Why Are Epson and Canon Printers
Out Of Stock?
By now you are aware there is a shortage of printers available in the USA from Epson and other manufacturers. What we are all experiencing is the fallout of COVID-19 hitting the manufacturing plants overseas combined with tariffs and restrictions put on major manufacturers and importers in the USA and overseas during the past few years. These restrictions by government combined with COVID-19 have converged in ways that severely limit their ability to deliver products into the U.S. market. Epson Asia and Europe are having less issues with stock and supply which will be discussed later in this article.
What this means to us in the U.S. as screen printers is that our favorite printer models are “out of stock” and have been for months with no clear plan when Epson USA and others will be able to ramp up production then import into the USA. It’s a tough time for everyone involved.
So what are we to do? How do you take care of your business during all this? The answer is in the ability to maintain current printers, better planning to get a secondary backup printer along with necessary supplies or a compatible new model printer imported from overseas. These are good solutions and easier to manage when you already have a working printer on hand. Avoid the downtime. This time downtime could be the last time for many. Don’t let it happen. Be smart, be strong, manage your business wisely.
There is no telling when life/business will return to the way it was or close to the way it was before COVID-19 or current trade wars, but what we can do is stay nimble, be prepared and plan ahead. Do not expect to buy things at the last minute as you might have in the past expecting items to be in stock and ready to ship. Take better care of the things we already have, make them last, do preventative maintenance. It will be the resourceful ones that thrive during these times. Be the one to thrive!
Stay healthy, stay strong, stay a screen printer.
Printer Buying Advice?
There are a number of printer models sold “outside the USA” that are truly great printers for our screen print film printing needs and readily available that are fully supported by AccuRIP® and Spot Process® Separation Studio® 4. The Epson L1300 and L1800 are both based on the same technology as the Artisan 1430/ Stylus 1500W but they are even better; these printers have stock “refillable tanks.” Imagine the 1430 without small ink tanks, no chips that expire needing to be reset. Large easy to fill ink tanks. A printer you can easily add Dmax® black dye by the bottle into. Freehand has extensively tested these models over the years. Many of our international users operate these model printers. Even with shipping the cost can be less than a U.S. based refurbished Artisan 1430 but the shipping time is longer. Plan ahead. Amazon or eBay can be used to locate these printers from countries such as Britain, Denmark, Germany, India, Italy, South Korea and more…
FYI in Europe the Artisan 1430 is known as the Stylus Photo 1500 or 1500W. This printer accepts the same All Black® Ink refillable ink tanks and chips as the U.S. 1430 and 1400 printers. Freehand and Freehand authorized resellers still have supplies for these models.
Wide format users can still get the T3270, T5270, P5000 printers NEW from Epson USA. These printers are still in stock as of October 22, 2020 and still supported by AccuRIP® Ruby and Spot Process® Separation Studio® 4.
Freehand has just released support for the Epson XP-15000. Coming soon: support for the T3170X, T3170, T2170 and the ET-14000 (new version of the L1300).
Refurbished Printers Are A Great Option
There is an upswing in “refurbished printers” such as the legendary Epson Artisan 1430 and Stylus 1400. Even Epson on its website is bringing back older models sold as refurbished. Prices are higher now but these printers last for years and if you can find one for sale in good working order you are highly encouraged to purchase it. This goes for any of the older model printers “still currently supported” on the printer compatibility list for AccuRIP® and Spot Process® Separation Studio® 4. The R1800 and 1900 we also great models along with the 3880.
Search international models as well as U.S. models that are also listed (e.g Artisan 1430, Epson XP-15000, Epson P800, Stylus Pro 1400, Canon Pixma Pro 100 and more…). What you can’t buy in the U.S. you can ship in personally bypassing big business and government tariffs/import issues.
How To Maintain or Repair Your Current Printer
Maintenance is important, having supplies on hand is important. Be ready for success. Have a partially or fully clogged printer? Don’t throw it away just yet! Freehand’s Amaze-INK® clog buster cleaning fluid can unclog most printers. As long as you can print from at least one ink tank that printer is still a good film printer and worth keeping. One of the greatest abilities of the All Black® Ink (ABI) feature in Freehand™ software is the ability to control the ink tanks used during printing. You can still print great dense films even from a single ink tank by adjusting your settings. As portions of the print head clog or die turn them off until the final portion of the print head no longer operates or Amaze-INK® is not able to clean it. Then it’s time to get a new printer. Best to have a backup on hand to eliminate downtime. Be your own best solution. Be prepared to do business by investing into your system backups.
If you need to repair your printer there a multiple options:
Freehand provides a variety of solutions and maintenance products that can help keep your printer running as long as possible.
Laser Printers Can Work in a Pinch
Laser Printers are not ideal for screen printers can be used. Laser Printer can print on Vellum which can be sued to exposed screens just like film.
The shortcoming of laser printers for screen printers is that affordable printers can only print up to 8.5″ by 11″ sheets of Vellum, not the standard 13″ by 19″ us screen printers take as standard.
To get around this limitation you can use the tiling features built into the print windows of Adobe Illustrator and CorelDRAW.
Prior to Inkjets the industry norm for printing films was laser printers. Back in the 1990’s a number of high resolution laser printers printing up to 11″x17″ emerged. We printed to vellum then exposed those to screens. We at Freehand are not suggesting the industry go back to laser printers Finding a larger format laser print is not only difficult but very costly with 13″x19” not being an option at all. But in a pinch, when the normal inkjet printers are no available and to temporarily keep your business making money, a smaller format laser print used right can save your business.
What to look for:
Once again Adobe rules the roost with Postscript. As long as the laser printer you choose lists under the specifications “Adobe Postscript” as a language supported that printer is a graphics printer. This means when you choose the printer driver in your graphics program printer window (Adobe Illustrator or CorelDRAW) all the advanced postscript separation options will become available to you. You can print separations, change line screens and angles, add additional printer marks and labels and more. No RIP needed.
So why is the developer of AccuRIP™ telling you this? It’s because we care about our industry and we are all in this together. Freehand wants you to have a solution even if it’s not one of ours for now. Eventually when the time is right and supplies become available again you’ll want/need a proper 13”x19” inkjet printer that produces better density films at the larger sizes, but for now, when Epson and others simply do not have the printers to sell or you can’t afford to be over-charged for a reconditioned printer a NEW laser printer will save your business.
The top brand to check first is the Xerox Phaser series printers. Textronics’ Phaser line of printers bought out by Xerox years ago are graphics printers that still have the Adobe Postscript RIP chips onboard. Other printers from manufacturers such as HP use what is called “postscript emulation” chips as printer language. What that basically means is that they do not pay Adobe for the official use of postscript so they have a lower level emulation version. It does not always print right or it may not work at all. Best to do your research before buying. If when you choose that printer driver the advanced postscript printer options in your mainstream graphics program do not become available to you, don’t buy it.
The downside to this solution is that the media sizes supported are very small. Generally letter size to legal for printers under $500. Larger format printers such as tabloid size can run thousands of dollars. That does not make sense for a temporary solution.
A laser printers also makes a great backup system to your everyday inkjet. They can sit for a long time without issue because they are toner based requiring heat to fuse the toner to paper so there is nothing to clog while idle.
If you’ve never had a laser printer as a backup to your inkjet or you’re in a bind and need a solution today run out and get yourself an Adobe Postscript ready laser printer.
How to make the most of your laser printer:
The small format size limit of a laser printer can be overcome either by printing many of your normal t-shirt films in horizontal mode giving you up to a 13” wide print area by 10” high or you could use “tiling” from your graphics program to combine multiple print outs to achieve larger format images.
Of course it takes a bit more work to get this result but with the overlapping features these programs you can quickly produce a useable larger format print. Here how…
What to do about halftones when tiling?
Obviously you can’t have a halftone line screen cross over the tiling borders but you can design your prints to keep any halftone tints or blends on one full size sheet so you don’t have to give up printing them.
Exposure is different but we can adjust for that too:
Vellum is cloudier than what you’re used to and its ability to register may not be as tight as your inkjet films due to the high heat involved in the fusing process but they will deliver good results. You’ll have to adjust your exposure time up due to the cloudier media and expect to use larger halftones and detail during these times but that is to be expected. Inkjet films are the norm for all these reasons and more but remember we are in a bind and this is a solution that works.
Benefits vs downside:
- Available at low cost during a time you cannot get a 13”x19” Epson inkjet printers.
- Keeps your business productive.
- You can load many sheets of vellum, making it a friendly technology to interact with.
- Laser printers do not suffer from clogging.
- Small format requires tiling to produce a large full size screen prints. Usually handles letter to legal size media. 11″x17” printers can cost thousands and 13″x19” laser printers are all but non-existent anymore costing even more money.
- Vellum exposes slower than clear film.
- Vellum does not allow the exposure and capture of fine detail as well as inkjet film.
- Due to heat in the laser printer some vellum sheets may suffer slight shrinking.
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