Posts Tagged ‘Mimaki’

  • Hits & misses make the most of IGAS

    Tokyo Typhoon Number 12 of the season was a fizzer, a bit of a blow but nothing to bother the printers attending IGAS at Big Site out in the Bay. It came and went within a few hours; rain and wind enough to alarm the woman at the Heidelberg showroom where I was on Saturday afternoon. She urged us to get out quickly to avoid being stranded. Perhaps a little over the top, but …

    So, why was I at the Heidelberg showroom in Tokyo? Well here’s how the second part of my IGAS went.

    IGAS is an international exhibition, although overseas visitors are still only a small part of it. It’s international in that every manufacturer of note exhibits and as is becoming increasingly obvious that means most are Japanese firms. There are the large well known brands, but a walk around IGAS shows clearly the depth of ingenuity and industry in small firms and startups driving the printing equipment industry in Japan.


    With notable exceptions of course – HP is the eight hundred pound US gorilla in the centre of printing. Its digital reach is immense, encompassing every aspect of printing and packaging. In a prime position just inside the entrance in Hall 1 visitors were treated to a display of printed packaging that leaves no doubt that the future is definitely digital. It provided a testament to just how far the technology has been pushed and how this show was mostly about industrial printing mostly packaging.


    Konica Minolta Australian and Japanese colleagues (L to r) David Cascarino, Toshitaka Uemura, Koji Asaka and Anthony ‘AJ’ Jackson.

    Friday afternoon I had an appointment to meet with people from Konica Minolta who took time to talk about the 145-year-old company. Toshitaka Uemura, GM industry print business and Koji Asaka, assistant manager, are fine examples of all that’s best about Japanese corporate life. Dedicated and loyal they not only know the technology, but also are also deeply versed in the ethos and history of the company.

    There’s plenty of disparagement about the supposedly oppressed Japanese ‘salary men’ but they’re a remarkably hardworking and loyal bunch and these two were anything but put upon. Well informed too, as Uemura-san took me through the development of the company, its history as a photo and camera business and its prospects as a manufacturer of leading digital technology.

    There’s no doubt the Accurio KM1 is the flagship, a B2 inkjet press that is the first real contender to HP Indigo’s dominance. But there’s more in the portfolio too. The MGI digital embellishment JetVarnish 30 engine was prominent on the stand.

    Watch for a re-worked version of the Accurio Label press in the next few months, moving away from its BizHub-box appearance while still sticking with toner. It’s the technology the market wants, says Uemura-san, who was part of the planning team. He reckons the inkjet label sector is very well served but there’s a gap in the market where toner works in terms of cost and quality. And he gives every impression of knowing about what he speaks.


    Label specialist, Taishi Motoshige, (left) showed me around the Screen stand and introduced me to Ayaka Sasaki who looks after the CTP.

    Just next door Screen, another iconic Japanese manufacturer had a very busy stand. Based in the imperial city of Kyoto it has successfully reinvented itself as the market for its emblematic platemaking technology dwindled and almost died. But Screen is one of the few in the world still manufacturing CTP machines and lo and behold, there’s a new version released at this IGAS. A stripped-down unit aimed at the replacement market in developing countries, the PlateRite 8600NII can be upgraded with all the latest technology. As with much of Screen’s well-regarded technology, it’s widely rebadged and OEM’d.

    If you think a new CTP verges on the anachronistic, I was astounded to see a new proofing press on the stand, the Proof Jet F780 Mark ll. Who’d have thought sections of the Japanese media and advertising industry still insist on a proof from a proofing press? I mean, what’s the point, when it’s not going to be printed on the proofing press? Still, that’s what they want and Screen is happy to provide it.

    However, don’t let me give you the impression that Screen is caught in a weird time warp. Most of its stand was a model display of high-powered digital printing with two versions of the high-speed Truepress Jet, one for direct marketing production, the other for graphic arts; very impressive results. No sign yet of a cut sheet version.

    Fascinated to see the developments of Screen’s label press, with a new version out for the show, the TruePress L350UV+LM. The LM stands for low-migration; an ink set aiming to avoid any challenges to its suitability for labels on food products. Next to it was an Italian laser die cutter, a Cartes GE361L producing the best results from the technology I’ve seen. The label roll is split as it enters the machine with the printed layer being laser cut from the rear before being reunited with the liner. Clever solution that solves most of the angle cut problems from using lasers.


    Nothing to see here again, I’m afraid.

    One of the disappointments of IGAS was the no show of the Canon Voyager, the much-hyped flagship graphic arts digital press. I saw it at last drupa, but it wasn’t operating. The samples on display were tremendous. Same at IGAS. Lots of fabulous samples behind glass, lots of banners promoting the model, but no actual press. There were no English speaking staff, insofar as I could find, so I’m no wiser as to what’s happening with the Voyager. Perhaps it’s not for the Japanese market.

    There was an Océ Colorado there, promoted as a Canon product.


    David Currie, Australian IGAS-san and still a formidable printing equipment salesman.

    After a couple of days of missed calls, I managed to get in front of David Currie, executive chairman Currie Group, on the Saturday morning. I was keen to meet in Tokyo because David, if anyone, is the Australian IGAS-san. He tells me he’s being coming to the show for 31 years, ever since he hooked up with long-term friend and partner Hori-san, founder and owner of Horizon. (Hori-san… Horizon. Geddit?)

    We forget that at that time in the 1980s there was a sense, much promoted by competitors, that ‘Made in Japan’ was somehow dodgy and inferior. Certainly the trail David Currie blazed at the time was the road less travelled. Of course, nowadays, Japanese technology is the benchmark of quality and innovation.

    Such is the case with the vast range of equipment on the Horizon stand, the largest at IGAS, and not only on the Horizon stand but on others too, such as Ricoh and HP. In fact almost all the digital press manufacturers are using Horizon finishing kit.

    We tried to track Hori-san for a celebratory photo, but he wasn’t to be found. Then true to form, David Currie transformed into a younger version of himself as a Horizon equipment product manager and gave me a pretty comprehensive tour of the stand. Sure, he’s got people to do that for him, but once a printing equipment salesman …


    Anniversary celebrations for Richard Timson, whose 30 years with Heidelberg, man and boy, was commemorated with a gift of saki from Shuya Mizyno, president of Heidelberg Japan and Thomas Frank, head of sales Asia Pacific, who is also a 30-year Heidelberg veteran.

    Saturday afternoon with the typhoon closing in it was time to taxi to the Heidelberg showroom in Shinagawa. (Travel tip: never trust the driver over Google maps.) The German press manufacturer, represented by the redoubtable Thomas Frank, was showing off its Smart Print Shop concept while virtually promoting the new digital Primefire. There was no actual showing of the inkjet (at the Heidelberg IGAS stand visitors donned goggle-style glasses for a virtual tour) but there was a mighty Speedmaster XL 106, which proceeded to print 12 jobs of 150 sheets each (20 waste sheets per job) in 30 minutes, without operator intervention.

    While the printing was underway, the plates changing automatically and the press autonomously adjusting the settings, we were taken on a tour of the full print process, including the Versafire, which produced 26 digital jobs at the same time, again without operator input.

    Heidelberg promotes the concept as digitally controlled printing. Hugely productive to meet the challenge of the digital world, Frank also mentioned the ‘r’ word as in ‘rent a press’ with all the consumables supplied. This is the reality of the ‘subscription printing’ scheme being promoted by the company to drive new sales. It’s attempting to change the concept of how you go about owning productive print. Richard Timson, managing director ANZ says he’s close to getting the first Australian customer signed on.


    Determined to win: Tomomitsu Harada, is new managing director of the Australian company.

    Monday morning saw me heading west out of Tokyo to Tomi, halfway across the main island to visit the Mimaki plant. The aggressive and competitive wide format brand makes no bones about its drive to win market share in Australia and New Zealand. Tomomitsu Harada, the new managing director of the Australian company, unabashedly takes pride in his determined sales drive. At 31 it’s his first overseas managing director’s role and he’s determined to make the most of it. Bringing his family here in September, he’s settling in Chatswood, where else?

    Mimaki has one of the largest ranges of wide format equipment in the sector. With a company goal to double its revenue to $US1 billion within five years it’s the very model of a ‘win at all costs’ Japanese company. Fascinating to hear Harada quote the ‘beat sheet’ used by his salespeople; equipment that’s half the investment cost of rivals, ink that’s always cheaper, service that is aiming to be 100% performed by the company with a few years.

    There’s no doubting the engineering quality of Mimaki, but what makes it stand out for me is its sheer sales drive to win. It’s only been going direct in the local market for four years but expect to hear a lot more from the full-on Harada. He’ll be here in time for Visual Impact in Sydney where he promises to unveil a few surprises.


    The Epson stand, where I missed my walk through with Alastair Bourne, was packed with good gear such as the Surepress L-6034VW. It also provided my first sight of the LX-10000F, the Workforce engine that’s bringing PrecisionCore inkjet technology into the office and small production sectors.

    And that’s it from me in Japan. It was a great show. I messed up with a couple of appointments, notably with Epson on Monday (my apologies Alastair – see photo above). Check out the next issue of Print21 magazine for full IGAS report.

    Now I’m off to Haneda airport for an overnighter to Sydney. See you at the Yaffa LIVE Forum on Friday.

    Sayonara.

  • FESPA Berlin – Nessan Cleary’s in-depth report

    Messe Berlin, site of Fespa 2018.

    Fespa has always been about wide format printing but this year’s show saw high volume printers mixed with industrial textile printers and even corrugated printing.

    Conventional wisdom has it that large format printing is mainly about sign making and display graphics but wide format inkjet technology is pushing beyond this, which was abundantly clear at this year’s main Fespa event in Berlin, Germany. Of course, there was still plenty of sign making in evidence, but there was a renewed focus on taking this to high volume industrial markets, including corrugated printing, and alongside noticeably more clothing and home furnishings solutions.

    There was a growing use of robotics for automated loading and unloading of substrates. Most robots are designed for industrial applications so they offer long life with little maintenance, which makes for a very flexible and cost-effective solution, even taking into account the cost of integrating the control systems to synchronise the loading with the printing. Canon, for example, demonstrated a robot next to an Arizona flatbed loading media to the printer and then unloading it direct to an Océ ProCut cutting table. The system was developed with a Dutch customer, Van Vliet Printing, but is relatively easy to interface with the Arizona.

    This robot on the Canon stand loads media to the Arizona flatbed, and then unloads it to the cutting table.

    Fespa set aside one hall for corrugated printing, with the main attraction being the Fujifilm stand with an Onset X3 complete with robot for automated unloading. Ashley Playford, national sales manager for Fujifilm Australia says that a big advantage of using robots is that they can handle different stack heights regardless of how thick the material is. There’s a choice of robots depending on what each customer is trying to achieve.

    From left: Ashley Playford, national sales manager Fujifilm Australia, and Graham Blackall, ANZ technical sales specialist, with the Fujifilm Acuity Ultra.

    Naturally, several vendors used the show to launch new printers, mainly 3.2m wide machines aimed at the production end of the market. Fujifilm showed off its brand new superwide rollfed printer, the Acuity Ultra, with a choice of 3.2m and 5m widths. It can print on up to three rolls simultaneously, with independent spindles so that the rolls can hold different amounts of media. It can produce up to 236 sqm/hr. It uses greyscale Kyocera printheads with 3, 7 and 14 picolitre drop sizes and maximum resolution of 1200 x 1200 dpi, with the prints on the stand demonstrating exceptional image quality for a superwide printer. Graham Blackall, ANZ technical sales specialist for Fujifilm, says: “There’s a lot of high volume machines in the market but the market is becoming more discerning about quality now and just being ‘good enough’ is no longer good enough.”

    It uses conventional UV curing rather than LED, but has an innovative water-cooling system on the vacuum table so that it can still print to heat-sensitive materials. Blackall says that the printer can handle textiles, with soft signage becoming an emerging market, and that it can also print to mesh materials. There are eight colour channels including CMYK plus light cyan and light magenta, as well as two whites. The ink is a new, high-quality, low film weight Uvijet GS Fujifilm ink that is said to be suitable for interior graphic display work.

    EFI introduced its new 3.2m wide Vutek H-series platform. It’s a hybrid designed around a roll to roll chassis and with tables for rigid media. However, there is a new linear drive magnetic carriage that should offer a more precise transport mechanism for boards than the belt and pulley system that most hybrids use. There’s automated table and carriage alignment and fully automated printhead maintenance as well as built-in diagnostic systems for dealing to help with servicing, both remote and on-site.

    There are two versions, both using Ricoh Gen5 printheads with three different drop sizes of 7, 14 and 21 picolitres. The H3 series have three heads per colour and can produce 74 boards per hour, while the H5 have five heads per colour and print 109bph.

    Agfa announced a new hybrid 3.3m wide printer, the Jeti Tauro H3300 LED, which takes boards up to 3.3 x 2.44m or roll media up to 600mm in diameter. There’s a choice of two inksets: the general purpose Annuvia 1551, and Anuvia 1250, for absorbent media, such as paper and cardboard. Strangely, the company opted to show a tiny lego model rather than the actual printer!

    Mutoh answered customer demands by showing off its first true flatbed printer, the PerformanceJet 2508UF, which takes boards up to 1250 x 2540 mm and can handle media up to 100 mm thick and up to 50 Kg/ sqm in weight. The bed is split into different vacuum zones. This is a UV LED printer that can be configured with either two sets of CMYK or CMYK plus white and varnish. It uses four greyscale printheads but can be field-upgraded to six heads, for dual CMYK plus white and varnish.

    Mutoh also showed off a new 1.62m wide roll-to-roll device, the ValueJet 1638UR. Resolution is up to 1400 x 1400 dpi and it takes Mutoh’s new US11 UV LED ink that’s designed to work with a very wide range of substrates. It prints CMYK plus white and clear ink.

    Latex reinvented

    HP used the Fespa show to launch its first rigid latex printer, the R2000, complete with HP’s first latex white ink. The R2000 is a hybrid device, taking both roll-fed and rigid media up to 2.5m wide media and 50mm thick, and rolls up to 100kg. It has a wide platen, with 14 automatic independent vacuum chambers to hold boards in place. It uses a belt system to pull the media through the printer but has an optical sensor that watches as the media advances and can correct the movement of that media. It can print at up to 88 sqm/hr or 49 sqm/hr in six-pass mode.

    HP launched its R2000 hybrid, capable of printing to rigid materials.

    The latex ink has been completely redesigned to work with rigid materials as well as flexibles. It cures at a lower temperature which allows this printer to work with more heat sensitive materials than HP’s previous latex printers. HP has had to take out the scratch resistance built into its roll-fed inks to improve the jetting so there’s a new Latex Overcoat to help protect prints.

    HP has used the HDNA printheads from its PageWide presses, which have twice the number of nozzles with the extra row of nozzles used to recirculate the ink within the head. This is essential for printing with white ink as the heavier particles can settle in the bottom of the tanks or clog the heads.

    Ricoh is also working on a new latex printer, showing a prototype of a new roll-fed model at Fespa, which should be available towards the end of this year. Unlike Ricoh’s previous latex printer, which was built on a Mimaki chassis, this has been developed entirely by Ricoh. Angelo Mandelli, wide format product manager for Ricoh Europe, says that it can print at 40 sqm/hr in six pass mode on banner materials and at 25 sqm/hr for production quality on vinyl. It prints CMYK plus white for now but Mandelli says that Ricoh will probably add orange and green to expand the colour gamut.

    Ricoh is clearly making a much more decisive play for the wide format market, showing also a new flatbed printer, the Ricoh Pro T7210, which is mainly aimed at industrial printing markets. It takes media up to 2.1 × 3.2 metres, and up to 110mm thick. It’s capable of 50sqm/hr in Standard mode, which doubles to 100 sqm/hr in the high-speed mode. Resolution is 1200 dpi and the ink is Ricoh’s own LED UV-curable ink with a choice of four, five or six colours with the full inkset including CMYK plus white and a clear ink or varnish as well as a primer. 

    Paul Thompson, business development manager ANZ for DTG and visual display solutions at Ricoh Australia, says that much of the print industry, including large format, has become commoditised by focussing on price but that Ricoh is concentrating on adding value. He points out that Ricoh makes its own printheads and supplies heads to many other vendors, adding: “We see that inkjet is the future and that if we get it at the right quality and cost then it will make inroads in other areas.”

    An obvious example of this is the growing textiles market. Ricoh showed off a neat desktop direct to garment printer, the Ri100, which can print various items such as T-shirts, cloth bags, cushion covers and sweatshirts. It prints mainly to cotton, including blends of up to 50 percent cotton. There’s an option to include a separate heat press, the Ricoh Rh 100 Finisher, which has the same 399 x 698 mm footprint so that the printer can be stacked on top of it.

    Ricoh’s Ri100 – note the RH100 finishing unit underneath it.

    EFI Reggiani has developed a new six colour pigment ink with binder with CMYK plus red and blue for its printers, which are mainly used for home furnishing and fashion printing to materials with natural fibres such as cotton and linen. Giorgio Sala, EFI Reggiani’s ink application specialist, says: “We can eliminate the post treatment. In the drier we can fix the ink because the binder is inside the ink.” He adds: “The new ink is designed for Kyocera printheads, which all of our machines have, so we can use it with the existing machines.”

    Mimaki showed off a new version of the Tiger 1800, which was developed by its subsidiary La Meccanica and now gains a number of features typical to Mimaki printers, such as its MAPS nozzle redundancy technology as well as automated maintenance. It’s got Kyocera printheads, with the resolution raised from 600dpi to 1200 dpi.

    In conclusion, there’s a clear trend from this Fespa toward more industrialised printing for volume markets including display graphics as well as garments and home furnishings. There’s more automation, including the use of robots, as well as automatic maintenance to improve productivity, while at the same time most vendors have also improved image quality. The show itself felt extremely busy, with over 20000 visitors crammed into the halls over four days, proof that the market for wide format technology shows no sign of slowing down.

    Next year’s Fespa show takes place in Munich, Germany, from 14 – 17th May.