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melamine boards

Printodeco video is up

Since November the 14th, the video of Printodeco is available at YouTube. The collaboration of all partners, and especially through the effort of Torculo and Seistag, made possible the video.

The video was recorded in summer 2018. It demonstrates the achievements of the Partnership of Printodeco Project. This is a collaborative project among four Spanish Companies. The project focused on reducing time to market of design products enabling enhanced possibilities for customization to the customers.

The video shows the way in which a designer can define a decorative pattern and, in just 48 hours, that design becomes a piece of furniture. This is possible thanks to the collaboration of technicians, printers, board makers and furniture makers. In order to make it happen, different resources are needed:

One of the tools is the catalog of ready to print designs. It is a printed booklet, but also a website which enables changing many parameters to the default images. By means of this, the customization possibilities are countless and the designer is not forced to start from scratch.

A second tool is a workflow, which compromises the whole Consortium. It ensures the quality of the images and also of the printing process. Special inks and papers are used and everything is done under special codes to ensure that the paper will fit the boards.

Thanks to the above-mentioned tools, making melamine boards and furniture with the printed paper is a standard process with no extra costs. Thanks to this, the offer of Printodeco can be cost-effective and therefore competitive in a huge market.

Printing directly the boards

By July 2018, most of the objectives of PRINTODECO has been accomplished. The Partnership made possible printing paper using digital printers, and making melamine boards using that paper. By means of this, time to market is now shorter than ever. Moreover, the costs for developing new references dropped. In addition to this, the Partners already explore printing technologies for up-scaling the production.
Nevertheless, the Partners discovered that printing papers has limits for extreme customization. Using printed-paper makes difficult to reach the level of every single board to be different. Therefore, in summer 2018 SEISTAG started a new development line. The new approach relies on printing directly over the melamine board and counts with the support of all the Consortium Partners.
In order to make this possible, different printing technology is used at TORCULO facilities. The printing process moved from water-inks to polymeric inks. Instead of paper passing throughout a line of fixed print heads, large format printers with moving print heads have been used to print directly over large-scale boards provided by LOSAN. Images have been provided by SEISTAG, and LOGISIETE designed the experiment.

Coordination meeting

On May the 25th, PRINTODECO Partners held an interim meeting. The objective was sharing advances and improving the project coordination. During the talk organized by SEISTAG, the Companies agree about the opportunity of digital printing for customization processes. They also discussed the way in which that opportunity can be implemented in a profitable manner. How can the efforts within PRINTODECO Project be turned into business?
Now that the end of the Project is in the horizon, the Partners Companies are focused on a sustainable exploitation of the technology and knowledge developed throughout the partnership. During the talk, the four Companies agree that the absolute customization is not needed within the décor market. The market of melamine boards is not like T-shirts market. The customer is not looking for its own exclusive design. The potential customer is much more engaged with trends and differentiation. Digital printing is a tool allowing European SMEs to follow the trends, a tool to set up an exclusive catalogue in short time and with little costs.
As the technical director from SEISTAG pointed out, the main issue of PRINTODECO tools is allowing this to be possible. Note that while a T-shirt needs an image of 0,04 square meters, the standard melamine boards images are between 3 and 5 square meters. This means that the technological complexity of producing the bitmap image is huge in comparison to standard personalized products. It is nearly 100 times harder to customize melamine boards than other products!
The next Consortium meeting has been planned in Santiago de Compostela for June the 19th. The date might change but the encounter will surely take place at TORCULO facilities. This is expected to be the last operative meeting within PRINTODECO Project, as most of the work originally planned has already been done.

Pieces for furniture

The first digitally printed pieces for furniture are ready at LOGISIETE facilities. As it was expected, the result of this experience shows the challenges of the market success of new technology. Although the pieces work in terms of technical performance, many issues ought to be improved in order to be feasible for the final market.

The first difficulty relates to the matching edge banding to the surface design. The final product demands edge banding made on purpose in order to match the design of the digitally printed boards. The Consortium is able to design surfaces but has no means to produce edge banding.

A second difficulty is the cost of endless images. The objective of the project is reducing time to market but the so called “pre-printing” process of endless images is two large to allow cost-effective production at TORCULO. For that reason, the Consortium plans to use rotative sheers for cutting the impregnated paper.

A third challenge is the image quality itself. The Partners reached a wide gamut and high colour fidelity, but the grain and focus of the images is still not good enough to face the paper printed by means of rotogravure. Calibrating the image quality is the major challenge of LOSAN who is currently working in this field.

Transforming digital boards manually

In October 2017, the first digitally printed melamine boards were presented in Brussels. The presentation took place within B2B learning exchange experience at Covent Garden Building. One month later, in November 2017, those boards feed the first experience of furniture making. The four Companies worked together in order to make possible this activity.

In order to transform raw melamine boards into furniture, two main operations ought to be made: cutting and edge banding. Cutting is usually made by a CAD/CAM tool. This is a robotic saw producing pieces that fit to the final dimensions. Edge banding is also an automatic process were a plastic band y fixed to the edge of the boards.

Although those operations are usually automatic, during PRINTODECO development ought to be made manually. By means of this it is possible to check the workability of the raw material. It also avoids failure within the innovative material that might cause damages to the expensive robotic tools for automatic cutting and edge banding.