Report on ATPColor DFP R Series, equipped with Roland Engine.
Nicholas Hellmuth and Maria Renée Ayau
This is an Extract of the Report.
Ask the following questions before you buy any inkjet printer:
FLAAR has over 15 years of experience evaluating wide-format printers, and has dedicated to evaluate textile printers for several years now. The textile printing market has grown significantly over the past four years. Now more and more companies exhibit textile printers at trade shows around the world. Few companies that exhibit textile printers are manufacturers and dedicated to textile printing. And the majority of companies are heat fixation (sublimation) unit manufacturers that retrofit printers to be used as textile printers, other companies are distributors, and others just claim they “manufacture” the printers that have a chassis, clearly from another printer manufacturer.
This FLAAR report is based in the observation and examination of the ATPColor DFP RSeries printer at different trade shows; and ten years awareness of wide-format inkjet textile printers.
1. Brand name, model?
Heatwave DFP RSeries.
2. What is the nature of the company behind the brand name? Is this company the manufacturer, distributor, or rebranding?
ATPColor is the actual manufacturer of the complete sublimation units for their DFP RSeries. This consists of a Roland printer on top and an ATPColor system for handling the fabric. There is a separate FLAAR evaluation of the grand format DFP Series printers.
3. Does the machine manufacturer also manufacture inks for textiles?
No, there are dozens of good ink manufacturers already (not many of whom try to build printers)
4. Does the machine manufacturer also make textiles to print on with this machine?
No, there are scores of manufacturers of media. I am not familiar with any who try to build printers. It really is best to focus and concentrate on doing one thing well: ATPColor focuses on designing textile printers and sublimation systems.
5. What other printers are the same or similar chassis from this manufacturer or distributor?
HeatWave DFP-64, Heatwave DFP-74, and HeatWave DFP-104
6. What other printers are the same or similar chassis?
7. If there are two or three (or more) widths of this printer, what differences exist other than the width?
8. When and where was this model first introduced?
9. Is this printer mature technology or still in alpha-stage or beta-stage?
This printer has been in the market for a few years now, so it is in a mature state.
10. How does this model compare with comparable previous printers?
11. Is there enough new on this printer to make it worthwhile buying it if I already have another recent model?
12. List price?
13. What is the street price?
14. Are discounts available via trade-in? Does the “trade-in” actually require trading in your old printer?
15. What comes with the printer: stand, network connection already installed, take-up reel?
* Sublimation Unit
* User Manual
* Electrical Schematics Manual
* Ink trough
* Sponge and pad for ink trough
* 12 weights for dancing roller adjustments.
* 4 weight stopper
* IR lamp to be inserted into the calender, at the two sides of the calender there are the correct screws to be used to fix the lamp. It is important to use these screws and fix the lamp cables very tight.
* 4 screws to fix the plotter to the sublimation unit
* 4 cones to hold the media roll, for 2 and 3 inch
16. What accessories are extra charge? Are these same or similar accessories included with other printers at no extra cost?
The in-line cutting system is not included.
17. What other costs are involved?
Realize that the air filtration system can’t use “active carbon.” Obviously when you acquire this effective system you will be told what kind of material to utilize.
18. Does a complete set of full-sized ink cartridges come with the new printer, or merely a “starter set” that is not as full as a regular set?
You receive two liters per color. I would assess this as a bit more than a starter set.
19. What other equipment is needed to operate this printer? For example, does this printer include its own power line conditioner? Do you need an uninterruptible power supply (UPS)?
If your country (like ours, Guatemala) has electricity that is constantly knocked out by monsoon rain storms or severe lightning or earthquakes or volcanic eruptions, you might consider an industrial strength power line conditioner and possibly an Uninterruptible Power Supply (the latter not to run the printer but to be able to turn it off properly if the main power supply in your city is zapped).
Otherwise, in most countries, if your local power is acceptable, you do not need to have special electrical equipment.
20. Do you need to supply a compressed air source?
21. Do you need a coating machine, steamer, washer, calendering machine?
No, the calender is embedded, so you can fix the color without using a separate calendering machine. This saves cost, and space, and labor (salary).
22. Is it recommended, or required, to buy a spare parts kit? Or extra printheads?
Does the end-user buy the spare parts kit? Or is this held by the distributor?
Most end-users don’t wish to buy a spare parts kit up front, in part because they don’t yet have the experience to do their own repairs when they are first buying this printer.
There is a “Survival Kit” available but usually this is stocked by the distributor.
23. How does the total cost compare with other Inkjet printers?
(Printing Unit, Fixation Unit, Filter Unit) € € RIP SE Tex Version € € RIP Pro Tex Version € Transportation
(ex-works Italy) € € Installation only labor € € Training Included Included Initial Ink Kit Warranty
(as long as original inks are used) Spare parts kit (Optional) € Total Cost (Base Price) €
24. Where are demo centers located?
The primary demo center is outside Milano, Italy.
25. What is the procedure to visit a demo center?
Potential customers are welcome to visit the demo center. It is in a nice area of Italy. Simply meet one of the distributors or the ATPColor Managing Director, Roberto, at a trade show, or send them an e-mail, explaining who you are, your background in the world of wide-format inkjet printers, and the applications you are looking at.
26. Are end-users welcome to visit the factory and the main headquarters demo center?
Yes the company is hospitable and potential distributors and potential end-users are welcome to visit.
27. Are the dealers a national (most companies) or regional (Roland allows a dealer within USA to operate only within a limited regional area)? Do I have any choice in dealers? (with some printers, choosing a dealer is as important as the choice of printer brand; end users repeatedly suggest that choosing a dealer is crucial to the success, or failure, of some brands of printers).
Most distributors are national. The ATPColor distributor we know the best is Splash of Color. One of many assets of Splash of Color is that they are focused on wide-format textile printers, so they know the workflow, jargon, and can explain the reality of printing on polyester to you.
* And obviously Italy.
28. What kinds of leasing or other financing are available?
You should obtain leasing from your own financial institution if you need financing.
SET-UP OF THE PRINTER: PRACTICAL CONSIDERATIONS
29. What is the delivery time, between the time I order the printer and it is delivered?
30. What are the electrical requirements of this printer?
The electrical requirements for this printer are 100-208V, 32 Amps, 3 phase. These power requirements are requested mostly in US, in other countries they may vary.
31. Are there any special temperature or humidity requirements or preferences of this printing system?
Temperature and humidity are indeed crucial, especially humidity. Even more important is that whatever temperature and humidity is present in the work area, that it not vary during the day: cool in morning, hot by 11 am. Hotter by 2 pm.
While printer is on: the temperature should be between 68-77 ºF (20-25 ºC) and the humidity 35-80% (no condensation).
While printer is off: the temperature should be between 41-104 ºF (5-40 ºC) and the humidity 20-80% (no condensation).
32. What is the connectivity? Network, SCSI, FireWire, USB, Ethernet, or other?
Ethernet (10/100, automatic switching).
33. What air pressure is required to be provided to the printer? Is this for a vacuum table, or other purposes (such as ventilation)?
34. Realistically, how much surrounding and support space will the equipment need in addition to the machine’s own footprint.
35. What is the size and weight of the printer?
The printer weights 1598 lbs. (725 kg.).
36. Does the printer come in one piece? Does this mean you have to remove a wall to get the printer this size into your office?
37. How many boxes arrive?
38. How big are the boxes?
39. What is setup of the printer like?
At least two days is needed.
40. Realistically, what expenses must you incur for the installation, such as a fork-lift truck or crane to lift the printer off the truck?
You will need a heavy-duty fork-lift truck.
INSTALLATION OF THE PRINTER
41. Can you handle the shipping crate with your team, or is a fork-lift required?
You need a fork-lift truck.
42. How many people does it take to lift the printer out of the box?
43. Does the printer come in one piece? Is the printer already put together?
Yes, already assembled.
44. How much assembly is required?
45. What comes in the box (and which is in which box)?
46. Is installation included in the purchase price?
47. Between the day the printer arrives, how soon is it realistic to achieve full productivity?
This time will depend on how much experience you have with printing with disperse dye ink on polyester. If this is your first machine, two weeks would be expected to acquire full productivity.
48. How much of a learning curve is there?
INSTALLATION OF THE PRINTER: INSTRUCTIONS & MANUALS
49. How many manuals are available?
Two: the main manual and an electrics schematic manual.
50. Which manuals are hard-copy? Which manuals are only on CD?
51. Is there a Site Preparation Guide? If so, is it helpful?
Yes, there is a site preparation guide.
52. What is the rating of the usefulness of the Setup Instructions?
53. What is the rating of usefulness of the User’s Manual and other associated materials?
54. How difficult is it to obtain the manuals BEFORE you buy the printer?
If you have an appropriate interest, you can look at the manuals up front.
55. What schematics does the printer literature provide?
56. What is the native language of these guides? Is the translation acceptable?
The native language of the manuals is Italian and the translation into English is okay; some of the phrases are not perfect idiomatic English, but can still be understood.
57. Does the user’s manual have a glossary?
Most user’s guides lack a glossary.
58. Is there a Service Guide?
59. Is the Service Guide available to the end-user, or only to the service tech engineer?
When I visit printshops around the world, some operators have a service manual and others prefer to let the service tech engineer from the distributor or manufacturer take care of this level of service.
INSTALLATION OF THE PRINTER: TRAINING?
60. Is training included in the purchase price? If so, what kind of training is offered?
Training price, or inclusion, depends on your local distributor.
61. Is training necessary? Is classroom training available?
Training is individual; not in a classroom.
62. Is factory training available?
Factory training is rare, though some companies do welcome factory visits, and a few companies do indeed offer training at the factory. And yes, training at the factory outside Milano is available.
63. What on-line training is available?
No on-line training; though obviously you can ask questions on-line.
64. What about follow-up training after you have had the printer a month and know enough to ask better questions?
At FLAAR our suggestion is to get original training during installation and then make a list of your questions and after the first month get more advanced training. Yes, this follow-up training is available.
TECH SUPPORT & WARRANTY
65. What is the original warranty period?
12 months warranty for the printer not including parts, labor, and printheads.
36 months warranty for the calendering system.
66. Does it include parts, labor, printheads?
Almost all warranty of printheads, any brand, and any printer, are based on what caused the issue with the printheads. If the printhead is at fault; it is normally replaced. If the printhead was damaged by a head strike or lack of cleaning, the manufacturer will tend not to replace it.
67. How would you compare reliability and down time with competing brands of printers?
68. What sort of technical assistance do you actually offer? We mean serious technical assistance. Do your tech support people who answer the phone read from a script and only get a real technician later on? Most manufacturers are cutting back on tech support and/or have people answering the phones who do not themselves actually use or know the equipment first-hand. They just attempt to read from a script.
This depends on the dealer.
69. Can the manufacturer remotely diagnose the printer?
70. Do the tech support people understand fabrics and textiles?
71. What is the native language of the tech support person?
72. What tech support is available and for how long? What is the wait time on the phone…truthfully?
Depends on the day and hour (and who the dealer is).
73. How do you intend to satisfy a company whose clients need a wide range of true color matching? Can tech support talk users through how to achieve the color of a corporate logo? Or do we have to take an expensive course to learn ICC profiles and color management?
74. Can you provide an extended hardware warranty?
This can be discussed.
75. Who provides the service? The dealer or the manufacturer?
First level would be the dealer. Second level would be directly with the manufacturer.
76. Who does the repairs?
77. Do spare parts come from a foreign country? If so, what is the wait time for such parts?
Some spare parts would come from Europe; other parts from Asia. From our experience there is wait time even for parts for printers from Fortune 500 companies.
78. What about the dot pattern of your printer? Is this dot pattern as fine as that of an Epson 10000?
79. How can you describe the design of the printer?
The printer is a working machine. So it is not designed to look like a pinball machine. Also it is not painted garish colors: instead it is a nice neutral color (so it does not conflict with your company décor).
80. Can you easily tell which is the “front” and which is the “back”?
I call the front the area where the LCD and operator panel(s) are situated. This usually means that the other side is where you feed the material in. I call that the back. But many printer companies call the feeding area the front. It makes no difference as long as you define what you mean in advance.
Some textile printers have a moveable control computer that can be situated at one end, or at the feeding area (whichever location the operator prefers). But the standard arrangement is that the LCD and keyboard are on the output side. I call this the front.
So yes, you can easily distinguish the front from the backside of the printer.
CONSTRUCTION: BUILD QUALITY
81. What is the solid-ness of the construction of the outer body? Is it plastic? Metal? Heavy gauge?
The printer is made out of metal; it looks sturdy.
82. Is there a front hood and also a back hood?
There is only a small front window; no back hood is needed on this printer.
83. Does the front hood lift up high enough to allow full access?
Yes, the small front hood lifts high enough for a technician to access the interior of the printer.
84. The front hood, is it strong, or cheap plastic?
The front window is made of plastic.
85. What about the back hood?
There is no back hood on this printer.
86. What is the solid-ness of the inner parts? Plastic, metal?
87. Does the printer wobble back and forth when printing?
No, the printer does not wobble while printing. The construction of the printer is sturdy, thus the printer remains steady while printing.
88. How many wheels? On printer? How many on fixation unit?
The printer has 6 wheels in total.
89. How many leveling devices on printer? Any leveling devices on fixation unit?
90. Is the wheel and leveling device the same unit, or separate?
91. Is there an Igus (e-chain cable carrier system)?
92. After you have used the printer for a while, do parts quickly wear out, break off, wobble, or malfunction?
FEATURES: MEDIA: Heaters
93. How many heaters are used?
Only one heater is used: the calender.
94. What is the purpose of the heater(s)? To dry the ink, or to fix the ink?
The purpose of the heater (calender) is to fix the color onto the fabric.
95. Are the heaters before printing, during printing or after printing?
The heater (calender) is used after printing.
96. If there is more than one heater, can they be operated independently?
No, there is only one heater.
97. Is there an air blower as dryer? Where is it situated?
98. Do you need to buy a separate additional heater?
No, you don’t need to buy a separate heater. The one on the printer is enough to fix the colors on the textiles.
STRUCTURE OF THE PRINTER: Media Transport Mechanism & Media Path
99. Was this printer made originally as a textile ink printer, or is it retrofitted for textiles? If retrofitted, what was the original brand or model?
The chassis is from a Roland solvent printer, though the heating unit is specially designed to handle textiles by ATPColor. The printer that it is mostly used in the pictures it is the Roland FP740, this is a “sublimation” printer, not a “solvent” one, other model is a “solvent” printer.
100. Is there a moving transport belt or a stationary platen?
The printer has a stationary platen, No transport belt.
101. Describe the platen.
A textile printer usually needs a trough. For this printer the trough is cleverly outfitted with a sponge.
102. Are their edge guards at each side (end) of the platen? At left, or at right, or both?
103. Can you move the left guard, or the right guard, or both?
104. Can the height of the edge guard be varied?
FEATURES: MEDIA: Roll-to-roll feeding
105. How is roll media fed? Pinch roller against grit roller?
Entry-level and mid-range systems use a row of pinch rollers working against a row of grit rollers. High-end systems use tension. The ATPColor media feeding system uses tension.
106. What size? What positions are the rollers relative to each other?
107. Are pinch rollers traditional or a special size/shape/position?
108. Are the pinch rollers bunched next to each other, or widely spaced?
109. Are the grit rollers continuous or individual?
110. Are the pinch rollers same size as grit rollers, or smaller?
111. How are the pinch rollers raised?
112. Can the pinch of the pinch rollers be varied?
113. How many drive rollers are there?
114. How is the roll held at the feeding position? On a spindle? On a saddle?
The media roll is held at feeding position by a spindle.
115. How is the roll media handled at feeding position? For example, is there a dancer bar?
At feeding position, there is a dancer bar to handle the roll media feeding system.
116. After the feed roller (or spindle) is there a set of two fixed bars, one above either other (a tension set)?
117. Does the feeder roller have an air core?
118. At the back, is there an extra roller bar(s) near the platen or transport belt? Is it a bar to roll under the media, or over the media, or are there both (in addition to pinch roller/grit roller arrangement).
On the back of the printer there is a foot-feeding pedal to load the media as a single person without the need to jump front & back of the printer. Facing the back of the printer, ink access is at the left; vacuum pipes are at the right.
119. At the front, is there an extra roller bar(s) near the platen or transport belt? Is it a bar to roll under the media, or over the media, or are there both (in addition to pinch roller/grit roller arrangement).
At the front of the printer, there are two bars near the transport belt: one that goes over and one that goes under the media.
120. Describe the overall path of the media through the system?
A simple path is neither a major benefit nor a defect. A simple path means that it’s easier to load and there is less to go wrong. A more sophisticated system may have advantages for feeding some kinds of media.
121. Does the roll-fed material feed evenly?
122. What about the take-up reel? Does it work unattended? Does media skew when it is wound up?
123. Is the take-up spindle an air-core?
No air-core is needed; uses an “easy block” instead.
124. Does material roll up evenly on the take-up reel?
I was frankly surprised to see a printer roll up the media as evenly as this printer does. There was no skew. I am aware that the quality of the media itself affects this. But the fact that this printer does practically a flawless job was one of several hints that ATPColor system is definitely not an average media handling system.
125. Is there a quick-unwinding function (to get the media off the roll)?
Yes, ATPColor offers this extra feature (not always found on other printers).
OPERATING THE PRINTER
126. Can you manage print jobs via the Internet with your printer?
127. What sensors does the printer have?
128. Which materials are pre-established in the software, or do you have to create the settings for each class of material yourself?
Media for display (signage) and media for flags are the two main different kinds of media you would tend to handle with this system.
129. In the main area for operation, is the machine software based (touch screen), or with physical control buttons? Or Both?
The printer is software based (touch screen) and also has minimalistic physical control buttons on a tiny touch screen. The touch screen is very small since most controls would be handled through firmware or RIP on your computer monitor.
130. Can you operate this printer from your iPad?
Operating a printer with your iPad started about 18 months ago, and now several brands offer this feature. But this printer is still operated by your normal desktop computer.
131. Can the firmware of this printer send a message to your telephone, iPad, or computer if a serious issue occurs?
132. How many operators or operator assistants does this printer require?
One operator is enough to handle this printer.
133. What can you control as operator?
* ON/OFF line
* Feed calibration
* Total or partial meter counter
* Calender temperature
* Forward/backward buttons
* Set-up screen:
o Fault setup
o Advance after print
o No heat if no advance
o Security code
o Quick unwinding
* Status screen:
o Foot switch
o Supply down
o Supply up
o Take-up down
o Take-up up
o Fault drive1
o Fault drive2
o Fuse supply
o Fuse take-up
o Enable calender
o Clockwise supply
o Counter clockwise supply
o Clockwise take-up
o Counter clockwise take-up
134. What is the level of ease of use? Can anyone use this printer or do they have to be trained and certified?
135. Can you do unattended printing? For how long? How about overnight?
136. Where does the operator stand or sit?
The operator sits at the RIP station (computer) and otherwise stands at the front of the printer.
137. What aspects of the printer can you operate from behind (the loading area)?
The only thing you can operate from the back is loading the media, and filling the bulk ink containers.
138. What controls are at the back of the printer?
There are no controls on the outside back of the printer. Facing the back of the printer, ink access is at the right.
139. What controls are at either end of the printer?
Air extraction switches are at the right end. The air unit is adjacent at the right.
SAFETY & HEALTH CONSIDERATIONS
140. How is safety treated in the Manual(s)?
141. How many emergency stop buttons are there, and where are they located?
142. Is there auto-shut down? If so, what triggers it?
No auto-shut down. However the calender will turn off if the printer senses it is overheating.
143. Is there auto-shut down if the operator sticks their hand into the system while it’s operating?
144. How much odor is emitted by the ink or heat sublimation process? How much subsequent outgassing is there, and for how long does the stuff smell?
All sublimation processes result in a cloud of “smoke.” This is why the exhaust system is absolutely essential. This extraction of the sublimation smog is taken care of by the exhaust filtration system, which sits adjacent to the printer. The residual odor is normal for what is expected.
145. Is the machine enclosed, or exposed?
The printer carriage is enclosed and printing path is exposed.
146. What system of ventilation or exhaust system is built into the printer? Or if not required, what would common sense dictate? Is it adequate to clear the work area of gasses and fumes?
The printer comes with a fume box that is connected directly to the printer, so it sucks all the gases and fumes produced during sublimation. Though it is also recommended that you install the printer on a ventilated area, since the ink odor may cause physical distress.
There are three manifolds in the air cleaner system, so you can decide yourself how many to turn on.
147. What is the noise level, primarily of the fans for the vacuum?
The fan sounds like you would expect of an industrial fan. Otherwise I did not notice any significant noise made by this printer.
148. Do the printer specs list the noise level?
No, it does not list the noise level. In most printers noise comes from vacuum pumps, which are more common in solvent and UV-cured printers.
149. What moving parts might hit a person if they are standing near the printer?
None of the parts should hit the person standing nearby, because the printer is enclosed. Except for the printed and fixed media, that are exposed, so the only thing that you could bump into while standing near the printer is the media.
150. Are any other safety or health issues involved? Does the operator need to be concerned with any other safety precautions?
151. Is the Operator Manual so poorly translated that you might make a mistake; a mistake that could be damaging to your health, or otherwise dangerous for your printshop?
No, the manual is acceptably translated in idiomatic English, it is not perfect, but it is understandable. This is a huge asset over manuals even from respected Japanese manufacturers. The manuals of one otherwise good brand are poorly done and are rarely in acceptable idiomatic English.
152. How easy is it to obtain the MSDS of the ink?
It is rare that the MSDS of the ink is easy to obtain. If the MSDS is an auto-download from the company website, this is how it should be. But most companies do not wish the end user to know which brand of ink is being used, so hiding the MSDS is not necessarily an attempt to hide the dangers, but may be to hide the source of the ink.
The ink recommended by ATPColor has an MSDS sheet available and also fulfills the requirements of REACH.
153. What is the brand of the printhead, and model?
The printer uses Epson DX4 printheads.
154. Is the brand and model of printhead clearly identified in the published specifications?
No. The published specifications do not list the printhead brand or model.
155. What other printers use the identical printheads or a model very similar?
Other textile printers using DX4 printheads are: Mutoh Viper TX, Mutoh Viper soft, Mutoh Viper extreme, and Roland SolJet Pro II V
156. Why did the manufacturer select the printhead now used?
157. What previous printhead was used? Why did the manufacturer change?
158. Why does the manufacturer not use the other options? Dimatix Spectra? Konica-Minolta? Kyocera? Ricoh? Epson?
159. If the printer you wish to purchase uses a thermal printhead, what are the pros and cons of each thermal printhead (Canon, HP for HP and ColorSpan, Lexmark for Encad) Is the printhead considered state of the art, or one generation behind?
PRINTHEAD DPI & FEATURES
160. How many printheads are used?
161. How many nozzles per printhead?
180 (x8) active nozzles per printhead.
162. Can a sensor(s) detect clogged nozzles and can software provide backup nozzles to cover that missing area on the next pass?
163. How many printheads per color?
Two printheads per color in the DFP-74 model
164. Can your printhead technology achieve a solid black black?
165. What is the drop size in picoliters?
The drop size is 6-24 picoliters.
166. Is there variable droplet size capability?
167. Is printing bi-directional or uni-directional? What are the different results in speed; in quality?
168. Which materials really ought to be printed at the uni-directional mode?
If your media is “dusty” you might test uni-directional printing mode.
169. What is the advertised DPI, and is it true dpi or “apparent” dpi? How is dpi presented (with what adjectives)? How is this dpi calculated? What is the true dpi of this printhead? If the spec sheet uses the concept of “perceived dpi” or “apparent dpi” how they calculate perceived dpi instead of true dpi?
In the printed specifications the DPI is listed as: maximum 720dpi (for the Heatwave DFP-74) and 1440 dpi (for the DFP-64 and DFP-104 models)
170. How many passes can this printer achieve?
171. How many print modes are there?
172. Is each print mode explained in a manner that an intermediate or advanced user would wish to know, or is the print mode put at the lowest level so a beginner does not have to think?
173. Which materials have to be printed at multiple passes?
174. Which materials can be printed fast at 2-pass or 4-pass modes?
The number of passes needed may also depend on how worn the printheads are. If the printheads are old you may need more passes than when the printheads are new.
175. Can you vary the material feed rate?
Yes, you can vary and control the media feed rate.
176. Is the laydown sequence of the ink the same in bi-directional mode as it is in uni-directional mode?
177. Can you increase the carriage speed?
Yes, increasing the carriage speed is one way to affect print quality vs print speed.
178. What does a normal mortal have to do to accomplish the same high quality output as touted in your ads or at your tradeshow booth? The manner in which a printer’s output is highlighted at a tradeshow is not by any means reliable insurance that you too can achieve the same output. Most printer manufacturers tweak the images they show you at tradeshows. Clients bring in images that are only average. So the question is whether the printer can make an average image look great.
179. How much will ink usage and cost rise when you select the higher dpi? Please provide, in writing, the ink usage figures for printing at economy mode (300 or 360 dpi) regular mode (600 or 720 dpi), high quality mode (1200, 1440) and what is the cost increase in ink usage printing at 2880 dpi? I do not mean for “5% coverage,” but what are the actual ink costs for 100% of the surface covered with ink at full ink load?
PRINTHEAD LIFE EXPECTANCY
180. How long do your printheads really last? Do you have that written in a warranty? If your longevity specs are in drops, please translate that into liters of ink or square footage of media.
Epson guarantees their heads for about 7 million drops.
When I first began evaluating printers (late 1990’s), I always had to smile when Epson sales reps tried to claim their heads were permanent. Epson people never admitted their heads eventually wore out from the flushing that most heads require. Although Dimatix Spectra, Konica Minolta, Seiko, Xaar, and Ricoh heads are considered industrial, they cost multiple times more than an Epson head. The noticeably lower cost of an Epson printhead is why most textile printers today use Epson DX4 or DX5 printheads.
181. If piezo heads fail, who is responsible for paying for replacement heads? If thermal heads, who replaces the heads if they fail before their rated lifespan? What does each printhead cost to replace? Distinguish price for the printhead and also price for the service technician to come and do the installation if it is not user-replaceable?
If a piezo head fails it is usually considered the fault of the end-user—unless the head is DOA (Dead On Arrival).
182. How often can you expect head strikes? What causes them? Who will replace the printheads and at whose cost?
* A head strikes is the most common cause of premature head failure (another cause is constant flushing; the flushing seemingly wears out the nozzle system). A single head strike may wipe out only a few nozzles, or may kill the entire printhead. Head strikes may be occasioned by a diverse variety of situations:
* Improper loading of the media, which make cause buckling, because the media is caught, or not going through the printer properly.
* Thin media can curl, thereby causing a head strike on the curled part
* Edge guards, which work on thin materials, may be raised too high.
* If media is absorbent, too much ink can make the material bubble up
* If media is curled or bubbled by heat; the head can hit the raised part
* If media is defective to begin with, or uneven, the head can hit the raised part
* If adhesive pulls off the material the adhesive may get stuck on the nozzle plate of the head.
* For a textile printer, an additional cause of printhead failure is the fuzz of the threads, which may stick up and rub the nozzle plate.
* Some material is like sandpaper to the nozzle plate, some papers, and metal (and the metal edge is another danger to the printhead nozzle plate).
183. Is there an alarm system to stop the head from hitting the substrate if head is not high enough?
184. Are printheads at an angle, or in a row?
The normal position for printheads is parallel to each other in a row. But there are exceptions, and staggered the positions may have other benefits. Each pattern for positioning the printheads has a reason, but most printheads are simply parallel to each other in one row.
185. Are the printheads at an angle to the movement of the carriage, or at 90-degrees?
186. How complex is it to align the printheads?
187. Do you need to tell the printer where to start printing?
188. Can you vary the gap (the distance from the printhead to the media, which is the distance the ink droplets must fly?
189. How would you define the printhead carriage?
190. Are there any unique or special features with the printhead carriage?
191. What brand of guide is used to pull the printhead carriage?
CLEANING & MAINTENANCE
192. Has a special maintenance system been installed to handle textiles or textile ink if the printer is retrofitted?
193. How is head cleaning accomplished? Spray, vacuum, suck, manual, other?
Vacuum and pressure; then wiping.
194. How many levels (strengths) of printhead cleaning (purging and/or sucking) can be accomplished via the firmware (software)?
There is one level of vacuum pressure to clean the heads.
195. Can you purge an individual printhead, or do you need to purge all at once?
196. Where is the service station?
197. Is the service area the same as the parking area?
198. Is there a capping station?
199. Does the manufacturer provide any special cleaning tools?
Ordinary tools are used.
200. Is there an off-printer dip-station or soaking station that is separate from the parking or maintenance station?
Yes, the dealer will tend to have an ultrasonic head cleaning unit.
201. Is there an off-printer parking station for the printheads for storing them a longer period?
202. Does this printer spit, or “weep” at regular intervals?
Solvent inkjet printers spit ink at the end of every pass in order to keep all printhead nozzles open. The reason is that if you are printing a banner with an area of pure cyan, then the other printheads will not be jetting ink (since their colors are not called for). In theory these nozzles will clog while not being used. So spitting allows all nozzles to eject ink occasionally.
Another way to allow all nozzles to squirt ink periodically is to have a band of CMYK or a band of six colors (CMYK light Cyan light Magenta) at one or both edges of the image, immediately outside the image area. This pattern causes every color to jet even if these colors are not being printed in the image itself.
203. Where does the spit ink go? How do you eventually dispose of the spit ink?
All excess ink goes into the service station, and then into the bottle below.
204. What part(s) of this printer need the most attention to avoid breakdown?
You have to pay attention to keeping the printheads cleaned.
205. What maintenance issues should be noted?
Be sure to keep the linear guide clean.
206. What part(s) of this printer tend to break down the most often?
207. What is the most delicate, or complex, or time-consuming cleaning or maintenance chore?
Cleaning the calender is a tough assignment. So avoid sticky media or any other act that would tend to leave residue on the surface of the calender.
208. If you change ink, how much hands-on work is required to set up the ink system? Is hand priming or sucking the ink down the tubes required of the operator? Is head priming automatic, or operator initiated?
Changing from one ink to another is technically possible in some printers but is rarely recommended.
209. How much time, media, and ink are used during regular cleaning, calibration, and maintenance?
Most cleaning aspects are automatic (when you tell the system to clean itself). So regular cleaning takes just a few minutes.
210. Is there a sleep mode? Should the machine ever be turned completely off? Does this not entail having a UPS unit to guarantee it is on all the time?
There is a sleep mode. With most (but not all) printers it is advised to leave in sleep mode rather than being turned completely off (which may entail putting solution in the printheads to replace the ink).
211. How long can the printer sit unused? How should a printer be prepared for sitting unused for a long time?
212. Do you need to have a band of printable colors along the edge, outside the main printed area, to keep all printheads and their colored inks fresh and ready to print (so as not to dry out when not be used by the colors in the design)?
CLEANING & MAINTENANCE: ROUTINE MAINTENANCE
213. What daily maintenance is required at start up in the morning?
214. What daily maintenance is required at night?
215. What daily maintenance is required if you print the entire day long?
216. What other periodic maintenance is required by the operator?
217. What self-maintenance does the printer do on its own?
218. What would be a “maintenance check list?”
219. Other than ink filters, are there any other filters? How often do any non-ink filters have to be checked? Cleaned? Changed?
220. How expensive is replacement of the non-ink filters?
CLEANING & MAINTENANCE: WASTE
221. What is the process your printer uses to clean its printheads? Does the printer do this automatically? Or does the operator have to do this by hand? How much ink does cleaning the heads waste? How often must this happen?
222. If your printer cleans its heads with liquid money (in other words if it uses costly ink to push impurities through the heads), why does your print head technology allow such defects? What if one purge does not work? How many purges does it take? But if there are six or eight inks in my system that may cost about $50 to clean the heads? How does this affect total cost of ownership?
223. To initiate a purge, where is the control or button? Is it software generated or do you have to press a button? Where is the button located?
224. The ink that is purged, where does it go? Into a drain/waste bottle, or into a drip tray?
225. Where is the waste bottle situated? How much waste ink does it hold?
The ink waste bottle can hold up to two liters.
226. How often do you need to empty the waste ink bottle?
Frequency of emptying depends on how much you print and how often you purge.
227. How should you handle the drip tray or maintenance tank? How much ink do they hold? How often do they fill up?
228. How do you dispose of the ink and/or flush liquid in the waist container?
229. Is a liquid flush cleaning solvent available as a separate on-board system?
PRINTER DRIVERS & SOFTWARE
230. Are the controls mainly manual or are most actions handled in the software?
Old fashioned printers had most of the controls manually (as switches or buttons) on the printer (front, sides, and back). Nowadays most of the controls for a printer made in a factory which has advanced past the previous generation, the controls are in the firmware and in the RIP software.
RIP SOFTWARE: FEATURES
231. Is a RIP included in the original price?
Yes, you get a RIP from Roland: VersaWorks.
232. Is this a full-featured RIP or only a lite RIP?
233. Which RIP software is supported?
234. If more than one RIP are offered, what are the pros and cons of each RIP?
The advantage of Roland is price (it comes with the printer).
235. Is your printer and/or RIP Pantone certified?
236. Can the RIP perform nesting of various sized files across the full width of the media?
237. Can the RIP do rotating of any and all files in any and all software? This implies ability to rotate TIF files from Photoshop as well as files from QuarkXpress, PageMaker, or InDesign.
238. Please list the things that a full-featured RIP is expected to do as compared with the RIP that is included with your printer? It would be helpful to know this in advance rather than find it out in practice or note it in some review.
239. Does your RIP form black from K or from CMY? Can the user select which to use or is it permanently locked into one mode in the RIP?
240. If your printer makes black from CMY, is that because your K won’t stick to glossy media? This may happen with pigmented inks.
241. What other printers can this same RIP software? Or is this RIP restricted solely to this one printer?
242. Can this RIP be upgraded to run my next printer? If not, why not?
243. Please make a list of those features your RIP does not provide that your competition does provide (irrespective of the price difference).
244. Can your printer function without a RIP with a Macintosh or only with a PC? In other words, are your drivers for PC only or for Mac and PC? Do you get full functionality with a Mac driver compared to a PC driver?
245. Although the world tends to use PCs, is your printer equally Mac friendly?
SOFTWARE ERROR MESSAGES
246. Are any error messages in the firmware that are curious or unintelligible?
PRINTER DRIVERS & RIP SOFTWARE: WHAT SHIPS WITH THE PRINTER
247. Does the price of your printer include a RIP? If a RIP is included or part of a package, is it a lite RIP or a full-featured RIP? Can this RIP be updated or run any other printer?
248. If no RIP is bundled with the printer, how many and which RIP brands can work with this printer? What is your rating of these various RIPs?
249. If I might wish to add an after-market RIP to be fully satisfied, then why should I wait? Would it be best to skip the official bundled RIP and go straight to the more fully featured after-market RIP?
250. Are the RIP(s) that are offered specialized for textiles?
251. Can your printer function realistically with no RIP whatsoever? If so, what features are missing or slow down without the use of RIP?
COLOR MANAGEMENT FEATURES
252. What color management software is included?
253. What color management tools are included within the printer?
254. What ICC profiles are included?
255. How easy is it to use outside ICC profiles for after-market media?
256. How many different kinds of ink are available?
Sublimation inks come in several flavors, including oil-based, solvent-based, and water-based. Each kind of ink has some advantages and perhaps one disadvantage. These also depend on whether you are doing direct-to-fabric printing, or printing on transfer paper (since transfer paper also has its several issues).
The ATPColor R series uses water based disperse dye ink.
You can select two different inks, based on price difference. Both inks are from known name brands (a Swiss company, Sensient is identified in a brochure) and a company headquartered in USA).
257. If there are several kinds of ink available, can you switch from one to another?
In theory, yes. You can switch from disperse dye to dye sublimation inks.
258. How long does it take to switch from one ink to another?
Two to three hours; you mainly flush a lot of cleaner through the ink lines and printheads.
259. How much ink is wasted in switching from one ink to another?
260. During the process of switching ink, does this damage or wear out the heads?
261. What company makes the inks? Choices include Kiian, J-Teck, Ciba, DuPont, Sensient, Sericol, Sun, Triangle, Inkwin, and many others.
Sensient inks, in Switzerland.
262. Does the printer itself have a means to keep track of ink usage? Is this a guestimate, or an actual count of droplets fired?
The RIP software (depending on the brand) would keep track of ink usage. Normally this is a guestimate.
263. How much ink is used to print a square unit?
264. Where are the printer’s ink containers located? Front, back, or sides?
Access is at the top left (when you are at the back, then the right of the back).
265. What is the ink usage compared with a solvent printer?
A textile printer tends to use less ink per square meter than a solvent printer.
266. How much ink does the ink container in the printer hold?
The ink container can hold 1 liter of ink.
267. How is new ink added? Pouring into the on-board container? Switching the container to the new ink container?
By pouring ink into the container.
268. Is your ink unique to your printer? How many other textile printers use the same ink?
269. What kind of protective devices are on the ink system to keep you from using after-market ink?
270. How often might your printheads lose a color? This means, in a long print run or a long banner, what are the chances that one color may become clogged and stop printing?
271. How can you see the remaining ink level? Do you have to ask to see the ink mode, or is the status available at all times?
Look at the ink bottle. Also, an InkLow alarm will sound when ink is low.
272. Is there an issue with “Ink Starvation” when you are trying to print at top speeds?
“Ink starvation” means that not enough ink can get to the printheads in fast printing modes. Ink starvation is a real issue that affects even some quarter-million dollar printers. So you need to check with end-users to see if they have issues with ink starvation.
So far we have no report of ink starvation with normal modes on the ATPColor printer.
273. Some printers now have “counters” which report how much ink has been expended for each print. Most printer manufacturers admit that these counters are generic estimates: they do not really count how much ink is actually squirted out the heads. So how about your printer? Does it even have a counter and if so, what is it really counting?
274. Is there an ink low alarm?
275. Is there an ink-out alarm, or only a message on the monitor?
276. Does printing stop when one ink is out, or does the printer keep printing (hence wasting the other ink, and the media).
277. Does the printer attempt to get you to put in fresh ink when there is still lots of ink left in the container? I believe there was a Class Action lawsuit against Epson for this.
278. Is the print usable when you have to stop the printer to refill ink halfway through printing?
In some situations, if you stop the printer half-way through a print, it may leave a mark (for differential ink drying and other factors). With some dye sub systems the factor is the nature of the coating. So in advance it’s tough to say. For this reason, it helps to keep track of the ink level before you print a long job.
279. How much hands-on work is required to set up the ink system? Is hand priming or sucking the ink down the tubes required of the operator? Is head priming automatic, or operator initiated?
280. What other problems have people reported with your inks?
281. How is air removed from the ink delivery system and/or removed from the printhead? Is there a de-gassing system?
282. What filters are on the ink system to trap particles?
283. How often does the filter need to be replaced?
Depends on how much you print; perhaps once a month.
284. What is the cost of a new ink filter?
285. Does ink come in cartridges or bulk? How large are the ink containers for replacement ink?
Ink tends to come either in bottles (where you pour the ink into the ink container on the printer) or containers that are themselves the ink container: you take the old one out; throw it away; and place the new container in its place. Cartridges tend to only be used in printers with Epson printheads.
286. Do you have to buy an entire box? Or can you buy an individual bottle?
287. What is the cost per container? What is this cost translated to liters?
Cost of ink varies depending on the dealer/distributor, and depends on what country you are in. Usually the smaller and cheaper the printer, the more the ink costs. The larger the printer is, and the more ink it uses, the lower the ink is priced.
288. What is the cost, in ink, per square unit?
289. How many square units of fabric will one liter print?
290. How much ink is used up during installation of the printer? If a piezo printer, does that mean I have to buy a complete set of ink within a few days of paying off the cost of my printer? Does that mean ink will end up costing more than my printer?
291. How can the cost of ink be lowered?
292. What is the total cost of ownership of your printer? If your company has no total cost of ownership, why not? Surely all the technical people in your company must have figured out what it takes to run your printer?
293. What is the longevity of your dye ink outside in the sun? No lamination, no glass.
Outside in full sun longevity of most disperse dye ink would be three to four months. Inside an airport, a mall, or other shopping center, longevity is definitely longer.
294. What effect will high humidity have on your dye inks, on your pigmented inks?
Evidently high humidity has some advantages over low humidity.
295. Is the ink of itself waterproof? Or does water resistance happen only on some kinds of media?
Yes, you can wash the fabric. And obviously, how many times you wash it, and how, will affect longevity of the color.
296. What about solvents such as cleaning solvents? Do they mar, dull, or wash away the ink or change the surface quality?
You would need to test each cleaning solvent to know.
297. What happens if you seal your prints behind glass to protect them? Will the ink outgas and smear the glass?
Since the calender is set at 200 ºC it is expected to sublimate all the ink. Thus to seal your prints behind glass will not automatically engender outgassing. Naturally all this depends on climatic conditions and ink load.
298. What is the shelf life of the ink?
Shelf life of the ink depends on storage temperature, plus on how honest the company was that delivered the ink. If the company bought too much ink, and could not sell it fast enough, they might be tempted to back date the shelf life.
Shelf life of the ink supplied by ATPColor is one year.
299. Do you have to shake the ink to get the pigments out of being settled?
No, this is not a pigmented ink (some of which has to be shaken). You do not need to shake dye-based ink.
300. Does the ink rub off?
Under normal conditions you would not expect the ink to rub off. Obviously this depends on the chemical situation.
INK: COLOR GAMUT
301. How many colors are used in the ink-set being evaluated here?
302. What claims does your printer make for color gamut in your advertisements?
303. How does the color gamut differ for your dye inks vs. your pigmented inks?
304. What colors print best?
Color gamut will depend on the color of the material on which you are printing, on your experience with color management, and whether you are using canned ICC color profiles or custom profiles that you made yourself.
305. Please indicate what colors your inks cannot achieve?
306. To what degree does the color gamut shift, as the ink gets lower in the ink chambers?
307. What color shift do your dye inks go through during their drying cycle?
308. What color shift do your dye inks go through during their heat fixation cycle?
309. Hopefully your own in-house technicians can achieve needed color gamut and can match our needed corporate logo colors. But can an average user, in Idaho or Mississippi, achieve fire engine red, Coca-Cola or sunset red, the cyan needed for a blue sky? Green of Irish grass pastures, the yellow of Ford pickup trucks? We realize that gold may be tough for any printer, but red, cyan/blue, yellow and green are essential.
310. How about a large black fill area? Can your printer achieve an acceptable black without banding tracks? What about puddling?
311. What widths can be printed?
HeatWave DFP-64 (1.62 meters), Heatwave DFP-74 (1.83 meters), and HeatWave DFP-104 (2.6 meters).
312. Is the width enough for target applications?
Yes, but you can opt for the DFP-104 for wider applications.
313. What core diameter(s) of media will this printer accept?
314. Are there core adapters to accept other sized cores?
Not at present.
315. What is the maximum roll diameter?
35 cm normally. If you purchase the optional large-roll system you can take rolls with a diameter up to 66 cm.
316. What thickness media is accepted?
Up to 1 mm, but unless you were printing a rug, more thickness would not be needed. And this is not made to be a rug printer.
317. What length of media tends to be on a roll of material?
Flag media can be up to 500 meters in length on the roll. Display media can be 200-250 meters long.
318. What length of media can be printed? Is the limit in the software or in the roll-handling capability of the printer?
319. Can the printer print edge-to-edge?
320. Can you manually sheet-feed media? Does it feed easily?
No, you cannot sheet-feed media.
321. Can the machine handle two different rolls of media side by side at the same time?
Yes, the printer has an optional cutting system that uses cold knife technology to make sharp flawless cuts. The In-line cutting system can be stopped or paused without creating defects in the printed fabric.
322. Can you adjust the rate of media feed?
You need to adjust the rate of feed to remove banding lines caused by media feed that is slightly off. This is not entirely the fault of the printer but a result of the fact that each different kind of material feeds slightly differently.
323. Is printhead height adjustment available? Is it manual, automatic, how much?
324. Is there a cutter on-board? Is it manual or automatic?
Yes, the printer has an optional cutting system that uses cold knife technology to make sharp flawless cuts. The In-line cutting system can be stopped or paused without creating defects in the printed fabric
325. Is there an edge or slot for a hand held X-acto blade or knife to cut printed media off the printer?
326. Do you have media length-remaining sensors on your printer? Is it manually set or automatic?
MEDIA: what materials
327. Can this printer accept non-coated fabrics?
Coated polyester or polyester blend is better than non-coated fabrics. But some brands and varieties of non-coated fabric could work for some applications. You would need to try a sample to see. Also heat resistance polyester is required for printing with this printer.
328. Can this printer accept fabrics with no paper backing?
No need for a paper backing.
329. What textiles does the manufacturer list?
All kinds of normally coated polyester fabrics. It helps if the material is 80% polyester. Disperse dye sublimation transfer paper.
330. What textiles can this printer print on perfectly?
Polyester fabrics prepared for digital printing.
331. What materials can this printer print on successfully?
Polyester fabric, not stretchable.
332. What textiles are a problem but can be handled, more or less?
Fabrics which stretch too much need a sticky belt (conveyor belt system).
333. What fabrics are best not to try at all?
Fabrics without polyester base, as well as fabrics with no heat resistance coating.
334. What about thin or stretchable fabrics?
335. What about rugs and comparable thick materials?
Rugs and comparable thick materials are not an option, since the maximum thickness is 1mm.
336. Which fabrics need coating? For reactive dye ink? For acid dye ink?
Normally disperse dye ink requires printing on inkjet coated polyester.
337. Does the printer manufacturer also make coatings?
338. Can the manufacturer toll-coat for an end-user who needs a significant amount of one or two coated fabrics?
ATPColor is a textile printing system developer and manufacturer; not a manufacturer of ink or media.
339. How much acclimatization time is needed for the media?
Depends on material (and temperature of storage area compared with temperature of the print room). But usually not an issue.
340. Is there a trough to catch the ink that goes through the weave of the fabric?
Yes, there is an ink trough with sponge and pad to absorb any ink that passes through the fabric
341. How do you clean the trough? Can ink drain down and out of the trough into a waste bottle?
To clean the trough you pull up the sponge pad and throw it away. And wipe down the edges of the trough. Then cut out and put in a fresh sponge.
342. How does this printer handle ink that goes through the weave but gets stuck as droplets on the back of the weave? How does it keep these ink drops from getting on the rollers or soiling another part of the fabric when it reaches the wind-up reel?
There are two issues with printing on fabrics: first, the ink goes through the weave and ends up on the table or transport belt or platen. Second, the fibers from fabrics or mats can get onto the printhead nozzle plate and sometimes up into the nozzles.
343. Some printers advertise “two rolls of media” but in fact it is only one roll that can actually be feed. The other bar is merely a storage device. Yet a few printers can switch media from one roll to another with the touch of a button. What does your printer offer?
344. What about wheel marks or feeding roller path marks?
You will not get wheel marks or feeding pinch roller path marks because there are no such rollers.
345. Can the media feed without skew?
The next time you go to a trade show, look at how the media winds up at the lower back of the printer. Look at the edges of the roll.
More than half the rolls have the material sticking out irregularly. Some brands have remarkably sloppy wide-up. Yes, naturally this also depends on the media: cheap low-bid media will tend to wind up a bit more irregularly.
But when I looked at the edges of the wind-up roll on the ATPColor machine, it was perfectly flush. So this is one of many reasons why I find that the manufacturer and ATPColor have been successful to spec out a system which functions well.
346. How do you handle media whose edges are uneven or otherwise irregular?
IMAGE QUALITY ISSUES
347. What sort of things causes image quality issues?
348. What about type (letters), especially small letters? Can your printer do a nice job: good sharp crisp alphanumeric and line designs? Do you get fuzzy edges even with dye ink, or crisp edges?
349. What about grayscale prints (in easier to understand language, what about black-and-white prints)? Do B&W prints turn out properly grayscale, or greenish or reddish instead of neutral gray?
350. What is the situation with gloss differential or bronzing?
351. Can you please explain banding and list five potential causes of horizontal banding?
352. Does the printer allow the operator to correct for feeding rate (which is one cause of banding)?
353. Can a glossy finish be achieved?
If you use a glossy media the finish will be glossy. If you use a matte media the finish will be matte (so obviously not glossy).
354. Is there banding in areas of solid black?
355. What causes banding in this particular system?
356. How can banding be avoided?
More passes tend to get rid of banding on almost any and all inkjet printers. Of course it helps if the machine is precision engineered so you don’t get much banding at four passes and above. Banding at two passes is normal. You can eliminate pass-overlap banding by using an interweaving technique (which Mutoh developed and now Roland and others have copied).
You can also use a software solution to remove banding. In effect you print in a pattern so that the normal person will simply not notice the banding. This solution is provided within the ATPColor firmware.
357. How much banding is reported with this particular printhead?
I have not noticed any banding issues on the samples; which were printed while I observed the machine in action.
358. Can you vary the material feed rate?
359. Does glossy media scratch easily, even just running through the printer?
360. What about satellite drops which cause edge splatter?
361. What causes edge splatter?
362. Is enough ink laid down? Density of ink-laydown may affect color to some degree and definently will affect saturation. A printer that attempts speed may result in less ink being laid down.
363. Is ink drying time an issue?
FIXATION UNIT: Calendering System
364. What is the nature of the fixation unit?
365. Where is the fixation unit located: physically attached, out in front, separate?
This calendaring unit is physically attached, in the lower half of the printer.
366. What are the advantages of having the unit a meter out in front?
367. What are the advantages of having the unit attached to the printer?
The primary advantage of having the sublimation system attached to the printer is to save space.
368. What is the brand of fixation unit?
The brand of the fixation unit is ATPColor.
369. Where is the fixation unit manufactured?
The fixation unit is manufactured in Italy.
370. Which other brands of textile printers use the same fixation unit?
371. Does the media wrap the inked side around the calender or the back of the media?
ATPColor fixation units can be used both with the printed side or the back of the media wrapped around the calendar, depending on the media and ink you are using. Or a third option with a backing wrapped around the calender.
372. What are the differences or advantages of each method (if available)?
373. How many IR units?
374. What is the temperature range?
The temperature range is 20-200 ºC.
375. What sensors are associated with the calendaring unit?
There is an infrared reader on the calendaring system.
The ATPColor printer system can shut off the heater of the calender if the printer is not printing.
376. What shuts off the heater?
377. Can you run this system unattended over night?
378. How does the temperature range (and electrical usage) compare with other brands?
379. Does the filtration unit provide only filtration, or can you exhaust out the top too?
380. What kinds of filters can you employ inside the filtration unit?
Do not use “active carbon.”
381. Does the manufacturer address the overall workflow, or do they just try to sell you the printer and then sort of abandon you?
If you buy from a generalist inkjet printer dealer you will get the good service for solvent and UV-cured printers.
If you buy from a company; which is focused on textiles, which has years background in textile printing, then you can expect to have help on the entire overall workflow.
382. What are the applications listed by the manufacturer?
Flags and soft signage are the best applications. But if you are innovative, and if you have clients who are innovative, surely you can create novel applications.
383. What applications does this printer encourage that are innovative?
384. Does the printer allow for perfect registration if printing double-sided?
In past years some other brands (of solvent printers) offered special (expensive) options for doing registered double-sided printing.
But for printing on thin material the color will be visible from both sides anyway. There is no option for registering double-sided printing with most direct-to-fabric printers. The sublimation chemical process is not conducive to this kind of process.
PRODUCTIVITY & ROI (Return on Investment)
385. What productivity claims does the printer manufacturer made?
386. Can you sell the output at the machine’s fastest output speed or is the quality at that speed not acceptable to most client standards?
90% of the different brands of printers can’t produce usable output at their fastest claimed speed. So I call these speeds “junk mode.” It is false advertising in probably half the spec sheets.
387. Please point out what adjectives the ads for your printer use? “Blazing speed” perhaps? Can you please describe what “blazing speed” really means?
388. But what about speed claims? Our users are not in a laboratory. We are not using a wide version that the original tests were done on, but a narrower version. What speed can our people really achieve with a unit not as wide as the one on which the speed claims were based?
389. Okay, taking the various speeds that your printer advertises, please explain the quality or defects of the output of your fastest speed? What does the output really look like and is this sellable quality? Can you please provide references for any company who actually prints at your fastest claimed speed and is satisfied with that output? No fair hiding behind jargon. Is the output at fastest speed junk or throw away, or would a Fortune 500 client actually pay for it and be pleased.
390. For top photo quality mode, is your printer faster or slower than competing printers? How long does it take to print an image 42 or 44 inches wide by six feet long, at your absolute highest dpi and top photo quality setting?
391. How much time does it take to set-up each new size of media?
392. What is the level of productivity, high, medium, low?
HISTORY and RELATIONSHIPS OF THE MANUFACTURER
393. What is the recent history of the manufacturer?
Roland is one of the few companies that exhibit in trade shows all over the world, and that have been around for years. They are one of the key companies in the industry.
I have seen the owner of ATPColor around the world at pertinent expositions for many many years. He has now expanded beyond wide-format textile printers into the world of serious grand-format production (for signage primarily, though you can use the output any way you desire).
394. What partners does this manufacturer have?
The manufacturer has worked with Splash of Color in USA for several years. The manufacturer also has experience with Roland for many years. And in the days of ColorSpan he knew their textile printer inside out.
Today he has experience in China. I see him at the key Chinese expos. It is interesting to note who you do see at most expos (the owners of the several really leading textile brands) and who is missing (the owners and managers of the companies that have textile printers in their inventory but that is clearly not their focus).
ATPColor logically has the two ink companies as development partners. It is worth noting that the two are both major names in textile inks. Sensient (Switzerland) is listed by name in one brochure. I have been to the headquarters of Sensient ink in Switzerland and can attest to their capabilities.
COMPARISONS WITH OTHER PRINTERS
395. When people are considering buying this printer, what other printer(s) are they also looking at?
396. What features on the other printers turn them off?
The most common issues that I hear about on other printers are inks clogging the printheads, and fumes from inadequate ventilation inside the system.
HP works hard to push their latex ink for textiles. But between the issues of cost of the ink, and lack of adequate hand on the resulting textile, most dedicated textile printer companies would not tend to focus on latex ink. Plus latex ink printers are notoriously slow.
The best advertising for disperse dye advantages would be a user who has an HP latex ink printer but went and bought a textile printer from ATPColor!
And most important, if the company which makes the printer you are considering is simply a miscellaneous printer manufacturer (Epson, HP, etc) and happens to offer you a “textile printer” what chance do you have to speak with individuals who know textile printing in the real world?
397. What aspects of the selected printer help decide in its favor?
For my own judgment, as I have stated before, I prefer a textile printer made by a textile-oriented company.
I do not tend to find a textile printer from a UV-cured manufacturer or solvent ink printer manufacturer as the best option. In some cases, if your solvent or UV-cured dealer is great to work with, I can understand why a printshop would opt for a textile printer via a solvent or UV-cured manufacturer. But so far, printers for textiles made by the biggest names in UV-cured printers have not always been totally successful: they are okay (every printer is good for many things no matter what). But now that I have fifteen years experience evaluating printers, and now that I have several years specifically evaluating grand-format textile printers, I increasingly would tend to opt for a textile printer primarily from a textile-focused source.
ADVERTISING CLAIMS: realistic, exaggerated, or misleading?
398. What kinds of printed brochures are available?
There is a two page brochure on the DFP Rseries, plus a folding cover.
399. What do these ads claim?
The only statement that I would want to ask about is relative to UV-resistance, as dye ink in general is not intended for outside. If you were not aware of this in advance, you might mistakenly think that disperse dye inks can hold up to sun. This is in the enclosure, not in the actual brochure.
But I would estimate that some inks can potentially hold up longer than other inks.
400. Please look at the ad claims for this printer in magazines and on the Internet. What aspects of these ads will a buyer of that model soon find out that are perhaps slightly exaggerated? In some ads it seems to be the goal to list the places where the printer is weak as outstanding features. After all, once we buy your printer, we are going to find out about these discrepancies relatively quickly: metamerism on some models; slowness on most models; banding defects; inability to print on after-market media; small ink cartridges combined with high cost of consumables, etc.
401. How would an outsider describe your printer? Not how your ads claim, but how do other people view your printer as to whether it is easy to use, takes care of itself, does not require you to personally become a repair or maintenance technician.
402. What kinds of companies have bought your printer models in the last two years? We are not interested in whether Kwik Kopy is on your preferred buyer price list, but rather, how many of Kwik Kopy’s x-hundred outlets actually bought your printers in the last two years? Of these, how many were of the model that we are interested in?
403. Are any systematic mechanical problems documented? For example, consistent complaints. If you asked outside industry experts would they reply, “Ah, yes, Printer XYZ is known for potential XYZ glitches.”
404. What parts have broken down since you have had the printer?
405. What have been recurring maintenance issues?
406. What surveys have been done of user satisfaction of your printer? Have these surveys turned up information that a buyer of your printer ought to know about? Copies of pertinent surveys should please be provided. No fair hiding behind NDA.
407. Have their been any recalls of your printer or any hardware or software features that had to be replaced on a notable number of your printers? For HP5000 this would be the yellow sensor; now long ago resolved; for HP 2000-3000 series this would be star-wheel, and so on. For Encad 600 series this would be head failure, for Encad 700 series it would be the skewing problem, and so on. We cover the inherent, systematic problems of printers with piezo-electric heads in the series on Survival.
408. Please indicate the problems in the initial introduction of your printer, between the first ads and/or first showing of the printer at tradeshows? To what degree were early buyers also beta testers?
409. Are there any problems serious enough to have caused either individual or class-action lawsuits to either resellers or the manufacturer relative to color management, mechanical aspects, printheads, banding defects, skewing of media, incompatibility with inks or media or other aspects that could be deemed pertinent? If there were no lawsuits filed, are there any claims or complaints that came close to lawsuits?
410. What surprises might I encounter if I try to let your printer run unattended overnight? Why might it not be a good idea to let your printer run unattended overnight? Can your printer detect when one ink chamber is empty? Or will your printer continue to print indefinitely overnight even if one color is empty?
411. Is there a User’s Group specifically for this printer?
There is no user’s group.
412. The following question is not meant to be mean but is to protect the people who spend their money buying your printer. Are you sure that your company will exist over the next three to five years in a manner that can secure the investment of our company in buying one of your printers? Is it certain that spare parts will continue to be manufactured or at least readily available? Is there anything in your recent corporate past or upcoming future that might cause a reasonable person to feel justified in asking this question?
413. What will the resale value of your printer be in three to five years? Will either the brand name or model specifications cause a knowing buyer three years from now to shy away from your printer or cause a knowing buyer to only want to pay a very low price as compared to the other printers our company is considering? A company that is no longer in business may cause printers of that brand to lose value in the used market. Or is there some major technological breakthrough in your brand that will result in less value for your current model?
ATPColor has been in business for many years. The owner is dedicated to his business. I do not expect this company to evaporate.
Most printers from Chinese manufacturers have a low resale value in part because they constantly change their features, so in four years the features of your printer will no longer have spare parts available. But a European company is required to keep spare parts for several years. Plus, this is not really a “Chinese printer;” this is a combination of Chinese experience in manufacturing combined with the experience of ATPColor with textile printing.
414. Is there enough new on this printer to make it worthwhile buying it if I already have another recent model?
Pros for the printer portion
The printer chassis is manufactured by Roland; a company that has been in the market for years. Although they don’t manufacture textile printers per se, Roland is one of the preferred brands used for assembling textile printers by other companies, especially ones that sell heat fixation units.
The Roland printer and ATPColor unit combination is a very sturdy printing solution that does not wobble while printing, unlike many entry-level textile printers.
Pros for the heat fixation (sublimation) unit
The newest models allow you to heat the front or back of the inked media. Flag media is best sublimated with the front against the calender. Display media is best sublimated with the back against the calender.
You can also sublimate against the front with protective paper on. Not many (and in some cases not any) other printers offer these options.
The original models can receive an upgrade kit so you can switch between sublimating the front or back. Otherwise this should be configured in the factory.
Pros for the media handling system
The media is feed from the back of the printer, and has a system so that one person alone can do this job without having to go from the back to the front of the printer.
The media handling system has a level that allows you to graduate the applied pressure to the fabric, by simply joining or separating the rolls that handle the media.
After the media is printed and fixed it is neatly wound-up, which is very rare in entry level printers, since they usually have an entry level media handling system, opposed to the professional one from ATPColor.
We are still working on ascertaining downsides of this system. An obvious reality check is that most dye-sublimation printers today can only print well on polyester fabric. As soon as we can find an issue, weakness, missing feature, we will update this report.
One I would mention already is be sure to consider a RIP software which is developed for printing on fabrics.