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2018’s Top Products

As 2018 draws to a close, Summer Brooks takes a look back at some of the best products from a year in the ever-changing signage and wide-format industries

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As the year comes to a close, innovation does not stop in the sign world

The cream of the crop

And so, another year has come to pass and what a busy one it has been for sign-makers and wide-format printers. New kit, new technologies and new understanding of how these can be applied is arming those in the industry with the power to keep their trade fresh, appealing and profitable. Here at Signlink we have compiled a list of some of our favourite launches from this year and off the back of last year.

Epson SureColour F2100

First up is Epson’s SC-F2100. Launched in March this year, the direct-to-garment printer is the new and improved version of the SC-F2000 model. The improvements? Epson claims quicker results than its predecessor thanks to additional fast print modes and improved ink circulation, as well as improved screening and a wider gamut offering to those looking to add direct-to-garment to their belt. 

Epson has worked to support textile students with its direct-to-garment printer

“Direct-to-garment (DTG) printing has become faster, slicker and easier with the latest generation SureColor SC-F2100,” says Phil McMullin, pro graphics sales manager at Epson UK. “Epson printers have always been renowned for their ability to deliver consistent quality and our first DTG unit was no exception. Now the new F2100 builds on that initial success to deliver even sharper photographic images, achieved by smaller dot placement.”

Epson has continued to establish relationships within industries, particularly in fashion following its ongoing collaboration with designer Richard Quinn. Epson has supported textile students from Central St Martins, Birmingham City University and the University of Leeds. The SureColour SC-F9300 dye sublimation printer and the SureColour SC-F2100 direct-to-garment printer were made available to textile students at Central Saint Martins back in July and Epson has pledged to support students with the equipment for twelve months.

Mimaki UCJV300-160

Launched at the end of last year, and commercially available from the start of 2018, the Mimaki UCJV300-160 is different from other LED UV inkjet wide-format print and cut systems. Why? Its unique four-layer printing allows users switch between two images on the same media using a backlight.

Using environmentally-friendly ink called LUS-170 UV, the images are produced in four layers, utilising an all over white and black separation layer. When the image is seen in daylight, it looks different to what it looks like when it is dark and backlit, opening up a world of possibilities for marketeers who can show one product in two potential scenarios on the same sheet of media. “Five-layer printing is easily achievable thanks to the easy setup in Mimaki’s RasterLink RIP software, which is included in the package,” confirms Newman.

“When coupled with the opaque white ink, it’s possible to deliver double sided window and door graphics that can’t fail to impress.”

Clear ink was recently announced for the Mimaki UCJV300-160

Due to the instantaneous UV drying, anything that goes through the machine can be laminated straight away, freeing up valuable time for sign-makers and display specialists. The integrated cutting machine means users can create applications like labels, decals, POS displays and packaging in a single unit. In September this year, Mimaki announced a clear ink to be used with the UCJV300 series moving the printer further into prototype and packaging applications.

“Instantly dry inks make the world of difference to sign-makers’ workflow,” states Brett Newman, chief operations manager at Mimaki’s UK and Ireland distributor, Hybrid Services. “Add in exceptional creativity—thanks to the white and new clear inks, built in cutting and incredibly broad range of materials that it can output to and it’s easy to see why the UCJV is such a popular printer.”

The European Digital Press Association announced the UCJV300-160 as the best roll-to-roll printer up to 170cm back in June, and the speed and efficiency of the printer was highly praised. “The UCJV Series features Mimaki’s latest onboard technology, designed to deliver great output with minimal operator intervention,” Newman says. “Its Greenguard Gold certified inks and cold cure LED lamps also result in industry leading eco credentials.”

HP Latex R2000

Following its unveiling at FESPA in May, HP chose The Print Show for its first UK showing of the Latex R series. The excitement around this machine has not slowed since then and there is good reason why. The first dozen or so customers HP garnered between FESPA and The Print Show very much wanted to keep schtum about their new purchase whilst they performed tests, to keep an advantage on the market.

HP Latex R2000 has made a big impact in the industry

The 2.5m-wide R2000 allows printing on both flexible and rigid materials with HP’s Latex Ink, making it the firm’s first hybrid to use latex technology. Materials that sign-makers find difficult to print with using UV technology can be printed using the R2000, which is helping sign-makers to achieve the same quality of latex on roll-to-roll as with rigid substrates.

Brand-matching colour for clients can be a real headache for sign-makers, but HP claims that this machine can hit a wide gamut of colour, as well as a white that resists yellowing, from its latex inks on both rigid and flexible media. The water-based inks are odourless meaning applications can be used in healthcare or school environments where solvent inks cannot. They are also Greenguard Gold certified which indicates low chemical emissions from these inks in a bid for more sustainable large format print. The addition of the HP Latex Overcoat further aids scratch resistance which is an essential feature for outdoor signage.

O Factoid: Globally, the printed signage industry was estimated to be worth $45.7bn (£35.6bn) in 2017, while the UK sign industry is estimated to be worth £500m. O

ADAPT (Amari Digital Printing Technologies) is the exclusive UK reseller for the Latex R series and has invested widely in creating dedicated showrooms for both the R2000 and the smaller R1000. Richard Barham, general manager at ADAPT, justifies the firm’s huge investment in this product due to the R series being “such a game-changer in technology, it makes it well worthwhile.”

The firm has opened an experience centre for the R2000 in Manchester, in close proximity to one of its distribution centres and therefore access to an expansive range of board and roll materials that visitors can use to put the printer through its paces. Speaking at The Print Show, Barham explains: “We’ve been selling flatbed and hybrid printers for many years, and they do a great job for specific applications. What the R series does is open up some new applications, which really you haven’t been able to do with a UV printer in the past. It’s that excitement and new business opportunities which is why so many of the early adopters are keeping quiet, because they can take a strong competitive advantage at this stage.”

Océ Colorado 1640

The Océ Colorado first came onto the scene in March of 2017 and was the first 64” roll-to-roll printer that utilised Canon’s UVgel technology. It boasts print speeds of 159sq m/hr on billboards and outdoor banners and 40sq m/hr in highest quality mode for indoor applications.

“As the Canon UVgel is a low-heat process, there is minimal media distortion, resulting in an extended list of possible printable substrates,” explains Wayne Barlow, head of graphics and communications business group, industrial and production solutions at Canon UK. “The Océ Colorado 1640 can produce a range of applications, from high-value décor products including wallpaper, floor graphics and fine art photo canvases, as well as more conventional wide-format applications such as banners and self-adhesive graphics. Print service providers (PSPs) are also able to produce an array of graphics and décor, highlighting the unique qualities of Canon’s UVgel technology.”

The Colorado uses low amounts of heat allowing sign-makers more freedom with media

The Bigger Printing Company in Cheltenham took delivery of the Colorado in November 2017 and has not looked back since, recently being approached by Canon to represent the UK in a worldwide project that demonstrated the capabilities of the machine. David Bowen, marketing and operations manager at the firm, comments: “The Colorado 1640 has been a fantastic addition to the production capability of Bigger Printing—the colours are so vibrant, the inks are so robust, and it’s such a quick machine! We now don’t need to seal floor graphics as the inks are so robust, saving cost and time.

“Materials which were susceptible to being affected by heat from the UV lamps can now be run under the cooler LED lamps on the Colorado without any side effects. The cooler LE lamps are more efficient to run, resulting in lower running costs and it is better for the environment. The Colorado is so fast, we now hardly ever run unattended over night as we are able to get through all of the roll-fed projects during the day, therefore we able to start the next process that much earlier too.”

Massivit 1800

It seems there is not a week that goes by where we do not talk about 3D printing in some capacity or another. Stories have come in from across the globe in their masses about new 3D projects that are contributing to healthcare, manufacturing, engineering, architecture and the print industry itself, with many looking to diversify into this appealing and head-turning area of print. 

One of the many large-scale projects achieved with the Massivit 1800 this year

One printer that keeps coming up in conversation, is the Massivit 1800. Aimed specifically at bringing 3D technology to the sign and display industry, the printer was first unveiled at Drupa 2016, but the potential of this machine has grown since its inception with customers continuing to push the boundaries. The Israeli firm unveiled its smaller version at FESPA this year, the Massivit 1500 Exploration, aimed for use in print shops of any size. Based on Massivit’s Gel Dispensing Printing technology (GDP), the 1800 can print objects up to 1.8m x 1.5m x 1.2m and at around 35cm an hour. The printer produces large structures in sections, which are glued together using a product called Dimengel and a spot UV torch.

“With the flexibility, speed and price point to unlock huge new creative opportunities and drive profitable growth for large format print and sign businesses, the Massivit 1800 is proving instrumental in elevating existing sign and display projects to a new dimension,” says Robin East, group managing director at CMYUK, Massivit’s UK reseller.

{It has showcased exactly what that machine is capable of. It really is limitless what we can do. We can print anything

UK wide-format specialist Andesign is one of three companies in the UK with the 1800 in its arsenal and has continued to push the capabilities of the machine. The firm recently unveiled what it called ‘the world’s biggest 3D printed animal’—a giant elephant head that is displayed on the wall outside their Sutton Coldfield office that both raises the profile of 3D print and has seen the firm contribute to the David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation in its honour. Garry Hassell, managing director at Andesign comments: “It has showcased exactly what that machine is capable of. It really is limitless what we can do. We can print anything.” The firm has even hired a full-time 3D designer to support its new 3D ventures within sign and display.

Sign Survey app

The wildcard of the bunch and something Signlink has not featured before—a mobile app developed especially for sign-makers. When James Boatwright of Big Printing had a review of his firm’s working practices, he and his colleagues highlighted that they were wasting far too much time on the surveying aspect of the job. “For every job that we were doing, we were wasting at least a day getting the survey to the estimating stage,” explains Boatwright, who also happens to own a software company.

He tasked the firm with creating Sign Survey, a customisable app that allows sign-makers to input information on site and even send clients estimations straight away. Boatwright says he is working to include a new feature that will connect sign-makers to trusted partners and contractors instantly. And the best bit? The app is completely free.

Although it is still early doors for this app, Boatwright has garnered praise from sign-makers as far as Canada and the US. Sam Armstrong of Make it Happen, who read about the app on LinkedIn, comments: “I thought, this is brilliant! I expected there to be a charge.” Armstrong thought the app was such a good idea she wants to tell people about it as part of the organisation’s education programme.

She explains: “This industry needs as much help as it can get. For James [Boatwright] to come up with an app that will support the industry and its free, if people find it useful why would we not use it?” Currently only available via the Apple App Store, Boatwright assures that an Android version is on the way, launching in January 2019.


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