Inkjet printers have become the standard for film output today. They work very well, but users are not taking enough time to fully understand them. Inkjet printers spray ink and if they are not used enough those nozzles will clog creating downtime. Prevent trouble, use them often and learn your printer utility software functions, like performing head cleans and nozzles checks.
There is confusion among buyers when deciding what kind of an inkjet to purchase. For the purpose of this discussion we are going to focus on the Epson line of printers. Inkjets share much of the same technology and abilities, so why are there so many different models to choose from and which is best for you? Lets break them into two categories, desktop models and wide format models.
Desktop printers are smaller and generally do not handle “roll” media although a few do come with a roll option that “may” work OK for paper, yet it usually fails to deliver the results needed when printing to heavier film media. If using a desktop model, it’s highly advised to print film “sheets”. With so many models to choose from and just as many features with each, owning the best desktop model for your purpose is easier than you think.
1. You’re a screen-printer using an inkjet printer to print black ink on film and not color. Remember that, because all the extra ink tanks with orange inks, gloss optimizers and choices of matte or photo blacks mean nothing to you so you don’t need to pay extra for them.
2. Desktop printers do not have a mechanical roll. They are more like a toilet paper roll holder (and just as useful) where the film is tugged through the printer creating wear and situations of “off-registration”. Not advised at all.
3. That brings us back to film sheets. Buy the printer that handles the biggest size you will use. Now they are all equal. The least expensive of the present shipping models is the 1430 and it handles up to 13 x 19 film, along with the other desktop models (up to the 3880). Why pay more than $700.00 for a printer when you can spend less than $250.00?
4. Shipping models as of May ’09 use Ultra Chrome K3 PIGMENT inks are great for archival prints on paper, but don’t work well with dye based films which are common in the industry. The “diamond in the rough”, or the Epson 1430, is the only Epson printer that ships with Dye and Dye is best for making film. All others printers can and should be converted to Dye to get the best results.
5. There has to be some difference between printers that matters to a screen-printer? In fact, the only other feature that matters is the size of the print head. The bigger the print head the more surface area that will print with each pass and that translates to faster printing and the difference basically stops at the R1900 model (no longer in production). My suggestion to anyone buying a desktop printer to make screen-print film positives is to consider the Epson 1430 and nothing more.
Why spend the extra money for a wide format printer such as the Epson 4900 or larger (approximately $1,700.00)? The simple answer is a mechanical roll and knife.
As for Wide Format Printers, starting with the older 4000 series printer, Epson handles the heavier media rolls of film. With its built in suction that not only holds the media flat and helps advance it smoothly a user finally can make good use of larger film sizes, but there is more to it.
1. Time is money, so Don’t waste either! With a larger printer feeding rolls of film that automatically “cut” after each sheet, you can finally do “unattended” film output of your separations. This is the biggest and most valuable difference between desktop and wide format printers. With a desktop printer you must send “one” color separation at a time to the printer and feed a single film otherwise films will stick together. That takes “time” away from a valuable employee.