Ink - Jan/Feb 2014

Hybrid Mimaki

Hybrid is Mimaki’s exclusive UK and Irish distributor. John de la Roche, Mimaki’s National Sales Manager, discusses how SUVs could be the future of signage and graphics.

Mimaki’s Solvent/UV ink – SUV – is taking the market by storm, creating visually-arresting finished prints and providing quick drying times as well as near-instant lamination when required.  “It’s like nothing else we’ve seen, and sign makers are understandable getting very excited about its possibilities,” says John. In a world where many sign makers are focusing on getting the overall job out quickly rather than demanding just quick printing, fast-drying SUV ink is meeting and exceeding demands.

Silk printed with Mimaki ink. Mimaki JV400 SUV printer
The arrival of Latex to the market, something John describes as “exciting but not revolutionary”, has also given sign makers new opportunities to expand business. As vehicle wrapping continues to rise in popularity, latex ink has proved invaluable on account of it’s ability to be laminated right away. The continued interest in this wrapping trend is something John attributes to a change in the way we shop. “It’s the result of the internet!” he laughs. “Buying products online for delivery the next day has certainly put more delivery vehicles on the road and therefore contributed to the increase in vehicle livery. The need to be visible to remain competitive is bigger than ever. Therefore eye catching vehicle designs have benefited from flexible inks as well as suitable material. With reference to the latter, media technology has come on leaps and bounds for vehicle graphics.”

But although it’s been heralded as a more environmentally friendly ink than others, the power requirements that are needed to create the heat necessary to cure latex ink negates a lot of these energy-saving benefits. “Mimaki latex ink has a clear advantage over alternatives because of its capability to cure at a much lower temperature,” says John. “This year, Mimaki is turning attention to creating both new inks and machines to help sign makers get the most value for money, performance and eco-responsibility in 2014.”

Already a strong market leader, Mimaki is continuing to evolve and develop products that meet demands, especially in the areas of UV and textile printing. John adds that new machines will also help Mimaki to continue to secure business as customer demands increase.

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Spandex UK

Ink Cartridges for wide format printers Pop-up banner Leon Watson, General Manager Spandex UK.

Leon Watson, General Manager Spandex UK, reveals that there are many sectors of the signage and graphics market that are poised for substantial growth – but they may not be the ones you suspect.

As printers and materials continue to develop, manufacturers are responding with new and improved inks on a rapid basis.

“Ink technology seems to be changing on a weekly basis,” says Leon, adding that while latex has had a tangible impact on the industry, another ink has yet to fulfil it’s potential. “I think all eyes are still on UV. It offers a multitude of benefits to the sign maker that are probably over and above that of latex,” he says. To match the evolving ink technology, Spandex carries printers such as those from swissQprint that work specifically with UV curable inks to print on a number of materials ranging from vinyl to PVC, dibond and foam panels. “Just by changing curing times and temperatures, you can then change the state of the print, whether you require a matte or a high gloss look, and again that can only be done through UV printing,” says Leon.

New Inks for New Sign & Graphics Markets

As sign makers foray into new submarkets, this move is being reflected in the types of inks being purchased. Leon notes that at Spandex, the numbers reflect a large interest in architectural signage, or interior decoration. “Things like textiles and wallpapers, they seem to be growing much, much faster than the likes of vehicle wrapping.”

While vehicle wrapping is undoubtedly popular, the textile market is right behind it. In fact, Polytape estimates the size of the textile market to be worth £12 million a year - and growing. Textile printing is a cost-effective way for end-users to transform the look and feel of a business establishment without having to pay for expensive refurbishment and redesign. Digital print can transform the wall and floor coverings at a fraction of the price, and as such sign makers are receiving more of these types of requests. “I’m continually amazed at the growth we see in textiles and soft signage, and wallpaper in particular seems to be growing like crazy,” adds Leon.

Another submarket, t-shirt printing, is also on the rise. What may be classed as a hobby or side-project for some sign makers is actually a surprisingly large market. “It’s almost like a silent industry,” says Leon, “but when you add it all together, we see sales of our products to support this industry growing very quickly.”

For over twenty years, Spandex has been at the forefront of ink technology based on partnerships with brands such as Arlon and 3M in addition to the manufacture of their own product line. Heading into the New Year, sign makers can expect to see a continued focus on high value as well as a number of solutions for interior decoration and soft signage from Spandex.

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Roland DG

Roland Eco-Sol Max ink cartridgesRoland Eco-Sol MAX 2 inksRob Goleniowski, Business Manager Signs and Graphics at Roland DG.

According to Rob Goleniowski, Business Manager of Sign & Graphics at Roland DG, as sign makers utilise a number of new substrates, manufacturers have been charged with the challenge of developing inks to adapt to these new materials whilst still performing to a high standard.

In addition to the way the inks work on their own, sign makers are also taking into consideration how they work in synergy with the hardware that’s being used for printing. “People are also more concerned with how much it’s costing them to do the job, and taking value for money into consideration,” explains Rob. “Everyone is trying to make sure they’re getting the best return on investment, and this can be done by ensuring inks are being used as sparingly as possible whilst still providing a high quality finish.”

The number of companies offering vehicle wrapping has increased throughout the industry, with the course on it offered at Roland DG constantly booking up in advance. Attendees can learn to wrap vehicles using the Roland Eco-Sol MAX and Eco-Sol MAX 2 inks that have proved to be perfect for this sort of application. “Our eco-solvent inks have got very good elongation and stretch properties; we can stretch them quite a long way without losing any colour density and without them starting to break up,” says Rob.

In addition to wrapping vehicles, sign makers are exploring other sectors of the market that present additional revenue streams, with many companies needing to print on shrink-wrap films or plastic bottle labels. Again, the flexibility of eco-solvent Roland DG inks can provide a high-quality finish on these sorts of materials, allowing sign makers to tap into new business opportunities without having to invest in new hardware or technology.

Broadening business horizons

An increasingly competitive market is seeing businesses of all sizes looking to diversify their services and products offered, which in turn has created the need for more intelligent ink. Traditional 4-colour jobs are still in demand, but Rob has noted the interest in specialty products such as white and metallic inks that can be utilised for a range of applications. “These specialty inks can be used in things like vehicle wrapping, and can open doors to new revenue streams and ultimately make businesses more competitive. It allows a sign maker to appeal to a wider audience – for example, they can start to target packaging or POS clients,” explains Rob. “These sorts of products offer sign makers something more, which in turn enables them to offer their clients more and outsource less.”

The new colours on the market can also be used to create traditional designs with black and white colours. The ECO-Sol MAX 2 line features a light black that can be used in black and white signage print jobs. Although this is currently possible with a CMYK machine, there is a risk of grey colours printing with a faded magenta or brownish tinge, whereas the light black provides a more stable, vivid grey with a high quality output in comparison.

Whether it’s through creating all-new inks or improving existing colours, Roland DG is committed to bringing new options to the market in 2014.

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Bottles and cartridges of Triangle MSS inks

For Loic Delor, Managing Director of Josero, there has been a significant amount of attention paid to the quality of ink products in recent years.

“I think everyone has invested in improving the quality recently, and we can see this in that the number of suppliers that didn’t provide high-quality products have faded away,” he explains.

Looking forward to 2014, Loic predicts that not only this commitment to quality will continue, but also a commitment to finding environmentally-friendly solutions such as low-VOC inks. Josero’s line of Triangle Eco Inks has proved popular with sign makers looking for a green ink that doesn’t compromise quality. The MSS, optimised for use with Mimaki JV33 and JV34 printers, was launched at FESPA 2013, and has since gone on to become an in-demand product. A seamless match to OEM ink is achieved whilst the ink provides a fast drying time with low odour. “With Triangle inks, we’re really focusing on helping sign makers lower waste and reduce their carbon footprint whilst still achieving a high-quality print,” he concludes.

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Applied Image

Roger Ward, AIT Shiraz Ltd, reveals that “green inks” as well as the printers in which they are used have come a long way in recent years, so much so that there has been a notable shift in the demands from clients.

“Traditionally our customers have opted for solvent printers, but many have since migrated to latex machines, no doubt influenced by the arguments about inks with low odour, an ability to print onto a wider range of textile substrates, no need for outgassing, vibrant colours, lower machine maintenance and ostensibly, a greener “water-based” product,” says Roger. But like many, he is quick to point out that the benefits of latex inks with green credentials can be counteracted by the printing machines that use more heat and power to dry the finished prints. “I would advise sign makers to select a machine that is best suited for the end-user’s main market,” he says.

Boxes of AIT's ColorSolve-CSC210 eco-solvent inkAIT Shiraz Ltd, based in Kings Hill, Kent, offers a range of ColorSolve solvent inks, suitable for use with printers such as the Mimaki JV3 and JV33. The prints produced with this ink are comparative with those created using OEM inks, something Roger attributes to the high standard of manufacture. “ColorSolve inks are manufactured in Europe to ISO 9001 standards and have been successfully used at over 200 sites in the UK. They are colour matched to the OEM inks and can be swapped as the originals expire.”

Indeed, AIT’s ColorSolve inks have proved to be powerful alternatives to OEM inks, as they can reduce ink costs by up to 40%. AIT also provides excellent after-sales care, offering field service support and genuine replacement parts at the half the cost. Spare parts, online ordering and support from UK-based engineers have also contributed to the demand for ColorSolveproducts from AIT Shiraz in recent years.

Helping sign makers keep costs low

Roger adds that there have been a number of advances in solvent technology in terms of odour and safety, and although there is a rise in the demand for environmentally-friendly inks, the market for traditional solvent inks will continue to remain strong as retired machines exchange hands to new users who seek both minimal capital outlay and lower on-going overheads.

“The printing community needs to reduce their costs to stay competitive and I believe we can help them with our range of products and services,” he says. When it comes to reducing the cost of prints without jeopardizing the finished product, OEM inks could rapidly become a thing of the past. “Sensible use of third party solvent inks can help keep costs to a minimum,” says Roger.

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6 boxes of HP Latex Inks HP Designjet L260 wide format printerHP Designjet L280 wide-format printer

John Draycott, Marketing Manager at ArtSystems, reveals the role that printers will play in 2014 will strive to help sign makers save time, reduce cost of ownership and utilise more advanced inks.

As a trade reseller of HP Latex inks and printers, ArtSystems has seen the diversification of trends in the sign and display industry call for more advanced printers to work with a wider range of inks. “We’ve seen a great deal of growth over the last two years for HP,” affirms John. The HP Latex ink technology printers saw their first generation launched in 2009, with the updated range released in 2011. In conjunction with the HP Latex inks, these printers have enabled many businesses to increase productivity due to vastly reduced turnaround times. “There’s no out-gassing from latex, so prints can be taken straight out of the printer and either laminated or applied to the job in question,” says John. “Sign makers using HP Latex can not only win more business, but can develop new applications areas for their business.”

But going into 2014, there will be yet more development for the brand, which will strive to make life even easier for sign makers by means of consolidation. Rather than having multiple printers to deal with one specific application type, the goal for HP going into the New Year is to create advanced printers that can handle multiple application types with one machine.

According to John, there will be new products across the whole wide format spectrum in 2014 that will introduce some radical new technologies that aim to be disruptive of the current printer divisions in the market. “HP Latex has already started this process by giving sign makers a printer that is incredibly versatile being able to print on papers, vinyl and fabrics,” he says, noting that this trend will continue along with innovative developments to improve workflows.

The HP latex printer is one of the closest products on the market to being a general process printer capable of creating both indoor and outdoor signage, but according to John, “the ultimate aim is to have an array of latex products that are able to fulfil as many projects as possible simply and efficiently.” But this doesn’t just pertain to HP latex - products for print finishing are also poised for improvement.

The Summa F series flatbed cutter has been on the market since 2010, and since then has helped significantly lower the cost of ownership for such a device. Sign makers can expect to see improvements made to it in the forthcoming year that will help speed the process of application. The multi module tool holder will see new tools introduced at Sign and Digital UK, giving users the ability to swap them in and out quicker to increase the speed of jobs. “These sorts of innovations support our overall aim of giving resellers much more versatile solutions for their customers,” says John.

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