Home' Australian Printer Magazine : September 2013 Contents Australian Printer - September 2013 29
Wading through the wide
format inkjet specs
IN the last decade, the market has recognised
drop size as a significant contributor to image
Drop size, measured in picolitres (pl), is
the volume of ink in each drop squirted by
an inkjet print nozzle. It is important because
when that drop hits the substrate, its volume
dictates the jump in image density from
nothing to something. In some systems with
a large drop size, such as the Océ TCS 500
(24pl), the large drop size can be beneficial as
it enables the device to print CAD drawings
very quickly. The down side is such a large
drop size makes shaded areas and photos,
especially in the lighter areas, somewhat
On the other hand systems like the HP
Z6100 with a drop size of four-six pl can
produce very smooth changes in image
density but at the expense of print speed for
CAD and line drawings.
Current Epson systems have a variable
drop size where each drop of each colour can
be one of three sizes, ranging from 3.5pl up to
17pl depending on the print mode.
This provides an extra dimension to the
colour performance of these devices.
ALL systems are covered by warranty under consumer law but there
are a couple of areas to investigate to make sure you understand your
Firstly, what components of the system are considered consumables?
I have come across printers where the carriage motor is considered a
consumable, good for so many movements of the print head across the
page. Once this number has been exceeded, then any failure of the motor is
not covered under warranty. Most people consider a motor as a component,
not a consumable. You need to understand what is and, more importantly,
what isn’t covered by the warranty.
The second point to clarify with your supplier is: who does the service?
and what resources they have to do so? In regional areas, this is even more
important. Are there trained service people nearby and how are parts
THE big question everyone asks: how much ink
is used to print a given job?
It is much easier to calculate in the
small format world as most A3/A4 devices
have toner included with the maintenance
agreement for a fixed cost per page regardless
of coverage. In the wide format world, ink
is not included and the quantity used is a
variable cost for every page printed.
The manufacturers provide costings for
standard ISO images but that is not the whole
picture. Ink is used in the print head cleaning
and maintenance routines. I have seen one
model use an extra 18ml of ink in its power-on
cleaning cycle. Some systems recycle this ink,
most do not.
Most modern wide format printers have an
internal log that shows ink used per print but
you have to print the job to find out how much
ink it uses. Most external rips will calculate
ink usage before printing but I have seen
instances where, for a given job, the rip’s ink
usage calculations differs markedly from the
printer’s ink usage figures.
So how does one work it out? My rule of
thumb for comparison purposes has been to
work out the cost of ink per millilitre (ml) and,
if applicable, add to this the cost per ml of
print heads based on the warranted life of the
print head. For example if a print head costing
$200 is warranted for four litres of ink then the
print head cost is $0.05 per ml. This will give a
simple way of comparing ink costs between
With over 25 years of experience in the wide format
industry, Roger Womersley has worked in variety of sales
and technical roles. He now operates as an independent
consultant for wide format solutions and providing specialist
software tools to improve printing and scanning workflows.
Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
THE wide format world changed in the
1990s when CMYK inkjets put colour
electrostatic plotters to the sword. Since then,
manufacturers have added additional inks
to extend the colour gamuts of their inkjet
printers. Some have gone the light cyan
and magenta path, others have gone the
hexachrome route by the addition of orange
and green inks.
Peter Skarpetis, chief executive and
founder of Serendipity Software, and producer
of Blackmagic and Megarip, advised me some
10 years ago: “The best colour to add to a
CMYK printer would be a grey as it would
improve performance in lighter, neutral areas.”
So what do additional ink colours achieve?
Simplistically, the colour gamut for a given
printer is determined by its CMYK, and if
present, OG inks. But the number of colours
within this gamut that a printer can smoothly
reproduce will be improved by using light ink
The most important colours tend to be the
corporate one so, if your biggest customer has
a bright orange logo, then you need to make
sure whatever printer you buy can faithfully
reproduce that colour.
Warranty and Service
Number of Inks
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