DFP 1320 Direct-to-Fabric

Wide-format Inkjet Printing,

 

 

Wide-Format Printer for Textiles

 

Buyer’s Guide in FAQs Format:

 

Questions to Ask

 

During an Evaluation of a Textile

and Dye Sublimation Printer

 

 

 

Nicholas Hellmuth assisted by Maria Renée Ayau

 

Copyright 2012

 

 

Ask the following questions before you buy any inkjet printer:

 

 

Introduction

 

This FLAAR Report is based on having seen textile printers from ATPColor at printer trade shows around the world for the past several years. During the last four years there has clearly been a rise of interest in textile printers:

• More signage expos are including more textile printers

• Textile trade shows, most notably ITMA, are including more inkjet textile printers

• More manufacturers are offering textile printers

• More ink companies are offering textile inks

• And more printshops are asking which of all these printers and inks should they consider.

 

I have been studying textile printers since the days of Encad. I can still remember the expos a decade ago when Stork, DigiFab, and other brands. I can still remember the textile printers of ColorSpan in USA and Compedo in Europe.

 

I have witnessed the rise and unfortunate termination of the nice Yuhan-Kimberly textile printer program and of course neither Encad nor ColorSpan survived. I have not seen Compedo textile printers for years and there was actually a period of many years when Stork had zero textile printers at signage expos (they are now rebranding other models). In distinction, ATPColor has developed and grown during these same years.

 

So the following evaluation of current textile printer technology is based on ten years awareness of wide-format inkjet textile printers. The review in this PDF is dedicated to looking at one specific printer solution. There are scores of textile printer applications; there are four kinds of textile inks. The report here is focused exclusively on direct-to-fabric with disperse dye inks. And the grand format printer discussed here is dedicated to soft signage and flags. Yes, you can print curtains and dozens of other applications if you wish, but the ATPColor DFP Series is focused on producing colorful signage, banners, and flags.

 

 

The in-person study of the actual printers

 

Nicholas Hellmuth and Sofia Monzon spent two days in Milano, Italy, after Photokina digital camera equipment expo in Cologne. Their There were four DFP series printers in the facilities:

 

At the left the newest model, DFP 1320 12G4, with 12 ink channels. The earlier models have eight ink channels.

 

At the front left of the demo room is one DFP 740 8G4; at the right is another.

 

The intermediate-sized model, DFP 1000 is logically the same as the others other than the width.  There was also a fourth model in the manufacturing hall. However I spent most of my research time on the 3.2 meter 12-ink channel.

 

One of many things which appealed to me about the opportunity to evaluate this printer was the statistic that most of the end-users (the printshops who buy this printer) this is the first grand format printer they have utilized. I like this fact because of the people who read the FLAAR Reports, many of them have never used a grand format textile printer are also looking at textile printers. Other readers perhaps already have a textile printer but are looking for a better one, and especially for a system which will produce color with more pop.

 

 

THE BASICS

 

1. Brand name, model?

ATPColor DFP series. The primary model

 

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 will be a separate FLAAR evaluation of the RSeries printers, since they are a totally separate physical system from the grand format.

 

The grand format printer chassis is contract manufactured in Asia with the textile handling aspects and especially the sublimation technology based on the acquired knowledge of ATPColor developed in Italy by their manufacturing experience with textile printer sublimation and fabric feeding systems over the years. Since ATPColor has designed the textile and sublimation procedures, it is the sole brand name for these units especially since many of the key features come from ATPColor in Italy.

 

We have a site-visit case study of this grand format printer scheduled for Munich, Germany, to document the reliability and effectiveness of the sublimation chemistry and the fabric transport system of ATPColor.

 

 

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?

ATPColor DFP1320 (3.3 meters),

DFP1000 (2.6 meters),

DFP740 (1.9 meters).

 

6. What other printers are the same or similar chassis?

Some printers have an enclosed chassis like the ATPColor DFP printer, they don’t look exactly the same but are similar: D.G.I. FabriJet Pro I (Nassenger Pro 60), JHF Chromo I, and SkyJet1800.

 

7. If there are two or three (or more) widths of this printer, what differences exist other than the width?

The only difference in this series of ATPColor printers is the width. Older models have an earlier printhead; current models have an even better printhead.

 

8. When and where was this model first introduced?

The model with Gen(eration)3 printheads from Ricoh was launched at FESPA Digital Amsterdam, 2009. The model with Ricoh Gen4 heads was launched at the end of that same year 2009.

 

9. Is this printer mature technology or still in alpha-stage or beta-stage?

I would consider this a second-generation for the grand-format size.

 

10. How does this model compare with comparable previous printers?

You now have additional options, general improvements, and a Gen4 printhead instead of Gen3 printhead.

 

11. Is there enough new on this printer to make it worthwhile buying it if I already have another recent model?

 

12. List price?

Wide-format models are in the 74,000 Euro price range. Grand-format models are in the 170,000 Euro price range.

 

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?

 

 

16. What accessories are extra charge? Are these same or similar accessories included with other printers at no extra cost?

The additional accessories are the

• inline cutting system

• jumbo roll for unwinding and rewinding.

• Ergo-Soft RIP

• Caldera  RIP

• Colorgate

 

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?

No compressed air source is required for this printer.

 

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?

 

 

Base price

(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)  €

 

 

PURCHASING

 

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).

• Distributors are national or regional

Germany

• Sweden

• Norway

• UK

• USA

• Turkey

• 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?

4 weeks is normal time.

 

30. What are the electrical requirements of this printer?

The electrical requirements for this printer are 380-400V, 32 Amps, 3 phase.

 

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: Temperature 18 to 25 C (64 to 77 F), relative humidity 40 to 60% (no condensation). While printer is off: Temperature 15 to 35 C (59 to 95 F), relative humidity 20 to 80% (no condensation).

 

The printer itself has its own filtration system. But for any grand-format printer, I would personally suggest a room ambient temperature and humidity control system plus an air exhaust or filtration system.

 

32. What is the connectivity? Network, SCSI, FireWire, USB, Ethernet, or other?

USB

 

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.

Besides the machine’s own footprint, an extra 1.5 meters all around the machine is required. And an extra space of the same width of the machine is required to install the lamp.

 

35. What is the size and weight of the printer?

The approximate weight of this printer is 1500 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?

The printer comes in one piece in one box. A second box has anything else that is needed. Whether your building entrance allows this printer to enter is probable. You would need a restricted entrance to require a breaking through a wall (many large UV-cured printers do actually require breaking down the wall).

 

37. How many boxes arrive?

You can normally expect that two crates will arrive. One has the assembled printer inside. The other box has everything else which is needed.

 

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, to lift two and a half tons.

 

 

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?

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 is good and easy to understand.

 

57. Does the user’s manual have a glossary?

Most user’s guides lack a glossary.

 

58. Is there a Service Guide?

Yes.

 

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.

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?

The manufacturer can access the print log file.

 

70. Do the tech support people understand fabrics and textiles?

Yes.

 

71. What is the native language of the tech support person?

Italian, Spanish and English out of the factory.

 

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?

 

 

CONSTRUCTION: AESTHETICS

 

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.

 

 

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 heavy steel; it looks very sturdy and solid.

 

82. Is there a front hood and also a back hood?

There is only a front hood, no back hood is needed on this printer. The front has three separate hoods, which helps reduce the weight-per-hood.

 

83. Does the front hood lift up high enough to allow full access?

Yes, the front hood lifts high enough for a technician to access the interior of the printer. You will unlikely bump your head while working on this printer (unless you crawl up inside the printer, or do gymnastics). Plus the lift-up system looks acceptable (you do not want to have the hood come crashing down on your head, or on your backbone). But obviously this depends on how you handle the raising and lowering of the hood. If properly installed it should hold up the hood unless it gets damaged or you have bad luck.

 

The air struts to raise the hoods are from Starbulus (so not some low-bid miscellaneous locally made system).

 

84. The front hood, is it strong, or cheap plastic?

The front hood is of adequate strength as it is made out of heavy gauge metal just like the rest of the printer. The best example of a really cheap plastic component is the flap over the ink; and a flap on the lower back on the new SureColor series from Epson. Many people in the industry are surprised that a wobbly thin plastic component like this would be visible.

 

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?

The parts on the inside of the printer are made of metal and look as sturdy and firm as the rest of the printer.

 

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 eight wheels in total. Even though the heating unit is embedded to the printer, the wheels are divided in two groups: four for the printer itself and four for the heating unit, which it is worth mentioning, does not move independently and the wheels are placed there for leveling purposes.

 

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)?

The energy chain is the plastic linked system that holds all the cables and ink tubing so that it does not get rubbed while being moved back and forth to feed the carriage. Most mid-range and almost all high-end UV printers have an energy chain from the company Igus. As expected for ATPColor, they also selected an IGUS brand chain.

 

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 of a printer is a basic structure. The rest of the printer was designed to handle textiles.

 

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 trough.

 

102. Are their edge guards at each side (end) of the platen? At left, or at right, or both?

Yes, edge guards are available but normally are not needed.

 

103. Can you move the left guard, or the right guard, or both?

Yes, you can move either 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 printer 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?

There are four driver rollers: two at the front and two at the back of the printer.

 

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 have seen quarter-million dollar printers do terrible jobs handling 3.2 meter wide material evenly. And yes, 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 is is definitely not an average printer.

 

 

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?

 No.

 

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 normally. Two if you have to lift a really large heavy roll of media on or off.

 

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 Supply

o Take-up

o Fault setup

o Calender

o Advance after print

o No heat if no advance

o Security code

o Quick unwinding

o Stop/sub

• Status screen:

• Input

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

• Output

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?

You do not want an untrained individual to attempt to operate this machine. For a printer of this size and sophistication it is essential that the operator be trained. Previous experience with RIP software and grand-format printers (solvent or UV-based) is also a help, though of course a textile printer has many unique features.

 

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.

 

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 left; vacuum pipes are at the right.

 

139. What controls are at either end of the printer?

Air extraction switches are at the left end. The air unit is adjacent. At the side, right, are two fans and an Off/On switch.

 

 

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?

The printer has two emergency stop buttons located on each end of the printer (on the front).

 

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 and entire printing path is completely enclosed

 

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.

 

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 translated accurately. 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.

 

 

PRINTHEAD TECHNOLOGY

 

153. What is the brand of the printhead, and model?

Ricoh G4 (generation four)

 

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, but the brand and model of printhead are openly discussed.

 

155. What other printers use the identical printheads or a model very similar?

• d-gen Teleios GT Grande (Ricoh Gen 4L with a fixed drop size at 15 or 27 picoliters)

• Mimaki TextileJet Tx400-1800D,

• and Mimaki TextileJet Tx400-1800B

 

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?

The original model of this printer uses eight printheads. The current model has twelve printheads.

 

161. How many nozzles per printhead?

The printhead specifications read the Gen3 model has 192 nozzles per head (x2). The Gen4 head also has 384 nozzles per head.

 

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 original; for more speed on the 3.2 meter model, three printheads per color.

 

164. Can your printhead technology achieve a solid black black?

Yes, the printers from ATPColor can achieve a nice solid black color.

 

165. What is the drop size in picoliters?

The drop size in picoliters is 7 to 25.

 

166. Is there variable droplet size capability?

Yes, 7 picoliters on up in size.

 

167. Is printing bi-directional or uni-directional?  What are the different results in speed; in quality?

The samples for FLAAR were printed bi-directionally.

 

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 resolution: maximum 1200 DPI. But when I asked this question verbally, I was told “600 dpi.”

 

170. How many passes can this printer achieve?

The manual suggests that the printer can achieve 3 passes. But asking directly we learned that it can achieve 2 to 8 passes.

 

171. How many print modes are there?

To achieve your desired finished quality, can set the

• Speed of the carriage

• The resolution

• The number of passes.

 

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. Ricoh guarantees their heads for 100 billion drops (this is what I have been told).

 

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 wore out from the constant flushing that these finicky heads require. Because Epson heads do not really last as long as they pretend, they are not considered an industrial head. Dimatix Spectra, Konica Minolta, Seiko, Xaar, and Ricoh heads are considered industrial. Toshiba Tec heads were very popular with Oce Arizona but had issues and Toshiba did not create enough new generations. So today, 2012-2013, not many printer manufacturers use Toshiba Tec heads.

 

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?

 

 

PRINTHEAD POSITIONING

 

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.

 

For this printer, the printhead arrangement is staggered: 3 heads per (color) row; four rows.

 

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?

 

 

PRINTHEAD CARRIAGE

 

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?

THK brand.

 

 

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?

You can purge an individual row (several printheads at a time); but not one single printhead individually.

 

196. Where is the service station?

At the right.

 

197. Is the service area the same as the parking area?

Yes.

 

198. Is there a capping station?

Yes, under the removable plate.

 

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.

 

The DTP printer spits when this setting is activated.

 

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?

The part that may wear out is the 3-day valve; it gets clogged.

 

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 ink 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).

 

With the ATPColor printer you have a choice of sleep mode, or shut-down mode (with a cleaner in the heads to replace the ink). Cleaner is logically a more aggressive chemical than ink.

 

211. How long can the printer sit unused? How should a printer be prepared for sitting unused for a long time?

This printer can sit unused two or three weeks.

 

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?

Software generated.

 

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 holds 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 Amica. But you can opt for another RIP if you already have another or wish a main brand at its standard price.

 

232. Is this a full-featured RIP or only a lite RIP?

 

233. Which RIP software is supported?

ErgoSoft, Caldera, ColorGate, Onyx

 

234. If more than one RIP are offered, what are the pros and cons of each RIP?

The advantage of Amica is price (it comes with the printer). The advantage of ErgoSoft is that this company started with textile printers many many years before other RIP companies. An advantage of Caldera is that it is well known at the high-end. Every printer has pros and cons.

 

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?

 

 

INK

 

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 grand-format 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.

 

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.

 

 

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?

8 to 15 ml per square meter; depending on what print mode you select.

 

264. Where are the printer’s ink containers located?  Front, back, or sides?

Access is at the back right (when you are at the back, then the left 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?

Two liters per container.

 

267. How is new ink added? Pouring into the on-board container? Switching the container to the new ink container?

 Pouring.

 

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?

 Yes.

 

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?

• There is a 6 micron filter before the sub-tank.

• 20 micron filter between sub-tank and printhead

• final filter is inside the printhead.

 

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?

30 Euros is one price quoted.

 

 

INK: COST

 

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.

 

Since this is a professional industrial printer, it uses ink in bottles.

 

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?

 

 

 

 

INK: LONGEVITY

 

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 degrees 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?

 CMYK.

 

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.

 

Yellow, green turquoise, black all print well. I was pleased with the color pop of what was printed for me as samples. These were my own photos; these were not samples pimped by a manufacturer to show an unrealistic color gamut.

 

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?

 

 

 

MEDIA: Size

 

311. What widths can be printed?

ATPColor DFP1320 (3.3 meters), DFP1000 (2.6 meters), DFP740 (1.9 meters).

 

312. Is the width enough for target applications?

Yes, and probably no more is needed.

 

313. What core diameter(s) of media will this printer accept?

Standard 3”.

 

314. Are there core adapters to accept other sized cores?

Not at present.

 

315. What is the maximum roll diameter?

36 cm normal. 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 4 cm, but unless you were printing a rug that 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. You will tend to need a lift to move media at 3.3 or 3.2 meter widths.

 

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?

Yes.

 

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, if diameter of the material on each roll is the same or at least similar.

 

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?

Yes, manual.

 

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?

No.

 

326. Do you have media length-remaining sensors on your printer? Is it manually set or automatic?

Not yet.

 

 

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.

 

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.

 

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.

 

334. What about thin or stretchable fabrics?

 

335. What about rugs and comparable thick materials?

If you can find thick material with a polyester top surface, you can always try it. I have seen many UV-cured and also solvent printers handling rug-like material.

 

One potential problem with thick material would be if it were stiff: stiff material might not curl at the front edge and back edge (so would not lie flat across the platen).

.

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?

No.

 

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.

 

 

MEDIA: ISSUES

 

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 gray-scale 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 print-head?

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 definitely 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?

 

369. Where is the fixation unit manufactured?

 

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?

 

372. What are the differences or advantages of each method (if available)?

 

373. How many IR units?

 

374. What is the temperature range?

 

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.”

 

 

APPLICATIONS

 

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; which 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.

 

I will need to test 3 pass mode. This produces 510 sq meters and hour.

 

The samples printed for FLAAR were in mode 6+ and produced at 35 square meters per hour. The results were fully satisfactory (and had brighter color than two other direct-to-fabric printers we tested the previous month).

 

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?

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?

There are several choices for grand-format textile printers: VUTEk (using a solvent textile ink). There are several other local models which are not widely exhibited outside their home area. VUTEk obviously is an international brand.

 

There are many textile printers using Epson printheads, such as Mimaki, Roland, and Mutoh. Many companies use Mimaki to adapt them to production machines. ATPColor has more experience with Roland so prefers to concentrate on their series. But Epson printheaded machines are a separate category: we will address these in a separate FLAAR evaluation.

 

At the expensive end of the market choices, would be the several Durst textile printers. But these models have not been exhibited widely in the last two years. It is unclear whether the impressive capability in producing wide-format UV-cured printers and in-line ceramic printers was able to be transferred to textile ink reality. Evidently early adopters had problems with ink and other issues. But for UV-cured and in-line ceramics, Durst is still tops in technology.

 

The Gandinnovations textile printer was a great idea: to move beyond solvent and UV-cured inks into textile inks. Unfortunately the early inks created issues. I liked the concept but subsequent realty check suggested that the first generation(s) had issues. I would hope the current generation (from Agfa Graphics), now with its hopefully significantly improved ink, is a workable solution.

 

The question would be: is Agfa are these “manufacturers” really a textile printer manufacturer, or should they more be considered an impressive well known distributor? I am not convinced that there is a core or people within Agfa most large format companies who come from the world of textile printers. The primary distributor of Gandinnovations who focused on textiles is no longer an Agfa dealer.

 

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!

 

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 series, 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.

 

GENERAL CONSIDERATIONS

 

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?

 

 

 

 

Comments:

 

I know the history and background of the factory in Asia where the chassis is contract manufactured to the specifications developed by ATPColor’s years of experience with textile printers (from the days of Encad and ColorSpan and now even more experience in the last five years). I also know the owners. I am LAO aware that the key aspects of this as a textile printer are based on knowledge of ATPColor in Italy. So the physical printer you see today is a combination of experience with manufacturing wide and grand-format printers (the factory) and experience with wide-format inkjet printing and inks (ATPColor).

 

 

Pros in general:

 

If you look around, and look at the nice grand format textile printers of other brands, you see printers which tripped on themselves since the manufacturers came from other backgrounds. The two major brand names who launched textile printers in the past several years both had endless issues. The reason is easy to understand: these other companies were very good in producing solvent ink printers and UV printers. The other company was good in producing UV-cured and printers for in-line ceramics. They are tops in their field for what they have experience in.

 

But neither of these companies really had adequate experience in textile inks or printing on textiles. From what I understand, both these companies had issues getting water-based textile inks through the industrial printheads that they selected.

 

Here is the immediate difference with ATPColor. This company is dedicated to textile printers. They do not make UV-cured printers. They do not make solvent ink printers. They concentrate on doing well in their field of knowledge: printing on polyester fabrics with disperse dye ink.

 

A benefit of ATPColor is also that you are allowed to select which of two inks you prefer. The primary difference is in price. I know each brand and can say that they are European and American companies (when we do an evaluation we go into the R&D labs, so we are told the actual ink brands, but it is tradition to sign an NDA, Non-Disclosure Agreement). So we know the inks but the actual brand names are not placed in the reports. Once you have the printer yourself you will learn which ink is which and you can make your own decision.

 

I have seen the output of both inks over many years. I have been to the R&D labs of one of the manufacturers (the one in Europe). So I have some knowledge that the inks being used are appropriate to the high-end.

 

Cheap low-bid inks are available worldwide. This is not the goal of most companies (to offer low-bid products whose components no one knows).

 

The best example of the quality of the factory who made this printer and the engineer who designed it (ATPColor) is that the media winds up evenly. I would estimate that if the media itself is badly wound onto the original, and if that media core is inaccurate, the media may follow the natural laws of nature (cheap media often is improperly wound from the factory).

 

But if you use acceptable media, the feeding path of this printer is frankly remarkable in its ability to wind the material up neatly and trimly at the end.

 

 

Pros for the printer portion

 

As an evaluator, I tend to be skeptical of a printer manufacturer until I can see with my own eyes that the printer is made by a company with experience and a company that does not want to produce just low-bid style machines.

 

I searched around the printer for suggestions that it was sloppily made, and did not notice any place where it was jerry-rigged. I could write a history book about stores of other brands, from other factories, which were actually jerry-rigged.

 

I searched inside and outside to see how much cheap plastic was being used. Actually the chassis appears to be entirely of well engineered metal. If you want to see flimsy plastic, just lift up on the flaps of the new SureColor models. And of course most entry-level water-based printers nowadays are primarily plastic, though HP at least has experience in finding a plastic that holds up at least a few years.

 

But you do not want cheap plastic on a grand-format printer.

 

The absolute best way to evaluate a printer is to find a printshop using the current model. We have located a printshop in Europe and will visit them as soon as the additional model arrives (it is my understanding that they are sufficiently content with their first model from ATPColor that they are buying an additional model.

 

This also suggests that the first model is making enough profit so that they can buy the additional model for more production capacity. It is rather tough to find anything more convincing than a printshop who finds a brand sufficiently good that they buy even more of the same brand. As soon as it is possible to visit this location in Europe we will update this report.

 

The manual is in acceptable English. I would estimate that the Italian version is in good Italian.

 

Offers a “quick unrolling” feature so you can get all the media off the core (in case you wish to insepct it, cut out a sample from the middle, etc).

 

In summary on the good aspects of this printer I can cite that some customers evidently paid off their machine in two to four months. But with today’s lower prices for finished product, this rate of return is not as usual as it was in past years. For example, “finishing” the product nowadays is especially time consuming.

 

 

Pros for the heat fixation (sublimation) unit:

 

The new model allows you to heat the front or back of the inked media. Flag medis 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 printer offers these options.

 

The original models can receive an upgrade kit so you can switch between sublimating the front or back.

 

 

Downsides

 

No printer is perfect. There are thousands of “reviews” on the Internet which proclaim fabulous benefits of a printer. But most of these are sham reviews, or pseudo-reviews: occasionally by the company selling the printer!  So most are not much more than PR releases.

 

In order to document that we care about the end-user (the printshop owner, managers, and printer users), we list both pros and cons. And we actually physically look at the printer (most PR agents are advertising agency writers; they do not inspect printers in demo rooms and out in real-world printshops). A review with no mention of a single missing feature is exactly what distinguishes most sham reviews.

 

I would personally prefer an ink-level indicator in the firmware, so I can see, with a clear vertical column, the actual ink remaining in each bottle.

 

It would also be preferable in the jacket to the advertising brochure to give at least a semblance of indication as to the reality of longevity of disperse dye ink. If the brand they use holds up longer than other brands, and longer than dye sub via transfer paper, this can be stated. But most people in the industry would consider a dye-based ink as not very strong against direct sunlight for more than three to four months outside.

 

We will be inspecting this printer out in the real world in five weeks and will update this FLAAR evaluation after we learn why did this printshop in Germany select an ATPColor printer over all potential competing models.

 

And how has the printer functioned for this printshop. A German printshop will tend to not put up with an inadequate printer. Plus, a Germanic printshop will have tended to have looked at all other options carefully before making their decision.

 

 

Discussion Points (not a deficiency, but worth discussing)

 

The following is not a negative point, but needs to be clearly stated. Indeed the fact that ATPColor firmly supports informing potential buyers is a positive feature. The point is that a grand format printer of this nature is not intended for start-ups. This printer assumes you already have experience with printers “(hopefully printers over 60 inches in width), RIP software and that you already have a good client base.

 

 

 

Reality check

 

You have more chance that your printer solution for textiles will function well if the company that produces it is dedicated full time to textile printing with inkjet inks.

 

This is a polite way to say that a textile printer produced by a UV-cured or solvent printer manufacturer may not be as “finished” as a textile printer which is well thought out by an individual who has all his assets (mental and financial) deep into the world of textile ink chemistry and fabrics.

 

Each manufacturer has some advantage, but I am still convinced that textile printing is complex enough that merely labeling a printer as a textile printer is not an adequate solution. Two of the biggest brand names in the world of UV-cured printing had countless issues when they tried to produce a textile printer. One overcame the majority of issues.

 

Actually there is a third brand of solvent printer manufacturer who also attempted to produce a textile printer. They had millions of investment dollars from a textile ink partner and from their home government. Their printer was exhibited once or twice and never appeared again: not at drupa 2012 or ITMA China 2012 or anywhere else in 2012 (and hardly anywhere visible in 2011).

 

When you buy any printer, any ink, be sure you comprehend the full workflow. It is normal that you will be “sold” the printer as the focus. You will rarely be told about the other equipment you may need for the workflow.

 

Here you will not likely be bamboozled by ATPColor. I brought a client printshop to them once, and this client printshop had zero experience in printing. The managing director of ATPColor suggested they not jump into textile printing first; that they acquire experience first. This is very rare of a manufacturer to be honest in this manner. This is one reason that FLAAR accepted the project to evaluate this printer: because we know the managing director and his company for many years.

 

 

The final statement is on color saturation.

 

Ten years ago at any trade show that I attended, the best color saturation was noticeably one brand. That company simply produced excellent color saturation.

 

It is similar today. If you go to a trade show with a lot of textile printers, one or two stand out as having gorgeous color. The other brands are okay, but not as colorful. Obviously a lot of this is the brand and flavor of ink; another aspect is whether the fabric is matte, satin, or glossy.

 

And even more depends on the subject matter: what colors are in the image (as some colors reproduce well (yellow, red, etc) and other colors don’t turn out well at all (most dark colors and/or shadow areas).

 

About a month ago I tested my own photographs on two expensive wide-format printer systems. The color did not have very much pop. I was frankly surprised, and disappointed.

 

I brought other files to Milano, and these images turned out much better. Again, it could have been the ATPColor choice of ink; their better sublimation system; and the choice of media used in their demo room. But for grand-format size, I found their color what you need: namely COLORFUL.

 

 

 

ATPColor Srl, Via Mascagni, 42 - 20030 Senago (MI) Italy - https://www.atpcolor.it -  PIVA/VAT IT04034890964