The flatbed UV option would be for printing directly onto acrylic, either in sheet form or potentially onto dimensional/finished shapes like a box.
The lower tier of high-quality large-format eco-Solvent roll printers is currently ~$8,000-$25,000. Most of these will not accept anything thicker than films, so media that is measured in mils, rather than inches.
While you can still find 48" printers, and a fair number of 54" printers, the 64"-size is what a lot of the media manufacturers are making these days (and the 64" size is needed if you want to do seamless hood wraps). Under $30k they are generally in the two-year warrenty zone and they will need some kind of servicing; the cheaper ones may need a lot of servicing or replacement parts after that warrenty runs out.
There are several reputable companies that make a small/medium format eco-solvent, like Roland’s BN-20, or the PrismJet 24" (built by Mutoh). I’m pretty sure @johnwills has a BN-20. You are correct that these are great for making decals, but they will need some UV/abrasion protection for long term use. I don’t know if doming with the products above adds UV protection, but it would certainly add plenty of abrasion resistance.
You can go even bigger with roll-to-roll, up to the 104" Grand-Format machines, like the Oki Color-Painter, which will run you around $80,000.
Another option for printing small long-term decal graphics (especially difficult colors like red) would be a foil-printer, like the Gerber Edge FX (note, if anyone here has an Edge, please let me know, I may have a job to sub out to you).
The Edge has been quite a workhorse and lots of interesting markets available with that machine. I havent used one personally, however I have had graphics reverse-printed onto the back side of clear material then laminated with adhesive, in order to make super tough abrasion resistant prints (like motoX graphics, floor graphics, graphics for industrial equipment). They also work well for making screen printing exposure stencils, the thermal black works really well at blocking light.
Maybe 2 years ago (?) I had a chance to buy a complete edge 2 setup for a few hundred bucks, but I waited too long. A month or two later, Gerber started the buy-back promo (for working and non-working edge 1 & 2’s) and suddenly there were no used units available anywhere.
Yes, I have a BN-20. It’s great for decals, posters, photo prints, and heat transfers. For abrasion resistance, you need a clear laminate over the print. The Eco-Solvent ink is pretty good with UV resistance. It’s rated for 5 years outdoors. Just last weekend I inspected my test decals that I printed and placed outdoors 2-1/2 years ago where they have been in sunlight, been rained on, snowed on, etc. and they still look almost as good as the day I printed them.
I’d like to add a UV printer sometime down the road. I’ll look at the new Roland offerings. Thanks for the heads up!
I have seen non-laminated eco-solvent stickers that lost all their color after a year in the sun, and I have seen some that looked fair after 5 years. The very best, longest lasting full-color stickers that I have seen are manufactured by a friend of mine through his company sticker-robot.
They are screen-printed, and I have one that was placed outdoors in Ward with full exposure for almost ten years, and the red is still red. Thats impressive to me. I should take a photo of it side-by-side with one of the same stickers from that run that has been in a file-folder the whole time, I’m sure he would appreciate it.
It sticks pretty well to thing I have applied to. I just bought some more resin, do you want me to try on something in particular? Consider that it’s not doming resin, just normal resin.
When I was doing outdoor graphics, for items that needed longevity I used 2-part automotive urethane clearcoats sprayed over the prints. Being in the desert is a challenge, nothing lasts long out here.
Is clarity one of its features? I’d love to see anything you make with it. I’ve even been considering stuff like bar top resin, given the economics of gallons vs pints of jewelry stuff.
Give me a day or two to make some stuff and post them.
We made a bar top in college: bottle cap designs and steel shot, then drowned in Envirotex. Held up to several years of serious party use and abuse, and is now in a garage in vail, waiting for a forever home. Clairity was certainly a feature. It was never exposed to sunlight, though, so I can’t say how it handles UV over time.
Alternatively, I would love the ability to mark metal objects with similar images. This machine is a beaut, going solely off of the youtube video:
@tim, your video link lead me to this. Not sure about the quality it could produce, but interesting. From Argentina and they say to email for pricing and info. I did see it on eBay, and WOW. $45 for shipping a small bottle. I may do a little research on it and post if I bite the bullet and order some to try or get further info by email.
Thanks for the post. I really like the way this worked and will have to spend a few bucks to do some doming on my vinyl cuts.
I’ve seen that video, too. I wasn’t able to find out any more about the product. It looked very promising!
@tim Here’s a site with clear, polyester labels that are laser printable. Because they are polyester and not vinyl, they should be laser cuttable also. I’ve emailed them for more info on that. I’ve bought the white ones from them and they work great. They are very thin and adhere well. I use them in my Silhouette vinyl cutter. They also have Silver ones, which might be a good look for what you are doing.
Hope you find a good solution.
Online Labels has verified that the Polyester Labels are Laser Cuttable. Here’s the link to their site as well as the Material Data Sheet they sent. They also contacted their manufacturer and they said that Polyester is fine for laser cutter. No hazardous ingredients as defined by OSHA 1900.1200.
LP.pdf (363.3 KB)