To create beautiful digitally printed products, the appropriate part fixturing is necessary to allow a part to travel along the bed of a digital flatbed printer. A part fixture allows the part to stay in position so the ink can be laid down and an image created on the appropriate section of the piece. Fixturing is an important part of printing non-flat substrates and requires custom created sizes and shapes designed to fit each particular product that will be delivered into the system.
Choosing which fixturing will work best for your print job is an essential part of determining the costs, the amount of labor that will be required, and the lead time that you will need to create the final pieces. When it comes to choosing fixturing, there are three primary types you will need to consider.
When you use a traveling fixture, you will place the pieces to be printed into the fixture at which point the filled fixture will travel through the machine. After the ink has been laid down on the products the entire unit will travel back out of the printer where you can take out the completed pieces, refill, and send the next set in. Because most machines are set up for traveling fixtures, these are often the one you will most commonly find.
The benefits of a traveling fixture are not only that they are more widely available in machines, but also the fact that they are cost-effective for small runs of any size parts. One of the drawbacks of using a traveling fixture is the fact that someone will have to manually unload and reload each of the individual pieces. This requires a more human operation as well as additional time for loading and unloading which can make it less efficient for high volume runs. To reduce the amount of load time you can use multiple fixtures, which allows you to prefill one and have it ready to send through while the other one is being unloaded.
Stationary fixtures are not commonly found on many machines and are specifically unique to the XJET and XJET800. With the stationary fixturing structure, these machines have the ability to efficiently run high volumes of any type of promotional product that can be used in a flatbed printer. This fixturing works through automation with the fixture remaining stationary during the process. The parts to be printed will be loaded into the stationary fixture. When the machine is ready to print the fixture will rise and take the parts along the conveyor for printing. Once they have been delivered into the machine, the fixture will lower and begin loading more parts to be delivered again.
What makes this ideal for large runs is the fact that it completely removes the need to unload the fixture before each delivery into the machine can be made. Not only does this type of fixturing save time on the labor of unloading but also reduces the costs associated with having to produce multiple fixtures to make the process more streamlined. Though this process can be used for both large and print runs, it becomes much more effective for higher volume printing.
As technology advancement in robotics continues, so does the trend for eliminating fixtures altogether. The lack of a fixture utilizes a robotic mechanism to both load and unload the machine which eliminates this additional labor on both ends. Automation can be utilized with almost any type of UV printers because it is a completely separate machine that can be placed next to the printer to be incorporated into the printing process. This type of setup is most beneficial for long and repeated runs where the cost savings become more apparent.
Determining the appropriate fixture for your printing project will largely have to do with the volume you are printing, the amount of time you have to produce the products, and the overall costs you can cover for the job. Once you have determined these factors, you will be able to choose the printer fixturing that will be best at getting the job done.
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