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s firms seek to produce shorter runs and more targeted work, for both cost and environmental reasons, they are increasingly switching to digital print.

 But like litho, digital often needs protection to enable it to be finished or to pass through the post without a polybag. Additionally, it may benefit from a coating to enhance its aesthetics. Laminating has previously been the popular choice for giving digital print a protective layer or added oomph, but environmental concerns about the process are causing many firms to look for alternatives.

 “Larger companies are becoming environmentally aware and there is definitely a trend away from laminating,” says Morgana managing director Quen Baum. “Anything laminated needs to be treated as plastic waste rather than paper.”

 Morgana’s answer is the DigiCoater, a small-format UV coater, which it unveiled at Drupa. Baum explains that the product fits perfectly with Morgana’s ethos: “Our products overcome the problems of digital print such as sensitive substrates and cracking. The DigiCoater is a product to solve another digital print problem.”

 He says Morgana realised the potential for a UV coater when it saw similar products at US trade show Graph Expo in October 2007. By Drupa, in May last year it had launched the DigiCoater. It wasn’t alone in showing a digital coating device, but Baum sees the arrival of rivals such as Duplo as confirmation that there is a market for the machine. His claims about growing demand for this kind of product were further reinforced at Drupa thanks to the inroduction of new digital coating machines from the likes of HP, FFEI/Fujifilm and MGi.

 A closer look at the digital coating market shows that it sub-divides into different categories. Morgana, MGi, Duplo and HP were all showing flood UV coaters while FFEI/Fuji and MGi launched spot UV machines based on inkjet technology.


High-end digital

The other issue to address with digital coating is whether you prefer offline like the DigiCoater or inline using a machine such as Epic CTi-635 inline coating system for the Xerox iGen range. Again, the Epic is a distinct beast; it’s nearly twice as fast, running at the iGen’s rated speed of 6,600 sheets per hour (sph).

 Baum says that the firm’s customers, who are in the main users of the higher-end digital machines from the likes of Xerox, HP and Canon, haven’t found the speed of 3,500sph (or 30m per minute) to be an issue. He also argues that as most people don’t routinely coat all of their work, offline is more flexible and  
affordable.


Problem solving

Another aspect of the DigiCoater’s flexibility is that HP Indigo customers can use it to prime and dry stocks that aren’t supplied pre-coated. “It’s not practical to coat all your own stocks, but it’s useful for special stocks, and some firms offer printing on anything as their USP,” says Baum. “We had one customer ask about it purely for speciality coating.”

 When it is used for priming, a separate set of feed rollers are used along with additional tanks for the primer and its own wash chemical. A separate feed is needed because the two chemistries are incompatible. Users who choose to fit priming post-purchase face a higher bill for the additional tanks and feed, due to the need to change the contaminated rollers.

 When priming, the DigiCoater uses IR lamps to dry the primer. Those IR lamps can also be used during UV coating and have come in handy for the machine’s latest development, which enables it to handle the output from the latest generation of dry toner digital machines that use wax-based toners. These toners, also known as emulsion aggregation (EA) or chemical toners, which are being used in the Xerox 700 and Konica Minolta machines, differ from traditional toner in the way they react with the coating – they need  
to be softened by heating to ensure good adhesion before  
UV curing.

 Part of the problem with coating digital print is the requirement to adhere to stock that has been treated with silicon oil during the fusing process. “By definition silicon is non-sticky,” says Baum. Morgana supplies special ‘Morgana Magic’ coatings, which were sourced to ensure they worked with digital print. It is currently available in gloss and matt finishes with silk being tested.

 A further control of the finish is via the use of smooth or ‘linen’ patterned rollers. With four tanks fitted as standard, the DigiCoater will be able to hold all three finishes plus the cleaning fluid at any time for swift swapping between finishes. Morgana supplies 20 litres of gloss and matt coating with each machine with additional supplies in 20 litre barrels.

 The cost per SRA3 sheet ranges depending on the desired thickness of the coating and the absorbency of the substrate, Baum says Additional control over gloss level can be achieved by varying the running speed. Slowing down from the maximum 3,500sph results in a higher gloss level, and Baum says many customers are happy to sacrifice speed for additional shine. “For most people speed is not the issue, they want the highest gloss possible.”


Small footprint

With a target market of digital printers – although it also works well with litho output – ease of use, automation and small size are important considerations. All functions can be controlled from the touchscreen console, including initiating the automatic wash up. With a footprint of just 1,320x940mm, the machine has been designed to be portable so it can be moved around the factory as required.

 As it uses UV lamps to cure the coating, the machine does produce some ozone gas, although not enough to legally require venting as standard. However, the DigiCoater comes with a flexible hose to vent outside or an optional X-Tractor unit that filters out ozone without requiring an external vent. Morgana also offers a 12-month guarantee on the  
UV lamps.

 The DigiCoater is at the lower end of the price range for the coating only version, including sheet feeder and online jogger, with only Encore’s narrower, slower and manually-fed Versacoater DocuMate available for less.  
Baum says Morgana did its homework before opting for  
the 508mm width, 3,500sph speed and full-automation on the DigiCoater. Having picked 508mm as the width that  
“suits all causes” Baum says that a smaller machine is also  
on the agenda.

 The DigiCoater looks like a viable contender in the digital coating market for any application, whether that is to protect the planet or the print; or to enhance eco-credentials or appearance. n

specifications

Speed  
 3,500sph

Max sheet width  
 508mm

Max stock weight  
 400gsm+

Footprint  
 1,320x940mm

Contact  
Afra Printing Equipment Trading LLC           +9714 2672448/2670242 

www.afraprintequip.com

the alternatives

Duplo Ultra 205-A

Automation is the Ultra 205’s trump card, according to Duplo. The firm believes that in the digital market its one-touch operation and 50-programme settings will prove popular, as it doesn’t rely on a skilled operator to set up. The larger B2 sheet size should also be popular for firms wanting to coat offset and digital work 

Speed  4,400sph

Max sheet width  521mm

Stock weight  120-350gsm

Contact   Ali Alhashemi Trading Est +971 4 3400 303   www.alialhashemi.ae     
  MGi U-Varnish

GAE has been selling the U-Varnish for two years with 25 machines installed in the UK, primarily with firms running high-end Xerox and HP digital presses as well as its specialist substrate digital press the MGi Meteor Pro. The  
U-Varnish can coat paper and plastic substrates 

Speed  2,400sph

Max sheet width  360mm

Stock weight  150-500gsm

Contact    Ali Alhashemi Trading Est +971 4 3400 303   www.alialhashemi.ae