Epson has shown off a new generation of eco-solvent printers, all 1.6m wide, which will replace the current SureColor S-series machines. They represent a complete overhaul of the solvent printers with many small but useful improvements. The target markets remain outdoor signage, vehicle graphics and point of sale materials.
There are three new models. The S40600 and 60600 both offer CMYK, with the S40600 using a single printhead while the S60600 uses two heads and two sets of CMYK. But the most interesting machine is the S80600, which has two printheads and takes nine colours – CMYK plus light cyan, light magenta, light black, red and orange – with an option to use a tenth colour and a choice between white and metallic.
These printers are fitted with the latest generation of Epson’s PrecisionCore TFP printheads, which are capable of 1440 x 1440 dpi output. At long last Epson has fitted shields either side of the printheads, thus hopefully eliminating costly damage to the heads.
The new models also herald a new UltraChrome GS3 inkset, which promises reduced ink consumption. Dominic Fowler, European Product Manager for Epson’s signage printers, explains: “We have improved pigment density to improve colour gamut by up to 12 percent. We have improved the gloss level.” He adds: “Higher pigment means less ink goes down so less drying time.”
As well as the standard four colour inkset, there’s a GS3 plus red inkset for the S80600 that includes a new red. Fowler says: “It’s not a blended ink but has its own pigment.” Epson promises outdoor use for up to three years without fading.
These inks come with a lower price tag – £74.07 +VAT for a 700mm cartridge for the CMYK colours. It’s worth noting that the white ink costs ££162.96, while the metallic will set you back £181.48. Naturally, the new inkset is not suitable for use with the existing printers.
Epson has developed its own screening technology, Precision Dot for more consistent output with different RIPs. Fowler says that in the past Epson would give the halftone information to let the RIP vendors produce drivers but each company would have its own approach which could lead to different results. He explains: “We have now given all the same things to all the vendors so the driver is identical across all the RIP vendors.” Of course this also makes it harder for the RIP vendors to distinguish themselves. Epson has also broken from its previously RIP-agnostic approach and is bundling these printers in the UK with an Onyx RIP.
Epson has created a new EMX file, which contains all the ICC colour profiles for the media in use as well as the machine’s hardware settings for things like drying. ICC profiles already include much of this information but the new format allows Epson to add maximum ink density information, which is needed because of the way the printheads work, and allows Epson to be sure that all the RIP vendors are using the same information.
Other improvements include a new media feeding system, which uses an auto-tension control system to control the motors on the feed and take up rolls. One rather neat, if simple, addition is an ink flow regulator. Essentially it’s a plastic element in the ink tubing, which looks a lot like a drill bit. It re-agitates the ink as it flows past to prevent the pigment settling, which could otherwise cause sedimentation banding.
The High Quality mode has also been beefed up by slightly overlaying each print swathe to reduce the effects of banding at higher speeds.
The new models also gain internal LED lighting with a large clear window so that you can see the prints as they’re printed. A series of fans have been added to the top of the printer to draw dust away and keep the inside of the machine clean. Epson has also greatly reduced the time needed for maintenance by adding a fabric wipe, that’s been dipped in a solvent synthetic liquid for cleaning the heads.
The four colour printers are available immediately, and cost £9,995 for the S40600 and £15,495 for the S60600. The S80600 will be available in March, mainly because Epson is still developing the drivers for it. This will cost £16,135.