Joe Tischner

Looking to Expand Coverage, BLI Establishes New Wide Format Relationships

Held annually, the SGIA (Specialty Graphic Imaging Association) Expo showcases the latest in wide format printers of all kinds, as well as the newest finishing options, color management solutions, ink vendors, RIP software manufacturers, media companies, and much more. A team of three from BLI convened with three of our new colleagues from InfoTrends for two days at the Georgia World Congress Center in Atlanta. Although trade shows can often be tiresome, this one had never before been attended by the BLI group, and thus was an interesting undertaking. Our associates not only provided introductions to many of their contacts at vendors in segments of the market BLI has not yet entered, but shared their expertise regarding all to see and experience. Moreover, a lot of our downtime was spent examining ideas for new, upcoming test projects in the wide format space.

Day 1
Our first stop was FUJIFILM at the hall entrance, where we saw the Acuity Select UV flatbed printer in action. According to operator Mark Synowiec, the unit features a set of four, six or eight of the company’s new UV-curable KN inks, which he said provides a wider color gamut than the previous ink set delivered. Featuring up to 1440 dpi and both white ink and varnish options, the Acuity Select prints on rigid media up to 2" thick and 98.4" wide.

Output printed on the Acuity Select UV flatbed printer.

Driven by five Memjet printheads, the 42" roll-fed Océ ColorWave 910 was unveiled in the Canon booth at the show’s opening. According to Andrew Vecci, marketing director for Canon Large Format Solutions, the six-roll device offers improvements in throughput processing and accommodates thicker media than did its predecessor, the ColorWave 900. It also features a new, more user-friendly UI with an intuitive touchscreen. Vecci demonstrated the unit’s new dual-tray stacker that enables continuous printing by automatically switching trays; as soon as the first tray is filled, the second becomes active and the operator can remove prints from the first with no delays.

David Conrad, Mutoh’s director of sales and marketing, provided an all-inclusive booth tour, which featured the 104" eco-solvent ValueJet 2638X in operation. This dual-head production printer features the company’s new Drop Master Technology, which controls the firing of ink independent of the media height, thus providing improved image quality, mentioned Conrad.

Direct-to-garment (DTG) devices were spotted throughout the event. In fact, we got an extensive demonstration of the soon-to-be released, five-color (CMYKW) Mutoh ValueJet 405GT, which was printing vibrant images on T-shirts and hats.

The Mutoh booth, featuring the ValueJet 405GT prototype.

Mike Hendricks, Brother’s sales and marketing specialist, provided a demonstration of the printing process, as well as the garments’ pre- and post-handling with the company’s GT-381 DTG printer, which features four white ink cartridges, as well as CMYK. Brother offers three device configurations: an entry level CMYK-only GT-341; the GT-361, a mid-level unit featuring CMYK plus two white cartridges; and the aforementioned GT-381.

Day 2
Our group benefitted from a lengthy discussion with HP representatives about the HP Latex series of printers. John Stevens, Business & Channel Development for HP’s Latex/Sign & Display Division, stated, “The unique optimizer that’s in each HP Latex device provides higher quality output at faster speeds than competing devices, and is the reason the unit delivers instant-dry prints with very good anti-scratch properties.” In fact, he noted that prints made on HP Latex devices are “the only ones to come off a machine ready to use.”

OKI’s General Manager Fabrizio Soto and Marketing Communications Manager Kelly Gornick sat down with our team and discussed the company’s acquisition of Seiko I Infotech’s wide format business, as well as how BLI’s wide format test program might be of benefit to OKI in the future. On our booth tour we saw the newly-unveiled 104" ColorPainter H3-104 featuring an updated SX ink set that includes light cyan, light magenta, light gray and gray inks, along with the traditional CMYK. The company cites this ink set for its minimal odor, as well as providing neutral monochrome prints with high density and fine shadow detail on backlit media.

As the lights were being turned out at the end of the second day, the BLI/InfoTrends team met with Steven Schnoll, the genial CEO of Sihl, The Coating Company paper distributor. He showed us a myriad of the latest media offerings for both the small and wide format printer markets and was kind enough to provide vital feedback for some of our test ideas, as well as suggesting the most appropriate Sihl media types to use for various print applications.

SGIA not only offered us a first look at a vast array of new hardware, but more importantly, provided the opportunity for us to meet and forge new relationships with the managers of many hardware vendors with whom we had vital discussions. The feedback they provided was invaluable. It goes without saying that our team sincerely appreciates the time and efforts of each of them, and indeed looks forward to working together in earnest in the future.

Next stop, SGI/Dubai, U.A.E.!