Tuesday, 16 Apr 2013 12:53 GMT

Hybrid Services unveils flagship flatbed

Brendan Perring heads out to Hybrid Services and gets under the hood of the new Mimaki JFX500-2131

Pulling into the car park of Hybrid Services Crewe-headquarters, I am genuinely enthused with the opportunity of being the first UK trade journalist to get my hands on Mimaki’s new JFX500-2131.

The machine I am about to put through its paces and review for you is the first to come into the UK and will be on show at Sign and Digital UK 2013, taking place at the NEC in Birmingham from April 30th to May 2nd.

Walking into Hybrid’s showroom, it is simply a cornucopia of colour and ingenuity, as the company has produced hundreds of innovative shop pieces to illustrate the vast array of products that can be created with its machines.

Getting down to work, setting up the LED UV printer is a pretty simple affair. With a 2.1 x 3.1m bed, the JFX has a head height of 50mm and can handle substrates up to 50kg. For an average job  the locating pins aid substrate positioning, and once the protective sheet has been removed, and the board treated for anti-static, we are off.

The JFX500 promises to deliver speed and quality hand-in-hand. We’re now able to show high-end output at the sort of speeds that ensure print companies can turn work around as fast as they need to

Speaking to Hybrid’s industrial products sales manager, Mike Lewis, he highlights that a key advantage of the new unit is the low-energy LEDs for the UV ink curing, meaning there is almost no warm-up time. This is in comparison to metal halide lamps that sap a lot of power and increase turnaround time.  The LED system can also be switched on and off during power, saving further energy.



Hybrid’s industrial products sales manager, Mike Lewis, puts the Mimaki JFX500-
2131 through its paces on a challenging commission


The job I am ‘helping’ with is a run of the mill 8 x 4ft foam board, which is set at the 0,0 point at the bottom right corner of the bed—although this point can be situated anywhere on the bed to facilitate jobs that require flexibility. While simple, this job is more of a challenging test according to Lewis, as the flat colours of the site safety sign are often prone to banding and colour loss on lesser machines. The job is output at 35sq m/h, with Lewis commenting: “The JFX500 promises to deliver speed and quality hand-in-hand. We’re now able to show high-end output at the sort of speeds that ensure print companies can turn work around as fast as they need to.”

Bells and whistles

Alongside a years gold warranty and a set of inks (delivered in eight, two litre bottles), Mimaki bundles its RasterLink 6 RIP software with the JFX500, and, like other iterations of the software package, it is fine tuned for the particular machine. This claims to ensure features like bed size, the ability to drive spot colours and other factors are personalised to the printer in question.

Lewis also points out a nifty trick as he loads another job; the printer assists the operator in detecting the thickness of the media and sets the head height accordingly, with the zoned vacuum bed’s design adjusting to cope with a range of shapes, and weights to lock the substrate in place.

Lewis also points out a nifty trick as he loads another job; the printer assists the operator in detecting the thickness of the media and sets the head height accordingly

One of the other strengths of this printer is that it follows on from Mimaki’s JFX-1631plus model in delivering a very high quality of output. The forerunner to the new JFX500 found homes in many high-end print companies, where out-and-out speed was not the top priority, but the JFX500 is intended to add high performance to its arsenal, combining the ability to print down to 2pt text with production speeds of up to 60sq m/h.

Using six latest generation variable dot print heads, set-up in a three-way staggered configuration, print resolutions range from 300 x 600 to 1200 x 1200dpi and print speeds for these from 12sq m/h to 62sq m/h.  While the printer is a pretty substantial bit of kit to house, it is easy to see how it could be a big winner for any number of different types of print-service-provider, and there is reportedly a white ink option coming soon too.

Necessity is the mother of invention

Having been allowed to play with the JFX500-2131, it is genuinely impressive, and I am not ashamed to say I was in full print-geek mode. But importantly I was aware that this launch is not without its reasons.

The direct-to-substrate flatbed print market has gained significant traction over the last twelve months.

This is partly due to the fact that demand from end-customers for the products that such machines can create has risen significantly, as applications from printed glass to bespoke printed doors are definitely ‘in vogue’

The direct-to-substrate flatbed print market has gained significant traction over the last twelve months. This is partly due to the fact that demand from end-customers for the products that such machines can create has risen significantly, as applications from printed glass to bespoke printed doors are definitely ‘in vogue’. Print-service-providers and the wider graphics industry have also realised they can produce work more quickly, efficiently and at a higher quality by printing direct to rigid substrate, than by the two part process of printing roll-to-roll and then laminating.

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