Digital Textile Innovation from SPGPrints and Fuji Dimatix

Ron Gilboa and Catherine Cresswell
Dec 23, 2014

SPG Prints has announced Pike, a new single pass digital textile printer based on Fuji Dimatix’s Samba printhead. The new system is currently on preview at the company’s headquarters for a two-week period and is scheduled to be launched next November at ITMA 2015 in Milan, Italy. The machine is targeted at rotary screen printers printing between 3 million and up to 10 million  meters annually. Initial target customers will likely be in fashion fabric printing, although home textile  will also be a longer term target.

The Samba printheads on the system are configured in a single-pass array called Archer, which is intended to provide ease of use, client serviceability, reliability, and a longer throw distance (about 4 millimeters ). This latter feature can prevent accidental damage to print head as typical throw distance in drop-on-demand printheads is about 1.5 millimeter. Thanks to their matrix design, Samba printheads are capable of a range of operating modes that enable nozzle redundancy or different print speeds, as well as print resolution up to 1,200 x 1,200 dpi. The system that is currently on display has a 1.85 meter width, but a 3.2 meter wide version will become available in the future.

With its Pike device, SPG Prints has also developed new reactive inks with a formula that addresses the mist problem when firing inkjet from a longer distance. The Pike product platform will gradually become available in different widths and color stations. The technology demonstration system has 6 colors (up to 9 colors total will become available in the future), each with an Archer print bar comprised of 43 printheads producing fabric at 40 meters per minute at up to 1,200 dpi with variable drop sizes from 2 pcl to 10 pcl. It is interesting to note that Samba print head architecture is capable of printing at up to 75 meters per minute at 1200 x 1200 dpi. We speculate that this capability might be implemented in future products. The Archer print bar was designed to be serviced by end user including swapping printheads that can be purged and replaced by them in less than an hour, alignment and registration are handled by the system’s software. The heads are manufactured using a MEMS process and can be refurbished which has a positive impact on cost of operation. Whilst the Pike will be offered as an open ink system, SPG Prints is offering customers who use its branded inks a stock of spare heads and  inks at a small ink surcharge of less than 10%. These customers thus qualify for free replacement head for the return of a faulty head for refurbishment.

According to Jos Notermans, SPG Prints’ Commercial Manager for Digital Textiles, “We researched what users want in the next generation of digital textile printing technology and discovered that the essentials include solid blotches, fine geometric, and above all a robust industrial solution. That’s what the Pike delivers, and all of this comes with high speeds and low, predictable costs. We are able to achieve the quality of Epson DX-based machines with the productivity of the faster machines based on Kyocera heads.”

The Pike’s fabric feed system is designed by Erhardt + Leimer, while the transport blanket was jointly with Habasit. The in-line dryer has the extra capacity to handle disperse inks, which – along with acid inks – are in development and scheduled for launch in 2016.

This announcement by SPG Prints reaffirms InfoTrends’ digital textile industry forecasts, which indicate a 30%+ growth in production print units by 2018. The new Pike platform from SPG Prints joins earlier innovations in single pass printers by MS with the Lario single-pass platform (introduced in 2011). These systems bring a number of benefits to the conventional textile printing market, including the cost savings and positive environmental impact of digital printing as well as the scale of a multi-color printing system. Its also worth noting this this system was was designed with end users in mind when it comes to serviceability and up time.

This announcement also enables Fuji Dimatix, which announced the availability of its Samba heads to OEM partners at InPrint 2014, to become a more significant player in a marketplace that has been dominated by Epson, Kyocera, and Konica Minolta. With the user-friendly features that are implemented in the Pike, we will likely see Samba printheads being used in a wider range of products in the future.

We are looking forward to see a Pike printer in the next few months and bring you our observations and impressions from early users of this technology.

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