Different Structures For UV-Curing Printers

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Different structures for UV-curing printers.

Using over 20 years of studying and evaluating UV-curing printers, Andrés Morataya from DPI Insights/FLAAR Reports outlines the different structures of UV-curing printers. This article appears in Sign Africa Journal.

By structure we mean the mechanism used to handle media. So far we have identified at least four types of UV-curing printer structures:

• Dedicated flatbed.
• Dedicated roll-to-roll.
• Combo transport belt.
• Hybrid.

Dedicated Flatbed

A dedicated flatbed printer prints only on rigid boards. But even the flatbed printer, which is the most common type of UV-curing printer structure, can be classified into several categories:

By size

• Superwide format flatbed printer (3.2 metres and above).
• Wide format flatbed printer (1.6m wide to 2.5m).
• Mid-sized flatbed printer (0.9m to 1.6m wide).
• Desktop flatbed printer (0.4m to 0.7m wide).

The Keundo M2513 UV printer is a dedicated flatbed printer.

By Types Of Material

This Docan UV-curing flatbed printer has a roll-to-roll structure in the front, so we classify it as a dual structure flatbed printer.

• A dedicated flatbed printer handles rigid media only.
• A dual structure flatbed printer is the type of flatbed printer that has a roll-to-roll mechanism that allows it to print on flexible media, in addition to rigid boards.

As you might have noticed, most UV-curing flatbed printers are not squared. Generally there is a larger side. So we also distinguish a flatbed printer (of any size) by whether they print across the narrow axis, or print across the wide axis, although it is faster to print across the wide axis.

Mid-Size Flatbed

The ADDTOP XB138KU is a UV-curing printer with a print width of 0.9m.

A mid-size flatbed is also larger than a desktop, and 95% of mid-size flatbeds have their own base.

Desktop Size Flatbed

The Mimaki UJF-3042 HG UV desktop printer.
This Mimaki UJF-6042 is a ‘desktop’ UV-curing printer with its own base.

These are for A3 or tabloid size (or a bit larger); for printing on ballpoint pens, golf balls or any other small batch of objects. About half the desktop size flatbed printers literally sit on any table or desk, but some of these printers have their own base. 96% of desktop size printers use UV-LED curing ink; but a few are made for eco-solvent ink.

Dual Structure: Roll-To-Roll Over Top

You can see how this swissQprint UV-curing flatbed printer has a roll system that starts at the back and collects media at the front. Taken at FESPA 2016.

A dual structure is a flatbed printer with a roll-to-roll mechanism where you load at the back and take-up at the front.

Hybrid

Hybrid printers have pinch roller systems to move media forward, but this media feeding mechanism does not handle rigid boards adequately.

The first UV-curing printers were small roll-to-roll solvent printers retrofitted with UV-curing lamps. In theory, these printers could handle rigid and roll material. This is why we called them hybrid.

This kind of printer is inadequate for seriously thick and flat material because the pinch roller system is too lightweight to move most flat boards. The pinch roller system is unable to move media forward without any skews, causing headaches to the printer operator. We had to use a photo from a factory visit in 2007 because even Chinese brands have stopped making this unrealistic faux (un) flatbed printer.

Dedicated Roll-To-Roll

EFI VUTEk 3r. This is a dedicated roll-to-roll but the printer has an accessory table that allows it to print on rigid boards.

A dedicated roll-to-roll printer will handle only flexible media. The widest printers in this category are 5m wide.

Combo Transport Belt

This is a printer that moves media with a conveyor belt. We have always called this type of printer a combo. But in the brochures, most companies call this type of feeding mechanism a ‘hybrid’. We reserve hybrid as a name for pinch-roller over grit roller.

The conveyor belt kind of printers are best known thanks to manufacturers like Durst and EFI VUTEk. These can handle both rigid and roll-fed materials.

In-Line, Belt Structure

The main reason for this kind of structure is to have a single-pass printing technology.

Atypical Structure

It handles a post print heater in the front.

DPI Insights/FLAAR Reports www.flaar-reports.org

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