Fujifilm hopes to learn more about the potential use of its inkjet technology for metal decorating through a new partnership with Tinmasters.
South Wales-based Tinmasters specialises in metal decorating and is to install a Fujifilm Acuity B1 sheetfed UV inkjet printer later this year to establish the potential for short-run and bespoke production.
The B1 Acuity was co-developed with Inca and can print onto a wide range of materials of different thicknesses. It was first previewed at Fespa in 2017.
It will be Tinmasters’ first inkjet device. The south Wales business runs a state-of-the-art Koenig & Bauer MetalStar 3 sheetfed litho metal decorating line that was commissioned in early 2018.
Tinmasters chief executive Richard O’Neill said the Acuity’s “exceptional print quality and registration” had attracted the firm’s interest.
“Run lengths are coming down across the industry. We’ve long known that investing in a digital solution to respond to this was going to have to happen at some point. We just haven’t seen anything out there, as an off-the-shelf product, which does everything that we would ideally want it to.
“We made a significant investment in 2018 in a highly automated litho press to try to meet the growing challenge posed by shorter run lengths – but the trend is accelerating and digital was going to have to start to play a significant role in our response to that at some point,” he said.
The Acuity is set to be installed in September at the firm’s Swansea site.
Fujifilm already has two Acuity installs at other specialist metal decorators, in Italy and the Far East.
Kevin Jenner, business manager at Fujifilm Speciality Ink Systems, commented: “Tinmasters is a fantastic name to be working with. They will be producing commercial jobs that will end up in the market, and people will see digital in a different light as a result.
“We are learning about metal decorating very fast, and this is a really nice collaboration. We can see analogue being completed replaced by digital in this market in the long-term,” he said.
Jenner said metal decorating was currently “99% analogue” and that Fujifilm would also bring its experience in transitioning from analogues to digital technologies in graphic arts markets to the partnership.
“Together we want to fully exploit the technical capability of the current platform and, looking to the future, develop the machine into an even more exciting commercial proposition – increasing its speed, improving its handling ability and developing inks that will comply with the most stringent international food safety standards,” Jenner added.
The two companies have come to a commercial agreement that means Fujifilm will retain access for customer demonstrations and ongoing development work, subject to Covid-19 working practices.
Tinmasters has been involved in metal decorating for more than a century, and announced plans to consolidate its Welsh operations on one site at the beginning of the year.