Clever machine can print texture

By David Porter

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The Print Tank creative director Janah Kingi and director Rowan O'Brien have been blown away by the new technology. Photo / George Novak
The Print Tank creative director Janah Kingi and director Rowan O'Brien have been blown away by the new technology. Photo / George Novak

Tauranga's The Print Tank is the first company in New Zealand to use an unusual new textured printing technology, says the machine's agent.

The Print Tank's ultraviolet digital inkjet printing machine has the ability to print realistic textured surfaces on a wide range of sizes and materials including glass and plywood (see factbox).

The technology was being increasingly used in the US and Europe, but had not previously been available in New Zealand, said Richard Van Der Vegte, owner of Auckland's Prowood Machinery, which is the sole agent for the machines made by Anderson Group in Taiwan.

"There are other companies that make smaller machines than can print 1x1-metre textured surfaces, but they can't print onto big or heavy surfaces," he said. The Anderson machine's differentiation came about because it had a very heavy frame that made it possible to handle materials such as glass or marble, and the extra-large size of its printing bed.

Mr Van Der Vegte said the machine could produce a wide range of realistic textured surfaces. He added that the best results came from having operators familiar with graphic design software.

"The graphic artist has a big influence on the quality that comes off the machine," he said.

The Print Tank co-owners Rowan O'Brien and Janah Kingi discovered the UV inkjet technology at a trade show in Australia in late 2014. Mr O'Brien has an established background in materials and manufacturing and also owns Laminates Tauranga, while Ms Kingi, a project manager with a background in design, had been working for him part-time. Ms Kingi said the partners brought their skills together in the new company because they had been blown away by the technology's capabilities.

"They're almost limitless and we thought, what a great product to be first to market with in New Zealand," she said.

Mr O'Brien said they imported the machine in January 2015 and began trading mid-year after spending several months doing their own testing and research to get the best results.

"We are taking a different direction to most printers and are focused on interiors and feature applications, using it as an alternative finish surface," said Mr O'Brien.

Mr Van Der Vegte said in overseas markets some companies used the printing technology as an adjunct to an existing business such as cabinet making, whereas others opted to create a company specialising in the technology.

"It's a lot cheaper at times to print decorative surfaces than go to the trouble of making something, if it's not going to be in an environment where it can be damaged."

UV digital inkjet textured printing options include:

* Glass

* MDF

* Plywood

* Acrylic

* Metals

* Sizes up to 3.7m X 1.9 m.

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