Learn how to find a flatbed that's right for your operation and what you can do to take full advantage of its capabilites.
What is the learning curve? Those with good computer skills (i.e., proficient in using Microsoft Windows-based applications) can master basic ink-jet operating skills quickly. It typically takes the manufacturer a day to install a printer and start churning out good print quality. If the manufacturer is on site for a week of installation and training, the bulk of the time is available for instruction and applications assistance. The screen printer who plans wisely can leverage this time to get his staff up to speed on basic skills in the most frequently occurring applications.
Where can I find people with the right skill sets for operating ink-jet equipment? Most graphics screen shops already have talented employees in the art department whose familiarity with digital artwork and film-positive output quickly allows them to adapt to inkjet prepress and RIP operation. If you must look beyond your own company, look for individuals who have experience in prepress service bureaus and offset print shops. Anyone with a background in digital prepress can quickly benefit from the training opportunities provided by equip-ment manufacturers and other sources.
How difficult is it to integrate inkjet printing with my shop's workflow? Flatbed inkjet printing can be readily integrated with the workflow of any screen-printing shop. If prepress and RIPing occur in a separate location, you may decide to locate inkjet printing in that area. Or the equipment can be located right on the production floor. Flatbed UV inkjets are also ideal for stand-alone operations where a single operator does prepress operations, printing, and routine maintenance.
Is there anything flatbed UV inkjets can't print on? Sure, but it is not likely you would want to print on those things anyway. A prime example is plastic mesh. The ink sprays through the spaces and coats the printing equipment. Fabric, on the other hand, is very porous but inkjet works well on it, as well as on other relatively porous rigid materials, like wood. If you have in mind an extraordinary application that requires printing on a unique material, solicit the advice and assistance of the inkjet manufacturer.
Do UV inks give my prints better resistance to sunlight and weather conditions? No, this is a misconception. The term "UV curable" is sometimes confused with "UV resistant." Actually, both solvent-based and UV-curable inks provide excellent UV resistance and weatherability. In both cases, substrates generally deteriorate before the inks do.
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