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A next generation mid-range hybrid built entirely from the ground up, words by Richard Stuart-Turner.

What does it do?
The belt-driven 3.2m-wide h3 is built to sit above the GS and just below the HS in EFI’s Vutek printer portfolio, but is a completely new hybrid platform that is not based on either.
With three rows of Ricoh Gen 5 printheads that have a minimum drop size of 7pl and operates in greyscale mode, the 10-channel machine can print up to nine layers in a single pass and runs at up to 1,200dpi. It is one-day field upgradable to the h5 configuration, which has five rows of heads and will be available in early 2019.

Specifications
Process: LED inkjet
Type: Hybrid
Throughput: Up to 288m2/hr or 74 1.2x2.4m boards/hr
Max print width: 3.2m
Max media thickness: 50.8mm
Multi-roll capability: Two 1.52m rolls
Max resolution: 1,200dpi
Printheads: Ricoh Gen5s
Colours: CMYK plus light cyan, light magenta, light yellow, light black and double white or double CMYK for faster speed

When was it launched and what market is it aimed at?
Launched at Fespa 2018 in Berlin, Germany in May and commercialised in June, the h3 is targeted at the sign and display market, specifically high-quality graphics, OOH and POS applications.

How does it work?
The h3 can run either CMYK plus light cyan, light magenta, light yellow, light black and double white, or double CMYK for faster speeds. The operator selects either eight- or four-colour mode, with the light channels then automatically filled from the CMYK containers to optimise productivity. The printer runs an established EFI inkjet specially tuned for the h series and curing is by means of LEDs.
Mechanical crash detection sits on both sides of the carriage, which, if triggered, will stop the carriage and abort the print. Wrinkle detection and media height measurement offer additional printing accuracy and consistency.
Additionally, ImageEdge technology enables fast and easy printhead replacement while built in power monitoring facilitates remote and on-site diagnostic troubleshooting.
EFI product manager for mid-volume hybrid printers Thomas Krumm says software support is due in the next version of the manufacturer’s Fiery digital front-end. It will feature application-based layer generation that will allow users to select the type of application they are doing via Fiery.

What’s the USP?
The h3 features new standards from the standpoints of reliability, serviceability, ease of use, functionality, quality, productivity and expandability, according to Krumm, “We didn’t just want to make something higher quality and faster, we wanted to have a leap in the technology and capabilities of the printer.”

How does it differ from previous models?
No area of the printer was left unchanged, Krumm says, “It features an expandable architecture, new motion technology, new belt technology, new imaging technology, a new ink delivery system, a completely new electrical infrastructure on the printer, new automation, new software innovation, new cloud services and a new industrial design.”

How fast is it?
The h3 can print at a maximum speed of 288m²/hr or 74 1.2x2.4m boards/hr. The h5 will be able to reach speeds of up to 362m²/hr or 109 1.2x2.4m boards/hr.

How easy is it to use?
A raft of features are included to make life easier for the user. There are touchscreen monitors on the printer’s input and output side while an automated table and carriage alignment allows for faster setup and reduces printer alignment time.
Media handling options include three-quarter automated media loading and stacking systems, super duty winders and rewinders, and standard heavy-duty material handling tables, available both with and without rollers. Krumm says full-automation capability will follow with the release of the h5.
A new cable carrier design, meanwhile, enables easier serviceability and access to cables.

How many have been installed?
There have been 16 installations, to the end of October, including five in Europe. Hanulec says the majority of early adopters have bought the printer with a view to having it upgraded to the h5 configuration.

What training and support is on offer?
A standard five-day training programme can be supplemented with add-on modules ranging from colour management to advanced service training.

Alternatives
Agfa Jeti Tauro H3300 LED
The 3.3m-wide H3300 LED is available as a roll-to-roll system or with manual loading and unloading, semi-automation or full automation. It can print at resolutions up to 635x1,200dpi.

Durst Rho P10 250 HS Plus
This 2.5m-wide hybrid can achieve a print quality of 1,000dpi without loss of speed. It includes an advanced application for roll-to-roll double-sided printing.

HP Latex R2000
HP’s first hybrid to use its Latex technology, this 2.5m-wide machine is designed to print at a lower temperature in order to allow for a wider choice of media.