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swissQprint Kudu

At FESPA 2022 in Berlin, swissQprint dropped a surprise in the unveiling of a new printer to its line-up in the Kudu, a 3.2 x 2m high-quality flatbed printer. Brian Sims takes a closer look

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A patented Tip Switch vacuum control table makes holding sheets of any size an easy function

High Quality at High Speed

SwissQprint has added a new generation of flatbed printer to its stable in the form of the Kudu. This machine adds a new higher level of colour quality and capability to others in the range such as the Nyala, Impala, and Oryx. It was somewhat of a surprise but when you look at the added value this printer can deliver, you can easily see why the decision was made to bring it to market when the company did.

At the heart of this machine is a completely re-engineered internal architecture which is needed when you are promising your client 1,350dpi on a sheet width of up to 3.2m. Whenever we look at equipment of this size, we seem to be impressed by the colour and software gadgets that look almost space age-like, but what we do not consider is all those toys are useless unless you can accurately place the print head.

At the resolution stated by swissQprint, you need to be able to regularly position the head in a place within hundredths of a millimetre each and every time. The upgraded print head is not light and there needs to be well-designed control systems to accelerate and maintain a constant speed across the sheet. This is attained on the Kudu by the most up-to-date linear drive systems.

The other issue is the width of the printer which factors into colour quality. If the head is slightly lower, and by ‘slightly’ you are again talking hundredths of a millimetre, the colour density will change. In engineering terms, we actually look for things to bend and move as this is what causes an extended life; think of a tree and the ethos of 'if it doesn’t bend it will break'.

swissQprint launched the Kudu at FESPA Global Print Expo 2022 in Berlin


But there actually needs to be much more thought into how to make something rigid and not be so oversized that it becomes impractical. Looking at the Kudu, swissQprint has accomplished this incredibly well and it clearly works with the print quality which is easy to see, but the machine itself does not look over-engineered. That takes skill.

An Abundance of Colour

The printer has ten channels from which it can deploy your choice of colours. Obviously, you can take the CMYK process colours as standard but there is the option of adding light colours (black, magenta, and cyan), orange, neon (yellow, red) and any combination of white varnish or primer.

All of the inks and varnishes are cured by integral LED UV systems and as you would expect from a company such as swissQprint, offer eco-credentials and are Greenguard Gold compliant meaning they are VOC- and NVC-free.

This means that they meet strict criteria allowing them to be used for clothing and on products needed in schools and healthcare facilities.

This combination of colours and varnishes allows for a wide range of applications which can be applied to an equally impressive series of substrates such as acrylic, aluminium composite panels, wood, banners, polyester, polycarbonate, polystyrene, (high-density) PVC, flexible foam panels, glass, and metal.

If your client provides you with a challenge wider than the scope of what the Kudu can print and print on, I would strongly suggest you pass on the order, regardless of how lucrative it seems.

The final part of the multi-substrate printing puzzle is how to secure the materials securely and yet again swissQprint has a number of clever features to hold the substrate rock solid to the table.

The table has 256 vacuum areas which can apply a powerful draw down onto the table, but that is only half the story. There are a series of flip switches cleverly designed into the front of the table so you can place the substrate on the table and then flip over the switches to a closed position in the areas not covered and all the vacuum is then focused on the area needed.

There are a series of flip switches cleverly designed into the front of the table. You can place the substrate on the table and then flip over the switches to a closed position in the areas not covered, and all the vacuum is then focused on the area needed


Regardless of you using the standard flatbed option for rigid substrate or the roll-to-roll option, this clever table will hold almost anything firmly. This patented technology is known as Tip Switch.

Moving Material

As stated earlier, the Kudu can come in both flatbed or a reel-to-reel versions which means it can cope with any sort of substrate. The flatbed machine can hold any specified material up to 50mm in thickness and the roll can be up to 180kg in weight. Both can be up to 3.2m wide.

Added to this is the option of having a dual-roll function on the machine. These rolls can weigh up to 100kg each meaning you can move significant amounts of material through the printer. Regardless of the roll option used, the machine when set can run unsupervised with flawless print quality by the use of an integrated spreader roll ensuring a crease-free sheet across the table.

There are a number of extended functions on the Kudu which come as standard


Another clever feature of the machine is when you are using the Kudu in flatbed mode, for further continuous production, swissQprint has what it calls Tandem printing. The principle is very simple in as much as the table has a front and rear section meaning once the operator has loaded the front section with new substrate, the printer sets off printing on those sheets but the operator can then turn their attention to the rear section, loading new substrate there.

As the printhead passes over the rear of the front sheet it starts to print the sheet placed on the rear of the machine. Due to the Tip Switch function and a split vacuum table, the printed sheet can be replaced by a new substrate and the process continues.

Options as Standard

SwissQprint packs a lot into the Kudu as with all the other machines it produces. The manufacturer prides itself on making optional features standard and this fourth-generation model is no different.

Lory, the output software, is able to deliver a number of functions, but one standard feature is the ability to repeat an image across a number of sheets with no additional RIP software process.

Worried about restarting after a long run on a reel-to-reel job, thinking the reel is wasted? The Kudu has software which can restart the job in exactly the correct place and produce a seamless product where you will not see the join.

As to be expected with any machine produced by swissQprint, the Kudu offers high levels of quality and speed with some clever engineered designs that are true to the ergonomic nature of a Swiss company.


Statistics

  • Flatbed size  3,240 x 2,030mm
  • Flatbed substrate thickness  50mm
  • Roll width  3,200mm
  • Resolution  Up to 1,350 dpi
  • Colours  C,M,Y,K,Lk, Lm, Lc, or, neon Yellow, Red, W
  • Printhead channels  10  Printheads  30


Brian Sims Principal Consultant, Metis Print Consultancy, www.metis-uk.eu
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