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Choosing a Wide-Format Flatbed Printer

Specs on more than 30 flatbed options.

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By adding a flatbed printer that can handle rigid media such as foamboard, PVC, metal, and wood, print providers can diversify their services and attract a wider range of customers. And since many of these units now also have the ability to handle roll media (as a standard feature or, at least, as an option), and can work "double duty," an operation does not necessarily have to hold onto its former printer when it makes a flatbed purchase.

Flatbeds are changing in other ways as well"?they no longer comprise just the massive $700,000 machines you may be most familiar with. Manufacturers are now creating smaller and less-expensive units to better accommodate a smaller print provider's budget as well as its floor space.

For this issue's Flatbed Printer Charts on the pages that follow, we queried manufacturers and exclusive US distributors of wide-format flatbed printers to provide pertinent specs on currently sold printers. Here are some notes on the specifications we chose and the answers you'll see for each:

"? Company and contact: We've listed the manufacturing company, not the distributor.

"? Printer model: We've combined models if the only difference between them is maximum media width or number of colors offered (a few exceptions were made for space purposes). An asterisk following the model indicates that information was garnered from a company website or other source.

"? Maximum media width (in inches): This is media width, not image width (image width is typically 1 to 2 in. less than media width). This varies from 52 in. in the Skyjet 1316 to 138 in. for both the Luscher JetPrint 3530 UV and the Leggett & Platt Virtu RS Plus, closely followed by the Keundo Supra Q 3300S at 128 in., and the NUR Tempo and Tempo L at 126 in.

"? Maximum media thickness: These flatbeds range from 3/16 in. for the ColorSpan DisplayMaker 72 SR, to the super-thick 5.9- in. Tampoprint DMD P 1500.

"? Media: Rigid, roll, or sheet.

"? Printhead technology: Manufacturer and technology type.

"? Colors: Number and list of colors supported.

"? Ink types: Most flatbeds utilize UV-curable inks, but a few use solvent-based inks and one (Scitex Vision CORjet) uses aqueous pigment-based inks. Of note are the Eastech Octra and Scutum flatbeds, which claim to be able to switch from UV-curable to solvent inks. Also of interest are the four flatbeds that print white ink: Durst Rho 160W Plus, Mimaki UJF-605C, Zund UVJet 250- Combi, and Shenzen Flora FUV 2200/2214.

"? Maximum true/apparent resolution: What is the maximum true and apparent (how the image is perceived by the eye) resolution in dots per inch (dpi)? Resolutions vary from 200 to 2400 dpi.

"? Maximum speed: What is the maximum speed (in sq ft/hr) at a specific resolution? The speed extremes are 55 sq ft/hr at 309 dpi from the Oce 60UV and the 1800 sq ft/hr at 590 x 600 dpi of the Inca Columbia Turbo.

"? Print modes supported: We asked manufacturers to provide us with resolution, colors, and speed (square feet per hour) for two print modes: Production and High Quality. Some manufacturers provided the resolution and speed, but did not indicate a mode, or vice versa. Some manufacturers used other labels; we strived to make these consistent throughout the charts.

"? RIP: What kind of raster image processor comes standard with the printer, if any? What optional RIPs are available?

"? Year Intro: What year was this printer model first introduced?

"? Price: The selling price in US dollars. Flatbeds range in price from Oce's 60UV at $39,995 and ColorSpan's DisplayMaker 72SR at $59,995 to the Inca Columbia at $700,000 and Scitex Vision's CORjet at $790,000.

"? Warranty: How long is the printer warranty?

"? Notes: Additional information not covered in the chart cells. Some of these are cross-referenced with information in the cell, while some notes stand alone.

As you go through the charts, keep in mind that we asked that manufacturers provide us with specs only on currently available printers or printers that would soon be on the market. Some printer manufacturers were unable to reply to our requests for information. We tracked down enough specs from some to include their printers (as indicated with an asterisk). In other cases, however, we were unable to secure enough machine specs to make the information useful, so these printers were not included.

Flatbed Chart

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