17 Dec 2018

It’s all change at LFR as Derek Pearson joins the team.

Fork in the road

We’ve some exciting news at LFR this week: we’ve just added Derek Pearson, former editor of Sign World, to our team. To explain the reasoning behind this – and indeed detail other changes at Format – Marc Burnett has written the below blog:

Refreshing news from LFR and Format PR, or… Marc Burnett learns how to run a business that serves many masters while minimising the potential for conflict.

As some of you will already be aware, there are two distinct businesses being run here at Format HQ – an online news publishing business, and a PR and marketing agency.

Clearly there is significant potential for conflict when you have two such businesses, one that sets out to serve everyone in the industry equally and impartially, and another that specifically serves a select few with a service entirely biased towards gaining those select few a competitive edge.

So, how did we get into this position? And what’s to be done to allow these two businesses to continue to flourish and grow without conflict or compromise?

Here’s the history, as briefly as I can:

In 2012 − following the management buy-out I undertook with Abi Ricketts – Large Format Review became a fully independent, online news publication serving the sign and wide format display print market.
Since then Large Format Review (or LFR as it is more commonly known) has grown into one of the industry’s leading online publications, boasting an advertising portfolio that is currently sold out, an LFR Product Bulletin email advisory service that operates at near capacity, and a website that boasts more daily visits from sign and display print professionals than you could reasonably shake a whole truckload of sticks at.

Good thing too, because that level of commercial success was planned from the minute the management buyout was conceived, and no-one is ever happy if such plans don’t pan out.

Format PR on the other hand was born entirely by accident.

I have been in the sign and display print industry for some 25 years now, and in more recent times worked in senior marketing positions within businesses that had commercial relationships spanning the entirety of our market – hardware, software and consumable supplies – both here in the UK and internationally. Over the course of that time I’ve worked with a large number of big brand manufacturers on collaborative marketing campaigns and associated PR. Bottom line − I know a lot of senior people in a lot of senior businesses in our industry.

After Abi and I had completed the MBO of LFR we got phone-calls from a number of those senior people. I’ll take it as a compliment that some of those phone-calls were from previous associates who wanted to know if we were also available to do some freelance marketing and PR work. Now, I’m not very good at saying no at the best of times, but with a new business to fund and develop, the luxury of saying no to a guaranteed revenue stream seemed daft. So, almost from the get-go, we had found ourselves doing marketing and PR work which we originally believed was to be little more than short-term “favours for friends”. However, things quickly developed beyond that.

I’m blaming Abi Ricketts for what happened next. You see, Abi is a top quality, corporate-level PR specialist. Her previous gigs include European PR Director for telecommunications giant Alcatel, as well as bucket-loads of high-tech PR agency experience over the past 20 years.  She was able to take my 25 years of industry specific experience and polish my work to the point where it suddenly became more than reasonably professional.

We also managed to secure the services of Morwenna Kearns in 2013, previously co-founder of Output, editor of Print Monthly and deputy editor of SignLink, as well as a charity marketing assistant and blogger. Alongside her impressive CV credentials, Morwenna is super-organised, an excellent copywriter and a proof-reader extraordinaire.

The end result? The short-term, “favours for friends” quickly evolved into solid commitments to provide a PR service on an ongoing basis. We were being asked to go on retainer as a contracted marketing resource. Over time more companies came on board, and they wanted the same level of service.

In a nutshell that’s how Format PR came about, by accident rather than design, and it’s grown exponentially. We now look after an exclusive client list that includes Nazdar Ink Technologies, Drytac Europe, Zünd UK, HEXIS UK, ArtSystems and a number of other, equally well-known UK distributors and resellers who collectively represent just about every reputable brand in our industry.

As a result we found ourselves in a tricky position where LFR and Format PR co-existed, but − as the PR side of our business continued to grow – there was too much potential for conflict and something had to change. It is impossible to be totally impartial with one hat on and completely client-oriented when wearing another – and, believe me, we’ve tried. No business can achieve its full potential when shackled by compromise. While we think we’ve done a pretty good job of managing the situation, the fact remains that, in order for our publishing business to thrive and our PR business to reach its fullest potential, they will have to operate in greater isolation from each other.

And then Derek Pearson phoned me. And the clouds parted. And I had my moment of clarity.

Derek Pearson photo LFR

Derek Pearson started working in the sign industry in 1996 and has been the editor of Sign World magazine for about 11 years. His credentials, and his experience, are second to none. Derek told me he was available.

By the end of that phone-call Derek was − to all intents and purposes − the new editor of LFR.

Just as importantly, this freed up Abi Ricketts to become the boss of Format PR, meaning she doesn’t need to log in, look at, or even consider LFR ever again. In fact I don’t even care if she and Derek never talk to each other again, though as friends I bet they will. Abi can now focus her time and talents exclusively on developing the PR and marketing side of our business.

Our plans for Format PR remain modest – we have no desire to take over the world, or become a big agency – we simply offer a well-tailored PR and marketing service to a discerning clientele. I guess you could call it a kind of boutique PR and marketing service.

The result? We now have two business running independently of each other – both firmly in the hands of absolute professionals – and both can now thrive.

So, what have I learnt?

I’ve learnt that I have a huge amount of respect for distributors – particularly distributors who serve many masters − where each master expects to be the most important and demands results. I’ve never done that job, but I think the last three years have given me a very real insight into just how hard it must be. Steve Hawker at ArtSystems − I’m thinking of you here. You’ve been elevated to status of “Industry Legend” because you’ve been doing exactly this for years, and doing it very, very well.

I think I’ve also learnt what it must be like to manage a dealer channel – where everyone you look after is competing, and all of them want to be top of the pile. Again, I have a new found respect for anyone that works in channel management. Never done it myself, and I don’t think I ever want to.

And in conclusion I’ve learnt that in business, particularly when managing the potential for such conflict, the only, and I mean ONLY, way to make things work is to be absolutely and unerringly honest with everyone and anyone that is in any way invested in you and your business. No hidden agendas, no playing people off against each other, just straight down the line honesty – even if it isn’t always the answer that some people want to hear.

So what is Industrial Print? Tom Cloots of Agfa explains.

Tom Cloots AGFA

Industrial Print is a term now being used by manufacturers to categorise pretty much any printer that rapidly produces something other than posters and signage in a roll-to-roll configuration. AGFA digital inkjet guru, Tom Cloots, explains that industrial printing is more about the emergence of new high volume applications now made possible through the use of inkjet technology and ongoing ink developments.

Today’s manufacturing industry has developed a preference for additive processes - think of 3D printing, a topic of preference in almost every industrial trade magazine. 3D printing already finds its application in the distributed manufacturing of specialty products, otherwise cut out, lathed from, or assembled with bulk raw material shipped to remote manufacturing plants.

However, the use of print technologies borrowed from the graphic arts industry already started many years ago in industrial areas with e.g. fiberboard decorations that could mimic wood textures to produce furniture appliances that looked like real wood for half the price. And whereas the traditional printing industry is increasingly challenged by electronic delivery and on-line availability of information, this new industrial printing market is not. Today’s estimates of the print value market size differs on the source used but is ranging from 40 to 80 billion Euro’s. All sources however do concur that a future potential of 100 billion Euro and above is well within reach. The reason is obvious: the market growth of industrial printing is not determined by the demand of information, but by the increasing number of consumers for utility products and appliances.

Industrial printing applications are indeed widespread and involve all situations whereby one or more printing steps are integrated in the manufacturing process and thereby contribute to the functionality of the end product. Gravure, flexography and screen printing are the prevailing technologies today but will be replaced by digital if this can reduce the overall cost of the process and/or provide more application possibilities. Of all digital technologies UV inkjet has the highest potential to meet these conditions.

One example are the sign & display and label printing markets where inkjet technology stands for a huge saving potential by virtue of its faster job completion and the good adhesion of UV inks to difficult substrates. Since UV inks cure immediately and remain on top of porous substrates, up to 30% savings in ink consumption can be achieved. In this application Agfa Graphics’ UV inkjet formulations are characterised by a high colour gamut and available in CMYK with special light colors, including white, varnish and if needed a primer that can equally be applied by inkjet.

Perhaps the most typical industrial printing application is that of product decoration, either for functional or cosmetic purposes. Examples are office and kitchen furniture items made of fiberboard covered with melamine-impregnated paper and a protective layer before being pressed together at high temperature. Typically the paper will be gravure printed with the desired texture and supplied by third parties in large quantities of 50,000 square meter or more. Inroads from UV inkjet technology may come from the need of smaller run lengths or ultimately the desire of the furniture manufacturer to incorporate the printing into his manufacturing process and to print directly on the fiberboard.

Just as on fiberboard, inkjet can also be applied directly onto other industrial surfaces like e.g. tiles, textiles, electronics, consumer objects or even glass and plastic containers. As to the latter, the capability of orienting the printheads in a horizontal position and the rapid UV LED curing allows the print process to be completely integrated in the automated production line of packaging products like for example butter containers, tubes or even bottles.

Expanding these possibilities of UV inkjet, backed up by the customised UV ink formulation know how of Agfa Graphics you may soon find similar industrial printing applications used on your kitchen appliances, windows, the dashboard of your car and other mass utility products.

This survey of industrial printing would be incomplete without also mentioning marking & coding applications as well as the use of “smart” inks.

Marking and coding goes hand in hand with the automation of industrial processes (tracking products along the production line or at the warehouse) and also with the increasing necessity to add legal information (expiration date, safety code) on the products. This is where UV inkjet is already the vested application with Agfa Graphics providing high-density neutral black inks with curing speeds of more than 100 meter per minute on coated and non-coated stock, as well as on plastics.

Future oriented is the industrial printing sub-segment of functional inks. Here we are talking about ‘printed’ electronics applications such as human-machine interfaces (touch surfaces, keyboards,…), smart sensors or packaging (RF-ID and NFC antennas) and other products based on the deposition of thin layers of conductive material on rigid and flexible substrates. Our experience in the field of conductive polymers and Ag particle technology puts Agfa also in the driver seat for the development of so called smart inks. In this class of industrial printing applications it is clear to everyone that the most important system component is the ink formulation.

In all other industrial printing applications, previously discussed, inkjet formulations are of the same importance, yet hardly recognised as such…

Reason the more for visiting the InPrint Industrial Print Show in Munich this November.

 

Want to Blog for LFR? We have an educated audience of print professionals who are looking for pertinent and relevant information to assist them in their own decision making and business development processes - talk to them, and join the likes of HP, Mimaki, Nazdar and of course now AGFA, who all regularly Blog informative content for our readers.

Written a book? Only your Mum wants a copy? Call Pixartprinting

Books Pixartprinting Cover finishes

 

I know a lot of people that have considered writing a book, but the costs of publishing were prohibitive, so their dreams came to a grinding halt.

One guy I know did actually write a book, about his local non-league football team, and spent a small fortune getting a run of about 500 printed. Only his Mum and the local library bought a copy. The rest are probably still under his bed - because he's too mean to let anyone have a free copy.

I also remember reading an excellent book a few years ago, "Industrial Inkjet for Dummies", a short production run of informative goodness from print-head manufacturer XAAR. We had 2 or 3 copies floating around the office, we gave them to new staff with the instruction "Read this, it will explain a bit about the technology that our industry is built upon". More manufacturers should publish books of that nature - it conveys a certain gravitas when you publish a book, particularly if it's an informative one.

But how do you get around those prohibitive publication costs? Well luckily for you Pixartprinting have just added book printing to their extensive portfolio of print production possibilities.

Small publishers, emerging authors, copy shops that print dissertations and anyone else who wants to fulfil their dream of publishing (printing and binding) their own manuscript can all now rely on the experience and expertise of Pixartprinting, the leading web to print company. The major revolution it offers is the chance to print books online at competitive prices for all sizes of order, including short print runs, starting from a minimum of 10 copies. This comes with the guarantee that has always seen Pixartprinting's service stand out from its competitors: customers are assured ease of use, cutting-edge technology, high print quality, quick, guaranteed delivery times and pre- and post-sale customer service.

“Our mission is to constantly expand our catalogue to meet emerging needs. The trend we are currently seeing in this sector is increasing demand from a wide variety of clients for printing just a few copies of books”, Andrea Pizzola, Sales & Marketing Director at Pixartprinting commented.“We have always paid great attention to technological innovation, and particularly in the manufacturing sector. Thanks to our implementation of dedicated cutting-edge production lines, we can offer competitive solutions in terms of price and minimum quantities that other players on the market cannot match".

In the dedicated section of the online shop customers can choose from four different book formats (11x18 cm, 15x21 cm, 17x24cm and 21x29.7 cm), all produced with stitched paperback binding, for long-lasting results and the highest possible binding quality. The inside pages are printed digitally in black and white on uncoated 90 gsm paper. The choice of cover is an important part of making a project stand out, and on this front too Pixartprinting offers a range of options: covers with or without flaps, with matte or gloss lamination, and printed in colour or in black and white.

Customers with specific requests for publishing products such as books, catalogues or magazines, including longer print runs, can create their ideal solution by choosing their preferred grammage of paper for the inside pages, their favoured cover material and the most suitable binding technique, with options to choose from ranging from stitched paperback binding to perfect binding, wiro binding and stapled binding. Another plus is the opportunity to add various finishes to further enhance the project.

 

Books Pixartprinting with flaps 300dpi

AGFA Guest Blog - InPrint (you sure this isn’t a typo?)...

Tom Cloots AGFA

In the first of our regular monthly Guest Blogs penned by an AGFA digital inkjet print Guru, Tom Cloots, (Director/Marketing Industrial Inks) talks industrial printing, and the InPrint exhibition.

InPrint (you sure this isn’t a typo?)…

Last week a friend called (he works for a printing company) to tell me we had misspelled the word in one of our press releases. “It has to be spelled imprint,” he said, obviously referring to one of the digital marking technologies that many printing companies began to use in the mid 90s to extend their range of services.

I took some time to explain him we made no mistake and that imprinting is in fact just one of the applications for depositing ink on a variety of substrates other than plain paper, as commonly done in the world of inprint – short for industrial printing.

Printing, as we have known it for years, was invented by Gutenberg as a process of mass communication between one sender and many receivers – his bible being one of the greatest bestsellers ever. Despite competition from digital media, today’s printing industry still stands as an important source of information delivery.

In parallel, however, printing technology has also been used for other purposes than communication, thus printing modules where incorporated in the manufacturing process of various industrial end products with the purpose of adding functionality or embellishment. This is the realm of industrial printing.

The printing systems for industrial applications are no longer single-source products like the ones used in the traditional printing industry but systems that are custom-engineered by OEM’s and system integrators. Today’s predominant technologies are screen printing, flexography and gravure but digital printing technologies are gaining importance, the strongest growth being projected for inkjet, and in particular UV inkjet.

Industrial printing systems, whether hybrid solutions or entirely based on UV inkjet, are made up of several critical components, each of them originating from the R&D of separate companies, and they target specific applications. Since you can design systems that can print on a variety of surfaces, that number of applications is virtually endless… Provided you can make the ink stick.

This is why industrial printing ink, and in particular UV inkjet is never a commodity product but one of the critical components of every industrial printing system. This is where we, from Agfa Graphics, put our experience on the line to support OEM’s and industrial printing system integrators.

The Agfa Graphics inks come in a variety of different formulations, researched and developed for specific market sectors and printing systems, and related to printhead, curing systems and application related specifications. Each product is designed for optimum productivity without compromise, with particular emphasis on offering the best substrate compatibility, jetting performance and reliability, along with cost- effective consumption and very high quality results.

Since not all OEM’s and system integrators possess the know how and experience of printing, Agfa Graphics can also provide expert advice on important matters such as the relation between the printhead wave form and the ink formulation, workflow and color management issues and printhead cleaning solutions. A long list of clients confirms our reputation in this market, as illustrated by a testimonial of John Corrall, Managing Director of Industrial Inkjet Ltd:

“Agfa Graphics’ inks are now the default choice in our range of single-pass color inkjet systems. More often than not our print sample lab reports that Agfa Graphics inks give the best print quality and adhesion on the customer’s substrate. In addition, there is the excellent technical response when we need help. But the key point for us is reliability. Our service team knows from experience that Agfa Graphics’ inks have superb reliability. Maintenance time for the customer is negligible. More than anything else this makes us reluctant to use other inks.”

Our booth at the InPrint exhibition will be the meeting place-to-be for OEM’s, system integrators and Agfa Graphics’ experts. We hope to welcome you there.

 

Want to Blog for LFR? We have an educated audience of print professionals who are looking for pertinent and relevant information to assist them in their own decision making and business development processes - talk to them, and join the likes of HP, Mimaki, Nazdar and of course now AGFA, who all regularly Blog informative content for our readers.

 

LFR Opinion: 3 reasons why the Mimaki JFX200 is a flatbed UV printer you cannot ignore

Mimaki JFX200 article LFR

LFR's Marc Burnett offers his opinion on the Mimaki JFX200 and details why he believes it is a UV flatbed printer that businesses cannot afford to ignore.

At this year’s Sign & Digital UK exhibition there were four Mimaki JFX200 printers being demonstrated on four different booths; three of those booths belonged to resellers who would have had to significantly increase their booth floor-space costs in order to showcase the Mimaki flatbed. They’ll have made that investment with confidence that the increased cost of demonstrating the printer will have been offset by leads and indeed sales.

The point I’m making is that the Mimaki JFX200 is a printer that is rapidly becoming the de facto standard for any sign and display print business looking to make a move into flatbed UV printing, and the resellers know it – they are all excited at the new business that they are winning with this latest Mimaki flatbed.

Mimaki is also rightly proud of the sales numbers across Europe, the Middle East and Africa. The company reports a steady growth in sales of the JFX200 UV flatbed since its launch date.

Currently Mimaki is selling more than 40 of its JFX200 printers every month, and these impressive sales numbers are still on the increase.  Indeed the Mimaki JFX200 is, according to Mimaki Japan, now the world’s top selling UV flatbed printer. Undoubtedly it has to date been one of the most successful product launches in Mimaki history.

So what’s the fuss all about? Why is this flatbed printer creating such a buzz, and why is it being installed in these record-breaking and market-defining numbers?

First off, let’s give you a quick snapshot view of its capabilities:  The Mimaki JFX200 UV LED flatbed printer is able to print 8' x 4' rigid boards up to a thickness of 50mm, at up to 1200 dots per inch with quality further augmented through variable dot printing down to a 4 picolitre drop size - and it does all this at a speed of up to 25 square metres an hour.

As well as the primary CMYK ink set, you’ll find zero-cost options for printing with white ink, clear ink (with a primer coming soon) and now a choice of LH100 hard inks, LUS150 flexible inks and most recently LUS200 fully flexible inks for thermo forming type applications.

The net result is a high quality, fast and versatile flatbed UV printer that performs well beyond its price point.

Here’s a more detailed look at why we think this outstanding printer should be on your shortlist, broken down for you in 3 key areas:

1.    Capital Cost:

Today, if you buy a Mimaki JFX200 flatbed UV printer, you’ll get one for £59,995. That’s an incredible price, for a number of reasons.

Firstly this price falls way below the significant psychological barrier that exists when purchasing a UV flatbed – so far below it in fact, that the mind-set of the buyer is changed from thinking of it as an investment comparable to ‘buying a small house’ to instead comparing it to ‘buying a nice car’. That’s a big shift in the purchasing thought process.

Do you think that theoretical glass ceiling of product pricing doesn’t matter? I can assure you it does. And the veritable queue of buyers lining up to buy this affordable flatbed print powerhouse is all the proof you need. In pricing this printer, Mimaki has effectively created a whole new price point, a whole new customer base, and sales success has subsequently followed.

This price also sits the Mimaki in the midst of competing printers that simply, well, cannot actually compete that well.

To get like for like performance, comparable build quality, and the ability to print 8’ x 4’ boards rapidly and at high quality, you’d have to spend significantly more on any alternative.

To get like for like pricing, you’d need to be looking at a brand-name printer that has been throttled back in terms of its features, functionality and productivity – or you could of course take a gamble and try your luck with a cheap flatbed printer of questionable origin, more than questionable pedigree and the distinct possibility of all but non-existent after-sales support.

2.    LED Lamps:

We’ve previously written a feature on the benefits of LED UV lamps - read it here to save us going over the same ground again – and the benefits, for the jobbing printer certainly, are significant.

In a nutshell you’ll get significantly longer lamp life - by a factor of multiples - when compared to mercury lamps.

With LED lamps you’ll get no realistic heat produced; LED lamps are cool in more than one sense and what this means in real terms is an ability to print to more substrates, including thin and sensitive materials.

You also benefit from Mimaki variable lamp intensity - beyond the simple On or Off of most mercury lamps - again meaning better tuning of cure performance to the specific substrate and ink partnership.

When talking about LED vs Mercury, warranty is also a factor, and a potential cost. A typical mercury lamp will have a lifespan of about 500 to 1000 hours, so if you’re busily printing you’ll be changing lamps every 3 to 6 months, or you’ll inevitably suffer from the inherent degradation of curing performance that comes as standard with a mercury lamp equipped printer.

The expected life of the Mimaki LED lamps is actually well in excess of 10,000 hours, with Mimaki reporting a potential upper operational ceiling of as much as 20,000 hours. That said, the actual warranty on the lamps is for 5,000 hours of printing – plenty enough to last your average sign & display print shop a good number of years.

Mimaki JFX200 article LFR lamps

3.    Warranty and Credible UK based Support

Beyond the lamp issue, here in the UK you’ll be buying a Mimaki JFX200 with a full 2 year warranty as standard. That’s 2 years for you to recover your up-front capital costs before you even begin to consider the cost of your printers maintenance and upkeep. Indeed if your £59,995 Mimaki JFX200 has not paid for itself within that warranty period, well frankly, you’re probably in the wrong game.

From the end of year 2, you’ll be looking at an annual cost of just £4,995 for a warranty that also covers the printheads and again the lamps, even when the lamps have gone beyond their own 5,000 hour warranty.

The warranty is provided here in the UK by exclusive Mimaki UK & Ireland distributor Hybrid – with service provided by its own in-house Mimaki-trained engineering team.

Yeah but…

Of course there are counter arguments. One of them might be that bigger, faster and more expensive UV flatbed printers have lower ink costs. Personally, I think that’s perhaps an argument best saved for the time when you actually need a bigger, faster and more expensive UV flatbed, perhaps to meet the demand for higher print volumes from business that your Mimaki JFX200 might have won for you.

The bottom line?

In my opinion, today, right here right now, at this price point you simply cannot make a flatbed UV printer purchase without first taking a very close look at the Mimaki JFX200.

Think I’ve got it wrong? I’m here to be proven wrong, and I’m more than happy to listen to any counter-arguments, and indeed give you the platform of LFR to share your thinking. Get in touch.

Mike Horsten blog: Solvent is dead? Long live solvent!

Mike Horsten mimaki europe

In his latest blog, Mike Horsten, General Marketing Manager EMEA at Mimaki Europe B.V., discusses the future of print - and solvent printing in particular:

In many a history book we have read the lines ‘The King is Dead, Long Live the King’ – the old king dies and the new king is welcomed and becomes the greatest king. The history and evolution of printing technology and processes could be compared with this premise. In the Solvent printing business this has been happening. The older ink technologies which were smelly and poor quality but seen as wonderful during their time are being replaced with a new generation of inks which are bright, odourless and long lasting. The question is…‘Is Solvent the correct technology for the sign making industry at this moment in time?’

There are many new ink technologies that have come to market in the last few years. The main ones are Latex (resin-based inks) and UV ink technology. Latex has been on the market for about 5-6 years and has developed into a niche market ink for many printing segments. Mimaki is the only company apart from HP that has developed Latex. We see the speciality market as a significant opportunity where the use of Latex is an advantage to all in the supply chain. The indoor usage of Latex has a supreme advantage because Latex is a non-VOC and HAPS ink. This makes this ink ideal for interior decoration such as the wallpaper, indoor signage and print proofing markets. This last segment is something that has recently been developed by Mimaki by adding Orange and Green Latex inks to the portfolio so that the colour gamut is bigger than offset. The latest generation of Latex ink makes it possible to have a premium solution for commercial proofing specifically on many uncoated substrates. Latex also offers printing transparencies because of the availability of Latex white inks. It is possible to use transparencies with a clingfilm effect on a Latex printer. The printer can also use colour/white/colour printing to make a perfect backlit image for day and night printing with this technology.

So if Latex is the solution why stay with Solvent? Before we answer this, let’s look at another ink technology, UV curing inks. These inks are appearing in many markets and for many different applications. In the beginning UV inks were cured by big hot UV lamps that hardened the inks by changing the monomers to polymers. This resulted in great inks for rigid substrates but not useful for roll to roll media due to the fact that the UV inks were not really flexible. This has changed in the last few years. The inks today are much more flexible and can even be used for car-wrapping giving about 200% stretch. Now it’s possible to print all roll-to-roll media with UV ink and dismiss Latex and Solvent all together.

So why go with solvent? Well, in the first instance it is a choice as UV printing can be a more expensive production method. The reason for many users choosing to go with UV printing is still the advantages it has to offer when printing on rigid printing substrates. There are of course some hybrid solutions on the market, but these are not very effective. Printing roll-to-roll on an expensive flatbed printer is not only inefficient, but I believe you should use the printer for the purpose it’s made for. You can always buy a smaller roll-to-roll printer that is faster and better for the price of the roll option on a flatbed printer. At Mimaki we don’t have a roll option for this exact reason. Why pay 20K euros for something that will give you say 20sqm/h when you can get a printer that can do 100sqm/h for the same price?

So UV printing has taken a part of the Solvent and Latex markets, but it still may not be the right solution for many markets and applications. It is great for glass, wood, metals, cardboard, foam and forex types of media that don’t fit into a roll-to-roll printer. One of the other problems with UV is that the adhesion is not always as good on all substrates. Surface tension is very important for perfect adhesion so you can’t print on all substrates – although adding a primer to the substrate can solve this problem. Also flaming, plasma and corona treatment all help with the adhesion of inks, but it is still a trial and error way of printing. Lately we have seen new technologies that can replace Solvent printing but for some reason this has still not happened. There must be a reason, right? Yes, there is – but I will get to that later.

So is there more? You bet! Mimaki has a new technology – it’s called SUV or Solvent UV hybrid ink. This new technology combines the best of both worlds. The Solvent ink side gives adhesion on vinyl that is very good and the UV ink part achieves the gloss and colourful finish you desire. This type of UV ink component is also flexible so you can really work with it from a roll. The other advantage is that you don’t need to wait before you start working with it. You can laminate it without waiting. The advantage with this ink technology is that there is enough time for the pigment particles inside the ink to fall and laydown on the substrate giving it a very flat surface thus giving it a great scratch resistance and also the best reflection of the widest colour gamut you can think of. The results are stunning. As the ink has a big UV pigment component the weather and light resistance are also extremely good. Three months outdoors on a vinyl substrate is possible without any worries. This is therefore perfect for short term outside jobs with no need to laminate. With this element you can save a big part of the production cost.

Looks like a winning technology? Mimaki believes it – SUV is on its way!

Although this is a great technology, there is still a big market for Solvent inks. The more affordable production costs, the diverse availability of substrates and the high speeds of printing still make Solvent the king of printing for wide format.

Today Solvent based inkjet printers can print to very high quality standards on banners up to 100sqm/h. It is possible to print perfectly onto transparencies with white Solvent ink – also silver inks give metallic effects that are not available in the other technologies. The Solvent solutions work and are a lot cleaner than commonly known. Even with the new reach laws and environmental considerations we still have a great technology in our hands. Just think – what other technology will let you print and cut on one single machine? What other technology can you use for a car wrap and a retail poster or community signage by just changing the media? What print technology will let you print 100sqm/h for less than 20k euros? There are no technologies that have yet been able to replace the Solvent technology on all of these fronts.

So long live the KING – Solvent is still KING of Wide Format.

About Mike Horsten:  Mike Horsten has been with Mimaki Europe for more than 3 years and his responsibilities have been to expand the Mimaki brand name, marketing digital printing technologies and cutting solutions. His goal has been to expand the Mimaki brand into becoming the industry leader in not only the sign & graphics markets but also the industrial printing products and the new expanding textile and apparel world.

In his position he gives advice and vision to Mimaki Europe and its distributors and dealers growing the print industry and converting their current business model in more sustainable and green ways, without losing sight of company profitability and margin goals.

Mike has more than 30 years of production and international marketing experience. With inspirational ideas how to make vendors and suppliers work together to achieve a digital printing world.