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Sat, Aug

ON TEST: Canon Arizona 1280GT

Canon’s latest iteration of its long running Arizona printers is the 1200 series but how well does this stand up? Nessan Cleary went to find out. 

The Canon Arizona printer has consistently been one of the most popular flatbeds in the UK. The original Arizona was developed back in 2007 by Océ, now part of Canon. Since then the company has steadily improved both the printer and the service offering around it.

Earlier this year Canon released an updated version with the launch of the 1200 series. As with previous series of Arizonas, it’s available in two different sizes. For this series there are three options on the ink channels for each size, making for six models in total.

All the printers offer a 250cm wide print area, but the GT versions have a 125cm bed length whereas the larger XT models have a printable width up to 308cm, which is exactly the same size as with previous Arizonas (apart from the much larger 6100 series).

There is also a roll-feeder option that clips across the front of the machine, though only takes media up to 240cm wide. It is also about ten percent slower than printing to rigid media.

There are a number of new features but the main change lies in the use of light colours. Previously, Canon has argued that there was no need for light colours because the Arizonas use a greyscale printhead. Instead Canon has offered additional channels with full cyan and magenta inks, which it calls CM2, that help speed up the printers.

But for the new 1200 series there’s also an option to have light cyan and light magenta. Andy Rockall of Canon UK says: “The light colours are the major advantage. It’s given us a really huge boost.”

The basic 1240 models have four colour channels for a standard CMYK inkset. The 1260 models have six channels so that there’s a choice between adding either light cyan and light magenta, or additional cyan and magenta, or two sets of white, or even white and varnish.

The top of the range 1280 models have eight channels with the most obvious choice being to use the light colours plus white and varnish. This was the set-up for the 1280GT that we tested. However, you can start with a 1240 and field upgrade it through to a 1280.

The Arizona printers were amongst the first to really exploit the capabilities of a greyscale printhead, which use several different sizes of ink drops to create smooth gradations. All the Arizonas have used Toshiba Tec printheads, starting with the very first 250GT all the way up to the top of the range 6100 series.

These heads produce a native 6pl droplet, but can fire multiple drops that combine in flight to produce up to seven different greyscale levels ranging from 0-42pl. For reference, six picolitres is about a third of the size of a human hair.

The 1200 series machines use one printhead per channel and can produce up to 20.4m2/hr in Production mode. However, it is worth noting that there is an older 600 series that appears to use two printheads per channel and is considerably faster - up to 49.7m2/hr in its Production mode with six colours, CMYK+CM.

The curing is still via conventional mercury lamps. Canon has optimized the design for the lamp housings, which it makes at the same plant in Vancouver, Canada, where it builds the Arizonas.

This new series also gains the pneumatic registration pins from the 6100 series, which means that its easy to place the media in exactly the right spot on the bed. There’s a foot pedal at the back that pops the pins up and down. The machine automatically senses the pins and drops them before printing in case you forget.

There’s a crash sensor that surrounds the carriage. Rockall adds: “Our printheads are all recessed by 300mm so that we scrape the surface of the carriage rather than the heads.

There are no sensors around the moving gantry so you can easily check the prints as each swathe goes down. That said, the gantry will stop immediately at the slightest pressure. The gantry itself moves on a stepping motor. Rockall adds: “The Renishaw encoders that we use give it the accuracy.”

The bed is skimmed at the factory to ensure that its absolutely flat, and its leveled when the machine is installed – naturally Canon recommends installing it on a flat surface. There’s also a pixel placement system that adjusts the firing distance between the nozzles and the media surface to ensure that the dots go in exactly the right place.

Machine maintenance is fairly simply. For now it’s a manual clean, with a cleaning station on the left of the carriage. It needs about five minutes each morning to manually wipe over the heads, with a few minutes of additional scrubbing once a week.

However, Canon is also planning to add a further option for an automatic cleaning station, essentially the same system that’s already used on the 6100 series. Derek Joys, programme manager at Canon UK, says: “It’s going to be a must have for the machine because it does make it more efficient in terms of reducing the manual intervention.”

The Arizona starts at around £80,000, which includes installation delivery and training. Canon normally quotes a day and a half for installation though Rockall says that it rarely takes more than a day as the machine comes in a single crate.

Most customers order it with the optional roll media which adds a further £10,000 to the cost. This can be added at a later date as a field upgrade, though the cost rises to £14,000. The price also includes a 12 month warranty which includes engineer call outs and one head per year. Joys says: “The average usage is 0.7 heads per year with the Arizonas.” He adds that the company prides itself on the level of service offered and that most people take out service contracts for subsequent years.

In the UK, the Arizona is normally paired with an Onyx Rip. You can run an Arizona from other Rips, but since Canon owns Onyx it’s probably easier to simply buy the two together.

 

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