Road test: EFI R3225
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By Sophie Matthews-Paul
27 July 2012
The low-cost EFI R3225 being put through its paces at drupa
Out there in the big wide world there are many users of 3.2m solvent-based machines who, hitherto, haven't made the move to UV-curable ink because of prohibitive investment prices. These are the people who have been reliant on a roll-fed engine to bring them their bread and butter, and who want to continue producing work on flexible materials.
At this year's EFI Connect in Las Vegas I had the opportunity to spend quite a bit of time with the R3225 wide-format printer, and I was able to see more during my recent visit to Meredith, the home of the company's ink-jet solutions. This is a tough 3.2m dedicated roll-fed engine which uses UV-curable ink and is priced at a remarkably low figure that's certainly not comparable to anything else currently available from a Western manufacturer.
The R3225 is a sturdy platform whose colourways are similar to its VUTEk family of big brothers. The chassis is a sensible design and construction, making it look more like a machine of at least twice the price, and the quality it produces is remarkable considering we're looking at a standard CMYK ink-set. The build is based on a roll-to-roll vacuum platen drive system, and production across the entire width is smooth and effortless leading to consistent results. It incorporates two shuttered mercury arc UV curing lamps with independent variable power settings for greater media versatility.
There's a maximum resolution of 1,200 x 600dpi which is more than adequate for the types of work for which this machine is suited. The R3225 features eight piezoelectric variable drop greyscale print-heads and a choice of output modes starting with an express two-pass option where, at 300dpi, its throughput speeds are a respectable 87.2sq m/hr. At the other end of the scale, its ultra-quality mode uses 18 passes and, at 900dpi, not surprisingly its rate drops to 12.8sq m/hr. Although this might seem somewhat slow, there are several other variations which are better suited to display and point-of-sale applications that sit between the two extremes.
Designed to handle flexible materials up to 3.2m wide and a maximum of 1mm in thickness, the R3225 takes rolls up to a weight of 100kg and a roll diameter of 25.4cm. It uses EFI's R series inks which are supplied in 3.25-litre bottles, and ships with a complete set and not just a starter pack.
One of the benefits of this machine is that it can depend on EFI's software capabilities. As such, it comes with all of Fiery's features including the ability to integrate with the company's web-to-print and MIS/ERP solutions via native JDF connectivity. Even newcomers to wide-format print won't find it takes long to set up jobs and print via the EFI interface, with easy-to-organise workflow options and all the tools likely to be needed for production.
The EFI R3225 will start shipping in September, so now seemed like a sensible time to bring it to the attention of print companies considering the roll-fed UV-curable route but who haven't been able to find a low-cost machine that fits the bill.
In the region of £95,000 (€120,000).
Pros and cons
The EFI R3225 is an attractively priced entry-level or back-up printer well suited to anyone who needs a 3.2m roll-fed workhorse to produce a variety of applications onto flexible media. It benefits from EFI's wide-format expertise and software, and does exactly what it says on the tin. On the downside, it is not really designed for speed merchants who only want very fast throughput.
This engine has been positioned very cleverly to appeal to first-time users of UV-curable roll-fed printers, plus those wanting to move across from solvent-based platforms and don't want to go down the latex route. It also works well as a secondary or back-up machine where it can be left to do its own thing at its own pace without needing a lot of user intervention. The fact that it has the weight of EFI's considerable technological bulk behind it makes it stand apart from other platforms in a similar price bracket, which largely boils down to options from China. It might not be the fastest but the quality and colour fidelity is great, making it a real bargain in this market sector. It should appeal to sign-makers, display producers and, even, the litho sector who want 3.2m capabilities without a heavy price tag.
Ease of use: 5/5
Value for money: 5/5
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