By Melissa Tetreault
With today’s technology, digital printers have the ability to output onto almost any material. This includes both flat shapes and circular objects. There are printers dedicated to printing to cylindrical items, or certain small format flatbeds can be equipped with an optional rotary tool. Each option opens up a world of possibilities with the potential to customize on either a production-based level or target other segments where short runs and customization are attractive.
Above: Mimaki’s UJF-3042 MkII works with the Kebab MKII to print on cylindrical objects.
The Demand for Cylindrical
Current interest in cylindrical printing is driven exponentially by consumer desire for customization. Drinkware, like cups, water bottles, mugs, and even wine bottles are ideal candidates in addition to a number of other pre-manufactured objects. “Brand owners are really looking at the benefit of eliminating cost and making a bigger impact on the store shelves. By replacing a label, they are reducing steps in the production process and discovering that the application of impactful graphics doesn’t have to be a rectangular panel on the side of their product,” explains Jim Lambert, VP/GM, INX International Ink Co.
According to Dave Conrad, director of sales and marketing, Mutoh America, Inc., “the need to customize or personalize objects is driving applications for this type of printing.” He points to popular objects like water bottles, candles, decorative tins, glassware, and vases.
“Particularly in the awards and personalization segment, digital printing onto cylindrical objects enables customized premium objects—such as stainless steel tumblers. Even printing directly to bottles is now more widely seen in consumer applications such as wine bottles,” agrees Josh Hope, senior manager, Mimaki USA, Inc.
Customers can drink beverages in style while promoting sustainability. According to Jessica Makrinos, marketing specialist, Inkcups Now, “it supports a healthy lifestyle of drinking more water and the containers are more environmentally friendly and reusable. Style with technological advances are also present, as some of these copper lined stainless vessels are able to keep drinks cold for 12 hours and hot for six hours.”
“Helping to drive this demand is consumer reuse of water bottles and sports bottles by participants in exercise classes, yoga classes, and biking groups. This is something that is not only great for the planet, but also for the businesses that offer such products,” agrees Jay Roberts, product manager, UV printers, Roland DGA Corporation.
As Conrad shared, cylindrical printing capabilities go beyond drinkware. Makrinos points to cosmetics and barware. While Hope cites bottle sleeves, candle holders, packaging, and even objects such as bowling pins. Eric Henzie, director of marketing, Engineered Printing Solutions (EPS), also suggests such items as chemical containers, smaller disposable propane/fuel tanks, and pens.
In all of these scenarios, direct print serves more than a decorating purpose. “Labels and packaging are meant to give information to the user, especially in pharmaceutical and cosmetic applications. Digital direct printing is ideal for this need, since it is able to output sharp, readable font in any size,” explains Juan Kim, CEO, Valloy Incorporation.
Demand for digitally printed cylindrical products is seen in a variety of settings ranging from promotional to retail and special events. One valuable advantage of this type of printing is the ability to “quickly and easily customize products for the events industry such as weddings and special occasions, as this is also a market seeing interest in this type of printing,” shares Conrad.
These items are produced quickly and feature a memorable charm because of their personalization benefits. They are used as “promotional products, collegiate and professional licensed goods, retail, personalized goods, and short-run production packaging,” continues Makrinos.
“We see demand coming from advertising specialty companies that support events that are venue or location specific, regional craft brewers, and sporting goods companies that produce and market active and/or premium drinkware,” explains Henzie.
Dedicated or Jig
Cylindrical printing typically occurs on either a dedicated printer or a flatbed printer that utilizes an optional tool like a spindle jig. Manufacturers may prefer a dedicated device if the object it primarily produces is cylindrical. On the other hand, a flatbed with a rotary tool option is ideal for those printing to a variety of shapes.
“The option for cylindrical printing workflow is ideal for those requiring versatility. The ability to print onto objects other than cylinders provides the ability to offer complete campaigns with confidence that all finished goods will be consistent in quality, look, and feel,” says Hope.
“A standalone printer specifically designed for printing on cylindrical items limits you to just that type of application while a flatbed with a spindle jig allows for printing on other objects as well as cylindrical items and expands market reach,” agrees Conrad.
Dedicated cylindrical printers are ideal for manufacturers solely focused on products like drinkware. “Flatbed machines with add-on attachments can be too slow to do any real production and are best for sampling. Digital printing on cylindrical and tapered items is a very difficult thing to do properly with speed and simplified changeover—something that delivers high quality, full color images on a variety of drinkware, shapes, and materials is ideal,” adds Makrinos.
Lambert says these more robust machines generally include infeed and exit systems that handle the cylindrical substrate in the process. “You can look at these as tools that are added to make the process more efficient.”
According to Henzie, the decision to use a dedicated printer versus one that works with a rotary tool is based on production requirements. “If a customer requires a rate of 60 to 80 parts per hour, they should consider purchasing a standalone printer design with a specific fixture or fixtures that handle the range of objects they wish to produce. These systems require that the operator load and print one object at a time,” he shares.
Now to Print
We’ve broken down select cylindrical printers on the market—dedicated and rotary jig—here.
EPS recently related the XD-360˚, designed for the mid-range production of bottles, cans, and cups. It is multi-fixtured, built with up to eight fixtures, which enable it to process up to eight items in a cycle. A motion conveying unit allows for programming different stoppages along the conveyor. A customizable solution, it can be configured with pretreatment, post curing, or automated loading/unloading options. According to the company, the XD-360˚ is capable of producing an average of 800 parts per hour in full color on glass, metal, or plastic objects up to 150 millimeters in diameter and 250 millimeters in length.
The Helix by Inkcups is a dedicated cylindrical inkjet printer for straight-walled cylinders and tapered cups. It is designed to print superior quality single or multicolored images on drinkware, barware, sport bottles, and cups. The Helix prints full CMYK plus white at 360 degrees and up to 4.25 inches in length with a resolution of 1,200×1,200 dpi. Speed is dependent on image size but typical production speeds for standard size logos is 250 parts per hour.
Innovative Digital Systems offers the Revolution 360˚, a UV LED curable inkjet printer engineered specifically for printing on cylindrical objects. It offers CMYK plus white and varnish at a resolution up to 1,400×900 dpi. Circular objects in lengths between 4.3 to 13 inches and outer diameters between 1.5 and 4.7 inches are able to be printed. The standard print area length is 2.9 inches but is extendable up to 5.9 inches with the option of two UV lamps running in tandem.
INX offers the CP800 UV Digital Cylindrical Proofer, designed specifically for proofing onto metal cans. The system uses an ink set design to cure with LED light tuned to a specific wavelength. The cans spin and are cured every revolution.
Xerox Corporation released its Direct to Object Inkjet Printer in 2016. It prints onto 3D objects at up to 30 cycles per hour, with the ability to have multiple objects per cycle at up to 1,200×1,200 dpi. The printer supports plastic, metal, glass, and ceramic. The imaging area is 2.8×12 inches and maximum object volume is up to one cubic foot, allowing for direct printing to cups, buckets, and even paint cans.
Flatbed with Jig
Direct Color Systems’ Direct Jet UV LED printers are designed for use with an EasyCyl attachment, making cylindrical printing possible. According the company, the attachment allows for printing a 5×5-inch full-color logo in less than two minutes. The printers are equipped with CMYK and white, which allows printing to more than just white or light colored objects.
GCC recently announced its 24×20-inch JF-240UV flatbed printer, which prints CMYK and optional varnish and white. A rotary attachment is available to extend print possibilities onto cylindrical objects like cups and mugs.
Graphics One provides a rotary tool for its Compress iUV-600s UV LED flatbed printer. The printer features a 24×18-inch flatbed print area with a ten-inch opening for material thickness. It offers print speeds of over 100 square feet per hour at 1,440 dpi.
LogoJET provides a 360 degree rotary printing attachment designed for the company’s UV2400 flatbed printer. It magnetically attaches to switch from flatbed to cylindrical printing and allows users to print the full circumference of cylindrical objects 0.5 to 4.5 inches in diameter. Objects up to 12.5 inches in length can be printed on and interchangeable rollers accommodate tapered objects like wine glasses.
Mimaki offers the Kebab, Kebab MkII, and Kebab MkII L options for cylindrical printing. They are compatible with the UJF-6042 and UJF-3042 HG; UJF-3042 MkII; and UJF-6042 MkII and UJF-7151 plus, respectively. The print area is 360 degrees, with no limitation. The Kebabs enable printing on cylindrical objects ranging from about one to over 26.5 inches in length (Kebab MkII L) with a diameter up to 4.33 inches.
Mutoh’s ValueJet 626UF 23.3×19-inch desktop UV LED printer is available with an optional rotary attachment for printing to cylindrical objects. The printer features six-color capabilities—CMYK, white, and varnish. As with all Mutoh printers, the ValueJet 626UF uses Smart Printing technologies such as Intelligent Interweave printing technique.
Roland released the RotaPrint attachment for its VersaUV LEF series of UV flatbed printers in 2015. The optional tool operates with the printer’s existing feed system and allows users to print to glass, plastic, metal, or ceramic objects with a diameter between 1.6 and three inches.
Valloy offers the TOPAZET UV 6045F UV LED inkjet flatbed printer with a special jig for cylindrical objects and irrgular objects. The printer supports CMYK plus white, varnish, and silver metallic.
Digital cylindrical printers are ideal for manufacturers. The production possibilities are endless, from candles to cups, vases, lamp shades—anywhere in your home or office with a cylindrical shape is a fit. With consumers demanding personalization and customization, now is the time to consider digital printing as an efficient, cost-effective decorative method.
Mar2018, Industrial Print Magazine