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Canon Océ Colorado 1650

After launching the successful Océ Colorado 1640 at FESPA 2017, the 1650 was introduced this year in Munich. Brian Sims dissects the changes made by Canon

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The Océ Colorado 1650 was launched at FESPA 2019

No ordinary printer?

At FESPA 2017 Canon released its Océ Colorado 1640 which is a large-format roll to roll inkjet printer. Then it was described as ‘no ordinary printer’ and at its heart UVgel technology. This product was the result of considerable investment in both time and money by Canon having first gone back to the market to understand the issues faced by its current and prospective clients.

This printer was very warmly welcomed by the market and it sold in large numbers which focused the attention of Canon engineers on how it could be improved. The outcome of that inventiveness was typical of the Japanese Kaizen process, the practice of improving small elements to maximum effect, and is the Colorado 1650 shown at FESPA 2019 in Munich.

Prior to producing the Colorado 1640, Canon research showed there were three key areas that required its focus and solutions. In order, these were levels of productivity, print quality at commensurate speed and the versatility of various media substrates.

Prior to producing the Colorado 1640, Canon research showed there were three key areas that required its focus and solutions

With regard to productivity Canon found that production speed was the primary limitation on productivity with reel to reel wide-format inkjet printers. There are a lot of latex and eco-solvent printers currently available in the market and they fill the sector very adequately. However, they are limited on speed due to the nature of the process, not design, and as such do have various limitations on production speed.

The issue of speed impacts on the second of the limitations identified by Canon in as much as production speed has a direct impact on quality. This has always been the case on any process but should a printer using latex or eco-solvents want to increase production speed, then quality will need to be matched accordingly and generally higher speeds leads to a reduction in quality.

The final limitation Canon captured was that of the scope of media that can be used by the printer to meet the demands of its customers. The current choice of process can have a limiting effect on the media or substrate used as they generally need to apply heat to evaporate water or solvent.

The development
So, what was the outcome once Canon had completed its brainstorming? It chose to close the technology gap it found from its research and use something it calls UVgel Technology.

Canon developed UVgel Technology to create a comprehensive printing process to attend to increased productivity needs, a wide spectrum of applications (both indoor and out) and to provide the maximum possible use of a number of media substrates.

Canon developed UVgel Technology to create a comprehensive printing process

Over the last two years this new ink technology has proven to be very reliable and produced outstanding results. But not content with this, Canon has taken it to another level with the new series of UVgel 460 inks which allow far more flexibility and ‘stretch’ to the printed product.

The UVgel 460 inks have sat behind them a series of patented elements that once combined, provide the answer Canon was seeking to fill the market gap it had identified for the 1640 but now with further enhancements that allows virtually each droplet to be stretched and expanded. This allows the finished product to be folded, wrapped, and bent considerably more than before without cracking or damaging the printed product.

At the heart of the process is an ink that at room temperature is a gel. When heated it transforms to a liquid and is then applied to the media substrate. In the final part of the process the ink is cured by UV light; in the case of the Océ Colorado 1650 by a LED light source.

The machine is based around the UVgel Technology developed by Canon, which is an ink that at room temperature is a gel  

The ink is applied through a piezo-electric printhead which heats the ink and turns it from a gel to liquid as previously explained. The individual droplets are then applied to the media which has been passing over a heated platen, heated to 28°C. Once the ink hits the media it immediately returns to a gel and is “pinned” to the media in a partial pre-cure. Finally the gel is fully cured under a LED curing head which gives the printed image a smooth, robust and high abrasion resistant product.

Canon states its process addresses the limitations concluded from its market research in a number ways. As the ink turns directly back to a gel on application the integrity of the dot is held to extremely tights limits and avoids merging with neighbouring dots. Due to the control of dot gain, significantly more ink can be applied in a controlled manner allowing for vibrant and deep colour output. 
The UV drying required for Canon’s UVgel technology means the product is dry immediately with the added bonus of only small amounts of heat build-up in the substrate due to LED drying. This has the benefit of productivity levels being significantly increased without the loss of print quality and importantly the media retains its physical properties being unaffected due to the lack of heat.

Adding on another level of technology from the 1640, the 1650 now comes with something Canon call, Océ FLXfinish technology.

This upgrade in the technology uses different functions of the UV LED curing system dependent on whether you require matte or gloss outcomes on the product; cleverly without the need for changing inks or substrates.

The drying unit sweeps across the printer following the printhead and depending on what surface finish you have selected, gives larger or smaller amounts of UV light. This can have the effect of flattening the UVgel ink droplet for smooth glossy print or if a more textured matte finish was selected, the droplet stands proud of the substrate and is fixed in that shape by being exposed to a short, sharper burst of light.

Clearly significant amounts of time and effort have gone into the new UVgel 460 inks, but a huge investment has also gone into the application of it. Each of the individual inkjet heads are monitored and controlled on the fly by the use of Canon’s patented Piezo Acoustic Integrated Nozzle Technology (PAINT).

PAINT continuously monitors the condition of the head by passing a sound wave into the nozzle and listens for the response. Should a nozzle not behave as expected it is automatically shut down and the neighbouring nozzles step up and fill the gap left by the unresponsive jet. 

Canon states that the uniqueness of UVgel technology and the ability to “pin” each individual dot to the pre-heated media means in combination with PAINT the dot quality can be controlled to very tight constraints. This control means waste ink can be reduced, print quality improved and the available colour gamut greatly increased.
The Colorado 1650 has the same features as the 1640 in as much as it has a roll to roll 64" wide-format printer that can produce a host of products at speeds of up to 159sq m/h and even the highest quality output being produced at 40sq m/h.

Any changes in media thickness can be programmed into the printer and when the device switches between media, the printer automatically adjusts accordingly. To ensure media is controlled in and out of the printer correctly Océ use an optical device called MediaStep system which ensures the correct placement of the media throughout the printing process.

The Colorado 1640 is still very much available and will be the choice for a large number of printers who do not feel the need for the enhancements the 1650 brings.

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

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