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Under the Hood

Fujifilm Acuity Ultra R2

Brian Sims looks in detail at what makes the new range of super-wide inkjet printers able to pin sharp print from far away or up close

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The Acuity Ultra R2 3200 series measures 3.4m and the 5000 series measures a massive 5.13m wide

Making an impact up close

We are now all familiar with being hit by colour wrapped on buildings or across the front of shops. It goes without saying that to cover that expanse on frontage takes significant amounts of substrate. Added to this, the amount of ink deployed to cover the substrate can also be a challenge.

What’s more, if the signage happens to be indoors, you are very likely to have people looking at the image of a one metre diameter watch from a distance of much the same. So if this level of scrutiny is going to pass, you are going to need a device that can lay down ink in large volumes to a very high resolution.

Fujifilm has a stable of printers that are more than capable of delivering this with the Acuity Ultra R2 3200 series measuring 3.4m and the 5000 series measuring a massive 5.13m wide. The printers come in a range of formats for configurations in both drying technology and colours.

Regardless of the printer you select, the key feature of all of them has to be the arch-like design to hold the printer head itself. When it comes to the need to have a simply supported steel arch with deflection at the centre of micrometres, the issue is not as simple as you may think.

If you upsize the material spanning the gap, the material itself has an increased weight leading to deflection at the centre, complicating the issue you are trying to fix. What is needed is a clever mix of mass of material for strength, over the design of the assembly for rigidity.

Heavyweights with purpose

Fujifilm has accomplished this but not without making the weight of these machines a point to consider. It does not affect the performance, quite the contrary, but you do need to consider where you site the machines. The Acuity Ultra R2 3200 series weighs 4750kgs and the 5000 series is 7740kgs. The weight and industrial design of the framework and use of linear bearing means the print head moves effortlessly across the substrate accurately positioning each single ink droplet.

The Acuity Ultra R2 3200 series weighs 4750kgs and the 5000 series is 7740kgs

So what of the ink heads themselves? They are of piezo-electric droplet design, producing a resolution of 1200 x 1200dpi. There are 2,656 nozzles arranged across a width of 108mm of head with a variation of droplet size of 3.6 to 14 picolitres which allows for the right amount of ink deposition depending on the colour quality output required.

There are 2,656 nozzles arranged across a width of 108mm of head with a variation of droplet size of 3.6 to 14 picolitres

Speed of printing will obviously depend on the quality of output required but due to the massive size of the Acuity Ultra R2 printer, maximum output of 265m3/hr can be achieved on the 3200 series machine and a whopping 400m3/hr on the 5000.

To gain a better understanding of the configuration of each printer, you need to look at the colour output and width.

The full line-up

As mentioned, the printers are broken into two widths and from that you can define each series down to have UV or LED lamp technology for drying of the ink.

The 3244 and the 5044 printers both have UV drying technology and a dual colour sequence of the process colours (CYMK CMYK). The printers with LED drying technology are broken into two sub models, the 3206/5006 having CMYK LcLm and the 3208W/5008W having the same LED dryer but with white ink and laid down as CMYK LcLmWW. Regardless of which configuration of printer you choose, Fujifilm supplies either the Uvijet GS and AU inks both providing an excellent colour gamut.

Despite the heads’ ability to deliver ink at staggeringly high amounts and quality, power is nothing without control and one of the main issues with super-large printers is substrate handling. Manufacturers invest hours and hours into the design of an elaborate print head support with a centre deflection of microns, but it is all for nothing if the substrate is fed into the printer wrinkled or stretched.

To overcome this, the base of the printer has a patented water-cooled vacuum bed which has the ability to evenly tension the substrate ensuring it is taut but not stretched. In doing this, you can best lay down the ink with the precision needed for the ultra-high, up close quality that will be required.

The base of the printer has a patented water-cooled vacuum bed which has the ability to evenly tension substrates ensuring it is taut but not stretched

To calibrate the substrate position and thickness, the Acuity Ultra R2 uses an auto media thickness and positioning sensor. Mounted under the carriage, this device determines the position and thickness.

Antistatic equipment is supplied to reduce the build-up on the substrate which helps with both substrate positioning and ink misting and both printers come with a robust, twin rubberised roller transport system.

The combination of these aspects of the machine means there is accurate positioning of the substrate either for pin sharp reproduction or precision placement for tiled production.

As you would expect from a premier supplier, the Acuity Ultra R2 has been designed to make it as easy to operate as possible. There is an integrated clean and dirty working area avoiding contamination and the overall design of the printer has been designed to reduce maintenance and keep uptime to a maximum.

The machine’s sleek design lines with smoked panels reduce the dispersion of light and allow the inspection of production, but also result in a very impressive-looking printer.

Brian Sims Principal Consultant, Metis Print Consultancy, www.metis-uk.eu

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