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Wed, May

Solvent inkjet has been around for many years but latex is gaining ever more traction, so which is the best choice? Nessan Cleary investigates.

On the face of it latex and solvent printers appeal to the same people – those using flexible roll-fed materials for banners, posters, general display signage and vehicle graphics. There’s a lot of overlap between the two technologies, which offer similar levels of performance in terms of image quality and outdoor performance. So, how to choose between them?

Nessan Cleary looks at just what sort of print quality you can expect from this entry-level latex printer.

The HP Latex 260 is an entry-level latex printer that offers an alternative to solvent printers, particularly for more office-alternative to solvent printers, particularly for more office- based type users. It's based on the same chassis as HP’s T7100 CAD and Z6200 graphics printers, albeit with additional heaters to cure the latex inks.

Cutting tables are a must-have accessory for a flatbed UV printer but does it make economic sense to plump for an attractively priced import?

Sooner or later most people who buy a flatbed printer also find that they need a cutting table, if only to cut down the large rigid boards to more manageable sizes. But, inevitably, most budget for the printer and look to save money on the cutting table. Step forward the Dyss X7, a solid but affordable cutter that’s been pitched as an alternative to the main suppliers.

Nessan Cleary kicks off the first of a series of independent tests by looking at Agfa’s most popular wide-format printer in the UK.

The Anapurna M2050, which is Agfa's most popular model in the UK, is targeted at the entry level to mid range user, where its flexibility is suitable for a broad range of jobs.

In theory GMG ProductionSuite separates the prepress from the ripping for greater production efficiency, so what’s it like in practice? Nessan Cleary asked users.

We've long been advocates of using workflow programs to organise production departments more efficiently, so it seemed like a good idea to look at one such system – GMG's ProductionSuite – in more detail. This should separate prepress functions from the output in order to squeeze the maximum efficiency from both halves of a job. It can oversee multiple printers so that jobs can be routed to the most appropriate device, even late in the production process. It can take care of difficult issues such as colour management and finishing marks and offer centralised management of every job in production.

Do distributors and resellers add value to the products they sell? Nessan Cleary takes a look at this crucial supplier network.

When it comes to buying new kit it’s easy to think about specs and prices but an important ingredient in every purchase is the way that it’s sold and supported. In some cases, particularly with the bigger, more expensive flatbeds, themanufacturers will deal direct with customers. But often the sales and support is outsourced to specialist distributors backed up by a network of dealers that have developed relationships with customers, possibly in niche areas that it’s hard for the equipment manufacturer to reach alone.

We’ve seen a substantial amount of new kit launched this year but it's worth looking at where there’s still room for improvement. Nessan Cleary reports.

Looking back over 2013 there’s been a good smattering of new printers released so it’s easy to focus here. But perhaps the most striking developments have been in the area of workflow. Up to now the wide-format sector has mostly relied on whatever Rip happens to come with the printer but, clearly, quite a few vendors believe that there’s room for something more sophisticated.

Nessan Cleary asks users for their feedback on this cutting table, which was introduced by Esko at Drupa last year.

Most people who invest in a UV flatbed printer quickly find that a cutting table is an essential accessory to keep jobs moving through production and prevent bottlenecks. These tables can handle most materials from vinyl through to acrylic and many now sport powerful routing heads for dealing with the tougher substrates such as aluminium. There are several to choose from but Esko's Kongsberg tables have established themselves as one of the market leaders. Esko has a bewildering array but the XN series, introduced at last year’s Drupa show, has proven popular.

Nessan Cleary takes a closer look at this range of printers, with which Hollanders continues to single-mindedly pursue the textile market.

Dutch manufacturer Hollanders was set up in 2003 specifically to make large-format textile printers. Almost uniquely, Hollanders has opted to concentrate its efforts at the communications market, including soft signage, rather than the growing garment industry.

Nessan Cleary talks to two users about their experiences with this high-volume flatbed printer.

Konventional wisdom has it that screenprinting is better suited to fast throughput than inkjet but there are several digital printers that challenge that. This month we’ve been looking at one of these - HP's FB7600. Naturally print quality and the ability to handle multiple substrates are still key considerations but these printers are all about productivity, so the loading and unloading systems are just as important.

Well, when it comes to environmental considerations in the manufacture and distribution of wide-format inkjet printers, many vendors are still standing on the apron though their engines may be running. Nessan Cleary reports.

We know that for many businesses, particularly retailers, it’s important to be seen to be green and that increasingly that means looking to their whole supply chain and making sure that it reflects their own environmental policies. The knock-on effect is that large-format print providers are going to have to be in a position to demonstrate to their customers that their business fits the bill. And that in turn means taking a long hard look at the suppliers they use and the equipment they buy. In commercial print and in packaging this is already de rigueur but it seems that the large-format sector is lagging behind.

Nessan Cleary gets up close to this new flatbed, launched complete with new inks at Fespa 2013.

Korean ink manufacturer Inktec showed a flatbed printer at this year’s Fespa show in London. The Jetrix KX5 has a bed size of 2.5 x 1.3m, and there’s an optional roll-feeder which takes media up to 2.2m. This should take rolls up to around 100m, enough to allow the printer to be left printing during the night. Unusually, it will take media up to 10cm high. The operator has to set the carriage height but there’s a motion sensor on either side that will stop printing if there’s any danger of the heads hitting the substrate.

Focus on finishing…and you know it’s likely you’ll significantly improve your margins. So where are the main advances taking place. Nessan Cleary investigates.

There’s been a development frenzy when it comes to cutting tables, but don’t expect the same level of activity elsewhere on the finishing kit front. So in some instances you’re going to continue to suffer from that production bottleneck until manufacturers put the same levels of R&D into other tools as they have into cutting technology. It’s easy to see why the focus has been on such devices – the demand for more automation has been almost palpable. And the developers have risen to the market’s expectation.

Nessan Cleary investigates how this cutting plotter handles a range of materials at high speeds.

Earlier this year Mutoh launched a new series of cutting plotters, known as ValueCut, which are essentially improved versions of the Kona series.