Sep 9, 2011
Fujifilm has reached a milestone in its wide-format inkjet strategy this month with the launch of the Acuity LED 1600 machine.
To date the Acuity brand has only been applied by Fujifilm to the category-defining mid-range flatbed UV printers (which are also sold by Océ as the Arizona).Â The Acuity LED 1600 is a new from the ground up device, based entirely on Fujifilm technology.Â It uses a different architecture to the rest of the Acuity range in that it is a roll-to-roll device to which tables are attached for handling rigid boards rather than a flatbed device that you add a feed and take up roll to print reels.
It uses Fujifilm’s Dimatix print heads; the inks are made in its UK SIS facility in Broadstairs, Kent to a formula from the firm’s inkjet development centre in Japan and elements of the LED UV system employ Fuji proprietary technology. The design is all Fuji and, although the chassis is being built to its specification by an unnamed OEM partner, it will only be sold under the Fujifilm brand.
In all those respects it is a culmination of Fuji’s previous investment in inkjet technology through the acquisition of the Dimatix, Sericol and Avecia businesses to give it ownership of the core printhead, ink and colorant technologies.
Although pricing has yet to be finalised it is fair to say it will be lower than the current Acuity range (which are unaffected by this announcement) and above current roll-to-roll UV-cured machines from the likes of Roland DG and Mimaki. This price position and the 20m2 per hour performance combined with white and clear ink may make it a compelling platform for PSPs currently running multiple eco-solvent machines for whom a dedicated flatbed is an unfeasible investment. As such, it will sit in the same broad sector as the likes of Agfa’s Anapurna, HP’s FB 500 and the EFI Rastek machines. Not forgetting the elephant in the print room: HP’s Latex line up. With its roll-to-roll architecture and throughput, plus rigid substrate capability and white and clear inks the Acuity LED 1600 may be something of a Swiss Army Knife capable of handling a very broad range of applications on a single device and thus lowering cap-ex and keeping utilisation high.
At 20 square metres per hour (sqm) — 215 sq ft — , Fuji claims the machine is something of a breakthrough in the productivity of LED cured UV machines (although EFI Vutek may argue its recently launched 3.2m 200+ sqm per hour machine the GS3250LX takes that crown).
While there are undoubtedly significant advantages in LED UV cure, such as lower energy requirements, cooler running and longer bulb life all contributing to cut costs and increase substrate flexibility, some challenges remain such as the amount of useful UV energy LEDs can produce that matches the spectral sensitivity of the ink. Fuji’s heritage in photo imaging, including photographic film and offset plates, means it has significant expertise in the underlying chemical and physical mechanisms for optimising spectral response. This arguably makes it very well placed to tackle just this sort of challenge. The LED 1600 is an ideal first step in developing systems that can be scaled up for higher productivity applications in due course.
Fuji is no doubt hoping that this latest machine to carry the Acuity badge will come to define a market sector in the same way the current Acuity/Arizona machines have. Graph Expo and IGAS will provide early opportunities to assess the machine in advance of its commercial availability later this year.
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