Wide-format flatbed UV inkjets complement the screen-printing process because the machines can be used to print detailed and durable graphics on a variety of substrates and profitably accommodate small orders. Unfortunately, high-speed printing is typically achieved at the expense of imaging resolution (and vice versa), which is why screen printers use multicolor inline screen presses for large quantities of graphics. Inlines can handle high-speed output while delivering the color density and robustness clients demand, and screen printing allows for the use of chemistries that inkjet printheads may not support.
Thieme and Agfa focused their joint development of the M-Press wide-format flatbed UV inkjet on high-res output at high speeds, as well as the ability to boost its capabilities with the addition of optional inline screen presses. Thieme contributed the material-handling and curing technologies, while Agfa concentrated on the :Anuvia UV-curable inks for the M-Press and partnered with Xaar to design the inkjet’s :Universal Print Head (:UPH) system.
The M-Press supports print speeds up to 4000 sq ft/hr at 509 x 509 dpi and a maximum sheet size of 63 x 102 in. (1600 x 2591 mm). Thieme says the M-Press can print 100 4 x 8-ft (1.2 x 2.4-m) sheets per hour. It uses four-color (CMYK) UV-curable inks that can reportedly last a minimum of two years on certain outdoor substrates.
The printer is available in two versions. The 3/4-automatic unit uses a belt-driven, vacuum-assisted feed table. The fully automatic model uses an automatic sheet feeder. Both feature a precision gripping system that is responsible for rapid, accurate media positioning. The gripper is controlled by an inline media-measurement system for flexible and rigid substrates up to 0.40 in. (10 mm) thick. Users can select vacuum fields and program vacuum and blow-air levels.
The :UPH is a 64-head print shuttle designed for high-speed, high-volume work. It features built-in automatic head cleaning and calibration. The M-Press’s dual UV-curing system is designed to enhance finishing speed and give the user greater control over the interaction between inks and substrates. The final curing unit features the Advanced Energy Management system, which is designed to deliver a full cure using the lowest possible energy levels. The M-Press automatically transports printed materials to the stacker. Level and format of the delivery-belt vacuum are automatically set to best match job requirements. A touchscreen system gives operators centralized control of the entire printing process, and Agfa’s :IntellSyst keeps an eye on the M-Press’s performance. The program facilitates remote service diagnostics over the Internet and automatically notifies customer support when problems arise.
The M-Press comes with Agfa’s :ApogeeX for Digital Printing, a JDF-based prepress-workflow solution that prepares image files for output. It features QmsX, an integrated quality-management system that checks calibration and print-engine performance and identifies and eliminates recurring errors for continuous quality improvement. The software’s ColorTune function uses ICC profiles to characterize all devices in the workflow for color predictability. Mac-, PC-, and UNIX-based application can all input to :ApogeeX. Alternately, OpenConnect can be used to integrate third-party RIPs. The Job Tracking and Management function allows users to monitor job progress and either hold/resume, delete, change priority, approve/reject, perform remakes, or archive jobs. An MSDE database logs all job-related processing information and keeps track of resources such as production files, fonts, ICC profiles, and halftone screens.
The M-Press’s modular design allows users to enhance its functionality by adding Thieme 5000 XL inline screen-printing stations ahead of and/or behind the inkjet. Integrating the optional screen-printing units lets users benefit from the best features both imaging methods have to offer. For example, a translucent, backlit graphic could be produced inline by using the inkjet printer to apply detailed, four-color images and a screen-printing station to lay down a continuous field of white ink. The Thieme 5000 XL modules also can be used to apply clear coats, large areas of spot colors, varnish, special-effect inks, and more. The 5000 XL supports substrates up to 0.40 in. thick and features a servo-driven gripper system, single-operator-adjustable squeegee units, Thieme’s SpeedSetUp screen-reception system, and the Advanced Energy Management system.
Thieme is the sales agent worldwide for the M-Press. For more information, contact Thieme, 3605 Swenson Ave., St. Charles, IL 60174, 630-513-1666, fax: 630-513-1999, Web: www.thieme-us.com.
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