by Brittany Willes, editor, Plastics Decorating
Designed to be fast, flexible and appropriate for short-run and medium-volume production quantities, the new Helix rotary inkjet printer, designed and built in the US by Inkcups Now Corporation, Danvers, Massachusetts, is an industrial printer for straight-walled and tapered cylinders.
“Short-run printing of multicolor, high-quality graphics is highly sought after for drinkware products,” remarked Maria Savelyeva, project and marketing manager for Inkcups Now. “With its multicolor imaging, fast printing operation and tool-less changeover of parts, the Helix is well suited for printing on products such as glassware, barware, aluminum, plastic and stainless steel water bottles, plastic tumblers, as well as cosmetic containers and packaging.” she continued.
Utilizing its sophisticated Helix software, the rotary printer achieves a balance between speed and image quality. The Helix software places drops of ink as small as seven picoliters precisely along the cylinder at high speed in a helical pattern. This software enables the part to move and spin at the same time it is printing, which allows the machine to print at high speeds without sacrificing quality or color.
The Helix needs only one advanced quick-change tooling fixture designed for both cylindrical and tapered parts, which allows for shorter part setup time. “Often, tapered cylinders are a challenge to print on due to the irregular shape,” explained Savelyeva. “When the user wants to switch from straight-walled to tapered, it often is a very time-consuming changeover due to adjustments and calibrations.” To address this issue, Inkcups Now designed a fixture to hold both straight-walled and tapered cylinders to reduce setup time between shapes. With the Helix printer, changing between straight and tapered parts takes less than five minutes.
Unlike other decorating technologies for tapered parts, which require artwork manipulation and distortion, the Helix requires no adjustment of graphics when changing among various sizes and shapes of straight-walled and tapered cylinders. Additional time-saving features include the Helix’s ability to save the setup parameters for a particular part. “The next time the part is run on the Helix, the part’s settings are simply recalled, making setup incredibly easy,” said Savelyeva. “For those who are currently screen printing, all the difficulties of making film, reclaiming and making screens, color matching and lengthy machine setups are eliminated. For those who are outsourcing multicolor labels, the reject rate when applying the labels is dramatically reduced, as is the hassle, time delay and cost of outsourcing the short-run labels.”
The Helix rotary printer was launched at SGIA in October 2015. According to Savelyeva, “Customers love the machine because it gives them decorating capabilities they do not currently have and enables them to open up new markets and new opportunities.”
The Helix has a maximum resolution of 1,200dpi by 1,200dpi and a print length up to 8″ (203mm); standard length is 4.25″ (108mm). The print diameter range runs from 2″ to 4.5″ (50mm-114mm). The cylinder length consists of 3″ to 12″ (304mm). The Helix has a connectivity of 2.0 USB. It is capable of running at speeds of up to four parts per minute, dependent upon image size and quality.
Printer dimensions are 87″x28″x62″ (96″x31″x71″ crated) with an approximate weight net of 1,100/1,400lbs (crated). The Helix is powered through 220 VAC 15 Amp.
Standard features include 360-degree printing; servo-driven, quick-change tooling fixture; adjustable angled tooling for tapered cylinders; automatic cylinder height adjustment; automatic, intelligent diameter measurement; and LED cure. Compatible software includes Adobe Illustrator, Adobe Photoshop and Corel Draw. The Helix’s ink palette contains cyan, magenta, yellow, black and white.