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Jetrix LXi8

Brian Sims takes a closer look at the Jetrix LXi8 from Inktec, picking out some of the key features and built-in technologies that help this printer stand out in what is a highly competitive market

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The basis of the printer is a large 3,200 x 2,030mm vacuum bed that can handle media of up to 100mm thick

Packing a punch with Jetrix

It is not only the larger manufacturers that have the ability to push the boundaries of printing equipment design. Quite often, I am amazed what products smaller companies produce, and it is their smaller size that I am convinced gives them the dynamism to break through the red tape and culture that can stifle new products in large concerns.
One such company is Inktec, a Korean-based business that has a European base in Whitney, Oxfordshire. At FESPA, Inktec Europe launched the newest version of the family of flatbed inkjet printers called the Jetrix LXi8, and with this printer, Inktec punches above its weight with a very impressive product.

So, what is the Jetrix LXi8? Basically, a very large flatbed UV printer capable of photorealistic images produced via Konica Minolta heads and dried with the latest LED drying system.

Thinking big

As a background, Inktec has been producing ink products for over 25 years growing an ever-increasing family of inks for all sorts of media and applications. Subsidiaries are now found in a number of countries and exports in excess of $50m (around £38m) now include a family of flatbed printers that suit a number of applications. The Jetrix LXi8 is the first full production model and it is clear to see why the firm was so pleased to be able to release it at FESPA with great effect.

What can it be used for? Yoonki Lee, product manager for Inktec, said at FESPA it is, “ideal for applications including short-term outdoor signage, clear film window graphics, interior decoration, furniture decoration, industrial applications, industrial keypads, spot varnishing and wood prints”.

A big claim indeed, but when you look at the printer, you cannot help but be firstly overwhelmed at its size, but on closer inspection you quickly understand why Lee makes such a bold statement.

The basis of the printer is a large 3,200 x 2,030mm vacuum bed that allows media of up to 100mm thick and a massive 80kg in weight to be secured to it. That media can be any product that will accept the LED curable UV inks and primers so you can start to understand Lee’s claim. The bed itself locates the media via a vacuum and is
registered by a series of pins that extend and then retract into the bed prior to printing. There are interlocks in the system that will not allow printing to be undertaken unless each is retracted.

Obviously, you will not always be using all of the bed at one time and the Jetrix LXi8 comes with an easy vacuum cover that can cloak the unused parts of the bed itself. Other operational devices on the printer are a light beam system that guards the operator from accidental collision with the printing head while in operation. Initially, you would think it was obvious where the head was going to progress, but when you understand some of the time-saving systems Inktec has designed, the light beam device seems obviously sensible.

The first being the X-axis and Y-axis skip function, where the printer will traverse rapidly to the next print position, skipping any white space or empty vacuum table. At the speed it is moving, you are glad that the light beam will stop you interfering in the path of the printing head.

A second device built into the Jetrix LXi8 avoids damage to the head itself; this is an anti-collision mechanism. If there is any discrepancy on the expected profile of the media, a wrinkle or displaced substrate, the head is brought to an immediate halt to avoid any damage that could occur.

Maintaining quality

The new Jetrix LXi8 has the aforementioned Konica Minolta print heads that can produce photorealistic images holding true grey scale intensity at twice the speed of any of the previous models from Inktec. The head has a built-in cleaning system that ensures inkjet heads are cleaned during production. Should a specific nozzle become blocked regardless of this system, the Jetrix LXi8 overcomes this by deploying another nozzle to make up for the lost line, thus maintaining high quality printed output.

The Jetrix LXi8 drew in the crowds at this year’s Sign and Digital UK in March

Putting ink down is one thing; in this day and age, unless you can couple that with high speed drying, you have not gained as much as you had expected. In line with the progress made in this area, Inktec has also moved across to an LED drying system.

Putting ink down is one thing; in this day and age, unless you can couple that with high speed drying, you have not gained as much as you had expected

The company confidently claims the drying system will lower heat output by 20°C, which not only lessens the effects on plastic materials that are more susceptible to deformation, but also reduces energy costs.

LED drying systems benefit further from requiring no preheat time such as traditional mercury systems further still reducing energy use. The final added benefit of the LED system is the use and disposal of mercury and production of ozone bringing strong environmental credentials to the device. 

The second key design element of the Jetrix LXi8 that pushes it into the production zone of our industry is the touchscreen GUI, which Inktec claims is as easy to use as a smartphone.

This is a very clever piece of interactive software; the screen is simplicity itself with all the required controls laid out on an intuitive surface. Touch the function you need and the X-Y table plot will build the production you are planning to deploy.

You can freely arrange the ripped images from the server and place them on the virtual printer table in the most efficient way possible. Should you require multiple images to be produced, a click on the nesting function will bring a numeric pad onto the screen where you can select the number of images needed. Select how you require them to be nested and with the final click the interface arranges them on the virtual printer table.

To maximise production, you can plan how the work will be produced by allotting sections of the flatbed printer that will be used. For instance, you can use one half of the 2,030mm depth to produce work while loading substrates to the second half; this allows for virtually continuous production.

So, now you know how the printer is configured, what can it in produce? The combination of colour and additional output varies from 12 to 16 channels, but include, in most, CYMK and then a combination of LC and LM, whites and varnish, along with primer depending on what media you intend to print.

The Jetrix LXi8 can lay down up to seven layers on two sides, meaning images printed do not have show through and can build 3D type effects where required. Full and spot varnish is also possible adding that extra level of wow factor when required by the most demanding of clients.

It is very refreshing to see more companies like Inktec coming to market with products like this

It is very refreshing to see more companies like Inktec coming to market with products like this. It not only puts pressure on the larger competition not to take their market and customer base for granted, but also pushes forward the boundary of technology that can only be a benefit for the customer.

Brian Sims, principal consultant, Metis Print Consultancy, www.metis-uk.eu

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