At the ISA Sign Expo in Las Vegas, EFI exhibited six existing machines in its wide-format inkjet portfolio, as well as the company’s first inkjet inks for thermoforming and corrugated-plastic applications. EFI also introduced new 3M MCS warranty-certified inks for VUTEk GS Pro series printers and offered technology demonstrations of its upcoming SmartSign Analytics software.
Hardware and inks
EFI’s line up of wide-format, UV-based inkjet systems at ISA included: VUTEk HS100 Pro; VUTEk QS2 Pro, a 2-meter hybrid printer with variable-drop grayscale and white-ink print capabilities; VUTEk GS2000LX Pro, a LED UV-curing machine with grayscale and white ink; VUTEk GS3250r, a 3.2-metre roll-to-roll printer with 1,000 dpi capabilities; R3225, an entry-level roll-to-roll printer; and the entry-level hybrid H652 printer.
At ISA, EFI provided printed samples of its new thermoforming inks that can be used to produce thermoplastic sheets for forming into custom signs, POP displays, vending/gaming panels and like applications. The process is based on a patented eight-colour ink system, with white-printing capabilities. According to EFI, the thermoforming inks are designed to help users eliminate costs associated with screen printing, hand-painting and vinyl lettering in thermoformed object decoration. The inks can be employed through specially modified versions of EFI's GS Pro models, including the VUTEk GS3250 Pro-TF and GS2000 Pro-TF.
EFI also introduced new inks for corrugated plastic printing. Designed to solve inkjet adhesion problems in applications like yard signs, these inks, according to EFI, are compatible with all brands of white corrugated polypropylene and will run on the VUTEk GS2000 Pro-CP and GS3250 Pro-CP printers.
At the Las Vegas Sign Expo, EFI announced a new VUTEk GS 3M Premium UV inks for its VUTEk GS Pro series printers. These inks carry the 3M MCS Warranty, which covers lifetime issues of graphics like fading, cracking and peeling. Co-branded EFI and 3M inks for the VUTEk GS2000, GS3200, GS3250, GS3250r, GS5000r and EFI R3225 printers all qualify for the warranty, which is also to be made available for the VUTEk GS2000LX and GS3250LX LED UV-curing printers in the near future.
EFI’s primary product introduction at ISA was SmartSign Analytics (SSA), which is scheduled to enter beta-testing this quarter. The company describes SSA as software that captures and reports analytic data on signage viewership to help marketers measure campaign effectiveness. “Print can drive relevance, revenue and profit in the age of big data, and this technology demonstration can show how that will happen with signage,” stated Mark McGowan, Director of EFI Online Product Solutions.
A single SSA unit includes a Webcam attached to a sign, connected to a computer or tablet running third-party facial recognition software and EFI’s proprietary SSA software for data organization and reporting. In a retail implementation, EFI believes most marketers will likely deploy multiple units to measure, compare and improve signage performance at different stores or at different in-store locations.
The SSA system’s Webcam and software combination detects the presence of people within viewing range and determines which of them are actually looking at a sign. Eye-tracking tools on the SSA system also allow it to calculate how much time is spent viewing signage. Facial pattern algorithms are designed to assign a gender and age range to each viewer.
Continuing in the software category, EFI exhibited its new Version 5 of Fiery XF with Web Control Center digital front end with colour management, as well as its range of Management Information System software like PrintSmith Vision and Pace.
MacDermid Printing Solutions announced the commercial introduction of a new digital flexo plate specifically designed for use with UV inks. Dubbed the UVR plate, it is swell-resistant to aggressive UV inks and has low dot gain.
According to MacDermid, the 55 durometer plate is ideal for the narrow web market where UV is used heavily. UVR plates can be processed with conventional solvents or in MacDermid’s LAVA thermal platemaking system. The plate is also compatible with the company’s LUX platemaking process, which allows for smaller printed dots and more durability on-press. According to the company, the UVR plate also has comparable performance when paired with water-based inks as well.
UVR is commercially available in thicknesses of 0.045 in. (1.14mm) and 0.067 in (1.70mm), and in format sizes up to 52 x 80 inches (1,321 x 2,032 mm).
The Dutch appellate court at The Hague has confirmed infringement by Chengdu Xingraphics Co. Ltd. of China with regard to Agfa Graphics NV’s key patent on digital printing plates.
The appeals court decided that Agfa’s patent EP823327 is infringed by the sales of Xingraphics’ FIT digital printing plates. The verdict from the court in the Netherlands is consistent with the first instance decision of November 22, 2011, in a parallel procedure before the German Landgericht.
The court has ordered Xingraphics and its Dutch dealer Atécé to refrain from further infringement in the Netherlands and to pay damages, as well as a refund of legal expenses to Agfa Graphics.
“This court decision confirms that we have a strong patent portfolio and that our IP rights are well founded and relevant,” said Stefaan Vanhooren, President of Agfa Graphics. “It signals that we are serious about protecting our know-how against infringements.”
The injunction against further infringement not only applies to the mentioned FIT plates but also to any other positive thermal plates, which use the patented technology.
‘’We are currently discussing patent issues with other competitors and their dealers in order to obtain a fair settlement as compensation for their infringement," said Rudi Goedeweeck, Agfa’s General Manager of Intellectual Property.
Flint Group has launched a new offset UV ink series aimed at the folding carton and commercial printing markets. Known as the Arrowstar Plus UV8000, the inks are designed for high-speed sheetfed operations.
“Arrowstar Plus UV inks are extremely fast-curing, making them a great choice for print jobs that involve direct finishing, backside printing for non-food applications, and more,” said Tyler Newsom, Sheetfed Product Manager. “Their performance and quality are unwavering, even on the most challenging, high-speed presses in the market.”
Flint says the key behind the Arrowstar Plus UV8000 is the unique resin and photoinitiator chemistry, which leads to exception rub-resistance, among other qualities. “Arrowstar Plus UV 8000 inks use the latest raw material technology to push the limits of cure speed and functionality,” said Rodney Balmer, Flint Group’s Director of Global Research & Product Development, Sheetfed.
INX International’s EcoTech TC II sheetfed inks have earned certification from the environmentally focused EcoLogo program. Certified inks include four EcoTech process colours and 13 blending bases.
EcoLogo is a Government of Canada official certification mark and one North America’s longest-standing environmental standards. Founded in 1988, the EcoLogo certification is exclusively managed by TerraChoice of Ottawa, Ontario, which focuses on over 80 product categories.
The newly certified EcoTech TC II sheetfed inks are mineral oil and cobalt drier free. According to INX, the composition of the inks provides for fast start-ups and drying times. The company also states the inks provide strong dot sharpness and press stability in light coverage situations.
INX reports that printers who have used the ink set can foil stamp within 48 to 72 hours after coming off press. EcoTech inks also conform to ISO 2846-1 standards and are suitable for GRACoL G7 certification.
INX International Ink Co., part of Sakata INX worldwide operations, is described as the third largest producer of inks in North America with over 20 facilities in the U.S. and Canada.
Sun Chemical teamed up with ScentSational Technologies, which develops scented packaging applications, to introduce SunScent coatings as a commercially printable coating line. SunScent allows printers to incorporate scent directly onto the packaging substrate that, according to the developers, stays inactive until consumers handle the package, trigger a release, and experience a product's aroma.
Available for flexo, gravure and offset coating units, SunScent coatings can be applied directly onto packaging as a spot coating and done in-line. Stock scents are available for SunScent coatings, but custom "Signature Scents" can be developed for brands that want a unique scent associated with their product. SunScent coatings are available in food grade flavours, as well as fragrances.
Unlike traditional scratch and sniff labels, according to Sun Chemical, the desired scent is applied directly onto the primary packaging, including flexible packaging pouches and other tamper-resistant packages that consumers cannot open on the grocery shelf. The structure of micro-encapsulates in the coatings are designed to prevent premature breakage during the printing process while delivering scent release.
“A product's scent or aroma can create anticipation and desire in the minds of consumers. If it smells good, they are confident it will taste good, or perform well, and they are more likely to purchase the product,” stated Bob Lorenz, Vice President of Business Development at Sun Chemical. “It comes as no surprise that the sense of smell is a differentiator that many brand owners would like to take advantage of. The challenge however, is intriguing customers with the scent while ensuring the packaging is tamper-resistant. SunScent coatings print the scented coating directly onto the package itself so the scent can be released by simply handling the product, rather than scratching.”
At Graph Expo this week, Agfa announced a new addition to its :Energy plate line. The new :Energy Xtra is a positive working thermal plate that offers runs up to 600,000 impressions without baking and longer when baked. The company calls the :Energy Xtra a highly-durable, all-purpose plate. That plate does not require pre-heat or post-baking, which reduces plate-making time and energy.
"The new :Energy Xtra is an example of Agfa Graphics' continued effort to respond to customer needs and to bring new and innovative solutions to market," said Tim Van den Bossche, Vice President Global Marketing and Strategy at Agfa Graphics. "For those printers with very particular press conditions and long runs, our no-bake solution truly simplifies plate-making and offers a more sustainable solution, an important advantage over other plates that require baking."
The plate can print 1-99% dot at 200 lpi AM, 20 micron FM and :Sublima 200 lpi XM screening. The :Energy Xtra will be available in early 2013.
During Label Expo Americas, which begins next week in Chicago, Durst is unveiling what it refers to as “digital foil” UV ink for metallic label and packaging applications.
This ink introduction, which is also presented by Durst as the world’s first solvent-free silver UV ink, coincides with the Label Expo launch of Durst’s new Tau 330 UV inkjet label press. The metallic silver UV ink can be used with the Tau 330 and also with previous models like the Tau 150-8C.
According to Durst, the advantage of its new metallic ink is seen in the ability to lay down – in one pass – a “digital foil” that meets all the demands of metallic label applications. “We see our successful development of Durst Metallic Silver UV Ink as a real game changer,” said Helmuth Munter, Worldwide Manager of Durst’s Label Printing Division.
The Tau UV inkjet label presses reach speeds of 65 to 95 linear feet (20 to 30 linear meters) per minute.
Sun Chemical is launching SunLit Crystal as a universal sheetfed offset process ink set. Described by the company as an “all-in-one ink solution,” SunLit Crystal is based on a high proportion of renewable raw materials.
As a vegetable oil-based printing ink, SunLit Crystal can be used on straight or perfecting presses of all sizes. Sun Chemical describes the ink product as an ideal solution for plants where one or more presses are supplied from a pumping station.
"Customers who work with electronic media are used to high quality and vivid images and SunLit Crystal can help replicate this quality in printed material to compete with all forms of media,” said Dr. Bernhard Fritz, Product Manager Sheetfed Systems Europe, Sun Chemical.
SunLit Crystal is also fully aligned with the measures of print standardization (ISO 12647:2), which the company describes as a major benefit for print buyers and international organizations.
Sun Chemical has released two new solvent-ink products, called Streamline ESL HPQ and Streamline Ultima HPQ, for use with wide-format inkjet equipment.
The new additions to the Streamline range, according to Sun Chemical, have been matched to the original products for both colour shade and strength, as well as physical properties, enabling customers to continue using their existing settings when converting from the original inks.
The Streamline ESL HPQ product is designed for use with systems from Mutoh (Valuejet, Spitfire, Rockhopper II, Falcon and Blizzard), Agfa (Grand Sherpa), Roland (Soljet Pro II, Pro III), and machines fitted with Epson 10000/DX4 or DX5 print heads.
The Streamline Ultima HPQ line is designed for Mimaki systems, including the JV33 and JV5 models, as well as all Mimaki printers using SS21 inks or any machines using Epson DX5 print heads.
At drupa 2012, Agfa Graphics unveiled the :Azura CX125 COU cleanout unit, based on what it calls cascade technology, for higher-volume running of its :Azura TS chemistry-free thermal plates. According to the company, this new system yields a 60 percent reduction in gum consumption as compared to previous models.
The :Azura CX125 COU reduces gum consumption and extends bath life, for higher volume users of :Azura TS plates. The :Azura CX125 COU, which accommodates plate widths up to 125c m, is designed to handle plate volumes up to 40,000 m2, while providing a bath life of up to 7,000 m2.
The cascade technology behind the :Azura CX125 COU cleans each plate in two steps: The primary clean out is carried out in Section 1, the plate then passes to Section 2 where the gum is always fresh from the bottle. The key part of the process is the cascade of gum from section 2 to section 1, where a small volume of water is added to compensate for evaporation.
“The patented technology in the new :Azura CX125 COU clean-out unit results in reliable throughput with fewer changeovers, for greater productivity, efficiency and ease of use,” stated Ralph Hilsdon, Marketing Manager, Pre-Press systems, Agfa Graphics.
At drupa, Agfa also highlighted the previously announced launch of :Apogee Suite 8.0, featuring the new :Apogee StoreFront, which is a cloud-based, web-to-print solution, as well as two versions of the UV-curable :Jeti 3020 Titan series – with a 36-print-head configuration that can be field upgraded to a 48-head version.
The company also introduced two new platesetters for the high-volume newspaper market. The :Advantage N PL HS (Pallet Load, High-Speed) and the :Advantage N TR HS (Trolley Load, High-Speed) both run at speeds up to 350 plates per hour, 50 plates more than the :Advantage N. The :Advantage N PL HS features a completely new design and can hold up to 6,000 plates – two pallets of 3,000 plates each.
Agfa also demonstrated for the first time its M-Press Leopard industrial inkjet system, which has an increased bed size of 1.6 x 3.3 metres, as well as an increase to 75 vacuum zones for positioning of the sheet.
Effective April 1, Flint will be raising the prices of its packaging inks, which include solvent-based and all packaging and narrow web white inks, in North America.
Citing the continuing increases in raw material costs, namely the increase in the price of titanium dioxide, solvent-based inks will increase six percent while white inks will increase upwards of 18 percent, depending on the type and concentration of raw materials of its composition.
Susan Kuchta, Vice President North American Packaging and Narrow Web, commented, “Cost pressure has been constant and the magnitude of the cost increases require we pass them through the supply chain. These costs cannot be absorbed and still maintain a consistent and assured supply of product to the industry.”
Flint Group will communicate directly with its customers regarding the overall impact of the price increases.
Flint Group North America will be raising the price of its black coldset inks (used to print newspapers, directories, and books) nine cents per kilo in Canada (four cents per pound in the US). The company attributes the increase to increased global demand for petroleum-derived raw materials, especially the increase in price for naphthenic oils and carbon black.
“Flint Group is taking every possible measure to mitigate the impact of this increase,” says Norm Harbin, Business Director, News Inks for Flint Group. “We appreciate customers’ understanding of the market conditions that make this price increase necessary.”
According to Flint, there are only a handful of North American naphthenic oil refineries supplying its global demand and a significant amount of that oil is now being exported overseas. Carbon black manufacturers also removed a significant amount of capacity during the recent global recession, but now that demand has increased once again (with demand from the tire industry), manufacturers are now at capacity.
Fujifilm and Kodak have separately announced increased plate production through its European manufacturing facilities.
Kodak announced it has upgraded a second plate manufacturing line at its facility in Leeds, UK, and will increase its capacity for producing its process-free Thermal Direct and PF-N plates.
"We are fast approaching the milestone of 1,500 commercial and publication customers using process-free technology plates," said Doug Edwards, General Manager, Prepress Solutions for Kodak. "That number continues to grow aggressively. On the newspaper side, a growing number of newspaper accounts in the U.S. and Canada now use PF-N Plates."
Fujifilm announced that a new production line at its Netherlands-based plant will go online in January 2012. It is one of four primary sites where the company produces printing plates. It will also increase the company's capacity for chemistry-free and low-chemistry plates.
The Fujifilm plant in The Netherlands also employs renewable energy produced through wind turbines, which currently accounts for 20 percent of the company's production power needs, and also recaptures waste heat to reduce carbon dioxide emissions.
Sun Chemical's Rycoline Group announced it will be increasing blanket product prices in North America by five percent, effective January 1, 2012.
“We’ve seen especially high demand in cotton in 2011 because of the year’s poor harvest,” said Dennis Sweet, Vice President, Rycoline. “As a result, there has been a tremendous increase in the cost of cotton, and we don’t foresee any of these costs to go down in the near future. We will continue to work on controlling our own costs closely with our supply chain partners, to improve our internal operations, and to develop new value-oriented products and services that can help customers improve their productivity and grow their business.”
The blanket product lines affected by the price increase include: SunBeam, SunBeam N, SunBeam 116, SunBeam 122, SunDot, SunSpot, SunDual and SunLazer.
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