Eco-solvent Printers

The tried and true workhorses of the sign industry.
Tech Review: Eco-solvent Printers

Newer technologies tend to dangle bright, shiny objects in front of our faces and induce the “I’ve got to have it” instinct in our brain. There is, however, something to be said about mature technologies. The designs are reliable and generally durable. For example, most RIPs have a driver. Third-party supplies are very plentiful if you are looking to save a few bucks. So it is with our old friends, the eco-solvent and solvent printers. They’ve been around for a long time, but they just keep getting the job done.

Many of you may be wondering, “Why choose an eco-solvent printer over a latex or UV printer?” There are a number of factors to look at, but in the end, a great deal depends upon your customers and what products you offer, as well as your purchasing budget. For example, if you have a need for grand format prints (100-in.+ width) you will need to purchase an industrial-strength latex or UV printer that will run you into six figures. Several companies offer superwide eco-solvent printers that are in the $20-25K range, making them much more affordable. 

Another area where eco-solvent and mild-solvent printers shine is the vehicle-wrap market. The pop and color rendition of the eco-sol inks ensure eye-pleasing graphics that may not be as easily produced by UV and latex inks. Wrap vinyls and laminates have been formulated with eco-sol and solvent printers in mind, and ICC profiles are available for most of the popular printers.

Price is definitely a factor when you are just starting out, and eco-solvent printers can be a great value for your money. You can get started with a 54-in. printer/cutter for around $20K. At these prices you can expect printing speeds of around 200-250 sq. ft./hr. in a standard print mode, with resolutions up 1,440 dpi. There are smaller-width printer/cutters and printers for $10-15K, but be aware of your market, as this may limit your ability to compete for larger-format jobs.

NEW UNDER THE ECO-SOL

If you’ve had an eco-solvent printer for awhile and are interested in what’s new, then the operative words are speed and image quality. At the higher ends you can find eco-sol printers with speeds over 1,000 sq. ft./hr., but many models exceed 500 sq. ft./hr. If you are looking for high production without totally busting the bank, eco-solvent is the way to go.

Probably the biggest changes we have seen are the inks and ink formulations. The typical production-quality printer will run a CMYKLcLm 6-color ink set. You can also find printers that handle white ink for such applications as printing on non-white vinyl and films in full color. There are even printers that can handle a silver cartridge to allow for metallic printing. If you really want to add some flair, do it with metallic ink. If ultra-high quality and an expanded color gamut are needed, some companies offer a 7-or-more-color ink set that greatly expands the number of colors that can be printed.

Budget-minded shops and vehicle-wrap businesses are prime candidates for eco-solvent and mild-solvent printers. The technology is tried and tested and the resulting prints are of exceptional quality. Many printers come with integral vinyl cutters, so you can go from finished design to finished product without many intermediate steps. If you are just opening a shop or looking for a new printer, check out what’s available in eco-solvent printing today.

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