Demand drives new products and refinements, as ink producers court expanded opportunities.
At drupa this year, Bordeaux introduced its own latex ink, EDLX, formulated for piezo drop-on-demand printheads. Mualem says many eco- or mild-solvent printers already in use can easily be converted to use this new ink. As a specialist in digital inks, Bordeaux remains “focused on those areas where we can offer added-value products from our vast experience, and solve common inkjet issues,” says Mualem. “Bordeaux has the ability to develop niche products for specific customers and will continue in its R&D efforts in applications where we feel we will be able to make a contribution.”
Stephen Emery with EFI says the Orion architecture it unveiled at the drupa show will add grayscale print capabilities to Vutek GS platforms with a field upgrade, and in the new QS2 Pro and HS100 Pro platforms. “The variable droplet sizes mean that greater coverage can be achieved using lower ink volumes, with enhanced output quality. Faster throughput means greater productivity and higher profit margins.”
And says Emery, he expects UV inks for EFI’s R3225 roll-to-roll printer will qualify for the 3M MCS Warranty in the next few months. “Demand for a more flexible UV ink for car wraps is an area we expect to see some good growth,” he predicts.
Fujifilm’s latest advances can be seen in its Acuity LED 1600 wide-format hybrid printer and companion inkset. The printer features a proprietary design in its LED light source and optimized fast-curing UV-LED ink. John Kaiser sees several advantages in the system’s use of LEDs: longer lamp life, reduced energy consumption and cooler operating temperatures than traditional UV curing. In addition to standard CMYK, the inkset includes light cyan, light magenta, white, and clear. “Print providers can bridge the gap between quality and speed – the printer/ink combination allows for productivity of 215 square feet per hour,” on rigid and rolled media, he says.
Roland looks to capitalize on the specialty-inks trend with new inks throughout its line. The company recently expanded its Eco-Sol Max line with Eco-Sol Max 2 ink, developed especially for its new SolJet Pro 4 XR-640 printer/cutter. David Hawkes says the new formulation is virtually odorless and takes full advantage of the Pro 4’s dual inline eight-channel printhead. It’s also the first Roland ink available in nine colors, including specialty colors white, metallic, and light black. “Light black creates incredibly sharp photographic images, very natural skin tones, smoother grayscale gradations, and a level of depth and detail that sets a new benchmark for image quality,” says Hawkes.
And demand for the company’s metallic ink “continues to soar,” Hawkes reports. He says the new Metallic Silver Eco-Sol Max 2 is more reflective than previous formulations. Combined with Roland’s extensive metallic library, the metallic ink can be used to create more than 500 different metallic and pearlescent effects. “The unique properties and the effectiveness of this inkset usually command a 30-percent price premium over typical CMYK graphics,” he says.
Even so, Hawkes suggests most print buyers don’t ask for these effects because they simply are not aware of them. “Having samples ready is the key to showing the impact and advantages of the new inksets,” he says.
Inx Digital now offers white inks for UV, solvent, and aqueous systems. “Our internal dispersion technology has proven to be extremely stable and shows unprecedented density,” says Ken Kisner. He attributes some of the growth in UV inkjet to its efficiency, requiring as little as a third of the ink solvent systems to produce a comparable image. “This trend has allowed UV ink to produce a great return on investment.” And, he reports the company continues to make advances in latex ink systems, evident in its recent announcement of a latex ink for corrugated products.”
Kisner notes one trend that has the potential to undermine demand for some large-format prints: “We are seeing more and more inkjet printers being placed closer to the end user,” he advises. “Major retailers are beginning to bring printing in-house, which is allowing them to test market even faster.” For ink suppliers, this could expand their market; for print-service providers, it could also pose a challenge in lost revenue.