Entering Into Outdoor Eco-Solvent Printing
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Entering Into Outdoor Eco-Solvent Printing

Manufacturers are beginning to introduce entry-level outdoor eco-solvent printers. Are you ready to take the plunge?

By Jennifer LeClaire

Explore the market for entry-level eco-solvent outdoor printers and make a wise investment in your outdoor printing equipment.

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  • From long-term building-sized banners to promotional vehicle graphics, large format printing for outdoor applications is a booming trend. Leading manufacturers are launching printers for various different production uses. Some commercial graphics and sign shops need high volume machines with all the bells and whistles, while others need more affordable or lower volume options.

    In part one of this series we examined eco-solvent ink options. In this second of three articles we will look at the machines that use those inks, what they have to offer and what other signmakers are saying about them.

    Gerber’s Jetster makes it easy
    Gerber Scientific Products is also in the wide format eco-solvent game with its Jetster line of outdoor printers. The Jetster is a wide format piezoelectric drop-on-demand inkjet printer that is designed to provide industry professionals with an extensive range of application opportunities.

    Printing directly onto a variety of specially treated vinyls and other materials, all of which have been tested and certified by Gerber for use with the Jetster, it accommodates media widths of up to 62 inches and offers resolutions ranging from 180 dpi to 1440 dpi. Additionally, its eco-solvent inks are practically odor-free and complement Gerber’s existing family of environmentally friendly, user-safe imaging technologies.

    Gerber senior product manager Scott Anthony says the Jetster uses six colors to create “an exceptionally broad spectrum of colors and achieve excellent spot simulation.” He also points to dual integrated dryers that fuse the inks onto Jetster media for instant UV, chemical and abrasion resistance without lamination for most applications.

    Anthony also cites incredibly quick setup time, ease of use, and minimal maintenance. “Unpacking, to setup, to actual production takes less than two hours,” he says. “And the machine is extremely user-friendly ­ almost as simple as a desktop printer. Plus, cleaning is accomplished at the push of a button. All in all, it just doesn’t get any easier.”

    SolJet Pro II Series offers affordable multi-tasking
    The SOLJET PRO II models are the latest generation of Roland’s revolutionary solvent inkjet devices. They use low volatility SOL INK to produce durable outdoor graphics without the dangerous vapors and caustic chemicals normally associated with solvent devices. New models include 74- and 54-inch printers and a 54-inch printer/cutter.

    With more than 100 technical enhancements, the Pro II Series can print up to 300 square feet an hour at 450 dpi to produce POP displays, signs, banners and exhibits. It can also print up to 1440 x 1440 dpi with a huge color gamut for fine art reproduction and photography. Roland offers multiple onboard high-speed CPUs and a bundled state-of-the-art software RIP.

    Using Roland SOL INK (a unique, low-volatile solvent), the SOLJET Pro II requires no special ventilation or environmental equipment. Roland supports SOL INK with an extensive selection of compatible media and offers prints that last up to three years outdoors.

    The SOLJET Pro II Series also has a model, the SC-540, that can contour cut printed graphics without reloading or repositioning. A four-point optical registration system called Quadralign automatically realigns the cutting path and compensates for skew and distortion.

    The Roland COLORIP™ (RCR) Software RIP comes bundled with all Pro II Series printers and printer/cutters. RCR offers simultaneous RIP & Print capability and several powerful layout options, such as tiling, grouping, and a choice of automatic or manual nesting. It also includes Intelligent Print Control ­ a unique color control tool that has been pre-calibrated to automatically select the best dot size, firing speed and tone curve for each media. Designers simply select the ideal print mode, and RCR does the rest.

    “The SOLJET is extraordinary in many ways,” says Rick Scrimger, Roland Senior Product Manager. “Without any need for special environmental or lamination equipment, it produces durable solvent graphics with up to three years of outdoor durability; achieves up to 1440 dpi resolution; and still has a comfortable price tag. Yet, signmakers will love the SOLJET most for its quality and reliability.”

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    Mutoh’s Falcon flying high
    Mutoh’s Falcon line has been a popular choice for the sign industry. The Falcon II Outdoor is a high-speed, wide-format, mid-volume production printer for outdoor applications. The machine is available in 64- and 87-inch models and offers a variety of advanced features that meet the demands of outdoor production printing.

    “Based on the popularity of the Falcon Outdoor, the Falcon II Outdoor was developed to fill the needs of customers printing outdoor, commercial grade applications in moderate volumes,” says Guy Cipresso, Mutoh America’s vice president of business development. “The productivity of the Falcon II Outdoor is well suited to meet a production run of 128, 36-inch by 48-inch posters in an eight-hour shift ­ printing at 200 square feet per hour.”

    The machine uses four or six-color eco-solvent ink or the newly developed eco-plus ink. Both inks produce prints that are UV and water-resistant for up to three years in outdoor applications. The Falcon II Outdoor uses piezoelectric drop-on-demand Dynamic Variable Dot imaging technology, which produces multiple dot sizes. This allows the printer to adjust the size of the ink droplets in its nozzles instantly, resulting in finer detail, smoother gradients and solid, crisp colors that are closer to true continuous-tone imaging.

    “We decided to purchase a Mutoh Falcon II commercial printer because of its reported speed and quality, but what we got was more than we bargained for,” says Daniel Chaddock, president of E&E Exhibit Solutions, a Tempe, Ariz.-based company that designs, coordinates, consults and sells trade show booths.

    The Falcon II Outdoor features a throughput of up to 300 square feet per hour at 360 by 360 dpi and can print a full color poster in just over one minute and a three by five foot vinyl banner in three minutes. The printer offers a maximum resolution of 1440 dpi and includes a Mutoh version of Onyx RIP Center software.

    Encad entry into direct-to-vinyl
    The VinylJet 36 printer marks Encad’s entry into the outdoor direct-to-vinyl market. Encad launched its new printer in April to give signmakers an affordable, solvent-free alternative for producing wide-format, direct-to-vinyl signs that are durable and vibrant. The VinlyJet 36 is a 36-inch, 600 dpi, full-color printer that uses proprietary new technology and DuPoint ink technology to allow aqueous printing on uncoated/untreated vinyl media.

    “With the VinylJet 36 printer, we’ve combined affordability with key benefits small- to medium-sized sign shops need for their businesses,” says Encad chief executive Brad Kruchten. “The printer uses aqueous ink so it can be operated without special ventilation. And we did this without compromising color vibrancy or durability.”

    The printing system features an internal heater that pre-heats the vinyl as it moves across the platen for optimal ink reception. Then, immediately after the ink is printed onto the vinyl substrate, an infrared lamp cures the ink, creating an impermeable bond for long lasting, colorful text and graphics. Encad, in conjunction with leading vinyl manufacturers, will back the new printer’s output with a three-year outdoor guarantee covering both UV durability and water resistance.

    Test running Encad’s technology
    “This is a terrific machine at a great price,” says Tom Stewart, owner, HTS Marketing in San Marcos, Calif. Stewart helped test the new VinylJet 36 printer and has now added one to his shop. “It gives sign shops a way to produce high-resolution banners, four-color signs and other small-run projects without the labor and set-up costs of screen-printing or pressure-sensitive vinyl laminates. This is a printer that will pay for itself very quickly.”

    The VinylJet 36 printer prints in four different preset modes from 23 to 55 square feet per hour. Encad has teamed with Scanvec Amiable to offer a free Flexi-Banner trial RIP with every VinylJet 36 printer. The Flexi-Banner RIP provides sign/banner design software that gives users out-of-the-box printing capabilities and includes International Color Consortium (ICC) profiles for popular media. The printer also features an integrated feed/take-up system, on-board control panel, special banner adapter for feeding banner vinyl media and IEEE 1394 Parallel interface or an optional 100BaseT eternet network iterface and can be used with readily available uncoated vinyl media from numerous vinyl manufacturers.

    Regardless of your outdoor printing needs, the leading manufacturers have it covered. As you assess your specific requirements you can be sure to select a printer that will not only meet the demands of your shop today, but grow with you as the market for outdoor printing explodes.

    In part three of this series, we give you a closer look at some of the higher-end eco-solvent printing options. You may need these more powerful models sooner than you think.

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