagePROGRAF 8300 44” model could be found on both the Canon and Océ booths. The twelve colour inkset produces sensational photographic quality images – what you would expect from the world’s leading digital camera manufacturer.

What Ipex clearly showed was, what began as an adaptation of plotter technology in the early 1990s is now a major force in the wider universe of the graphic arts and print media industry. Wide format inkjet delivers stunning image results for any application and the ‘wide’ is now becoming ‘narrower’ as the technology borne of the need to rip colour files to engineering plotters is finding its way into production printing for documents, labels, books, brochures, newspapers and commercial print.

A parting observation: the Australian-developed Memjet printhead technology (Silverbrook Research of Balmain, NSW), has found one of its first commercial applications with the X-1 printhead from Rapid Machinery. Initially targeting labels, past demonstrations of Memjet have included wide format printing at incredible speeds. The Memjet printheads are monolithic; i.e. not an array of smaller width printheads. From small acorns, great oaks grow – I predict we will see and hear much more of Memjet in the near future.

What we know as “wide-format” is steadily becoming “all-formats.”

 Agfa's Anapurna
 Andy McCourt (left) playing  with Agfa's cut out cards
 Canon Imageprograf 8300
 Epson's Surepress
 Fujifilm's Uvistar
 HP's TJ8600
 Inca Onset
 Starleaton's BBQ thank-you banner
 Mimaki's UJF-706
 Mimaki's JFX-1631
 Mimaki's new cutting table CF2-1218
 Mimaki stand
 Océ Colorpainter
 The busy Roland DG stand
 Roland DG, CGS and Oris
 Screen's gallary of images
 Xerox's new inkjet label press