Transfer vs. Ink Jet Large Format Printers
(Or The Advantage of Owning Both Types of Sign Printers)
In order to provide a fully comprehensive digital printing
service in the sign industry, you will need to buy two types
of large format digital printers for your business. Just as a painter needs
several types of brushes to create different types of work, as a
digital artist you'll need different printers to produce
different types of artwork, or to print on a variety of
The two different types of
printers to which I'm referring are Thermal Transfer (a.k.a.
Thermal Resin) and Inkjet. Each of these printers has
specialized capabilities. I'll do my best to explain the
differences, as follows:
Generally speaking, unless an
Inkjet printer is specifically indicated for the type of work
you're currently doing or considering undertaking, Thermal
Transfer printing offers the most options and is the best place
to start. Thermal transfer printers have the following
capabilities and benefits:
Transfer printers use resin ribbons and produce absolutely no fumes, meaning
costly ventilation is not required, and operators' lungs
remain healthy. Instead of toxic inks, they use resin
ribbons for printing.
Transfer prints have a longer life - up to 5 years outdoors
with no lamination. These prints require lamination
only for extreme cases, i.e. industrial applications, where
chemicals are involved.
Transfer printers have spot color ribbons for bright, vivid
Transfer printers produce sharper text on small (label and decal size)
prints, and are generally better for printer vector
Transfer printers have white ribbons - useful for printing
white on a colored background or for double-sided
printing on clear media.
Summa DC4 and
DC4sx also have chrome and holographic ribbons!
Transfer printers can print a perforated pattern for
producing window films on inexpensive clear media, instead
of having to print on expensive perforated window films,
like an Inkjet.
Transfer printers require much less maintenance. In
fact, they can stand idle indefinitely, without the weekly
maintenance required by an Inkjet printer.
Thermal Transfer printers, such as the
Summa DC4 and
DC4sx have print and cut capability in one unit.
This makes much more sense than Roland's inkjet print and
cut technology. Since thermal transfer prints rarely,
if ever, require lamination, it's seldom necessary to remove
the print for lamination before cutting. This means
there's no need to reregister the print before you cut.
Cutting your finished print is accomplished with merely the
push of a button. (Inkjet single unit print and cut
technology is not very effective, and can produce problems.)
Both Summa models have two cutting steps. They
will contour cut around your prints, and a second cutting
step allows them to cut through the backing sheet to also
die cut your finished prints.
Heat Transfer Material for t-shirts, etc.
is now available for Summa
DC4 Series printers.
offer the best value under the following circumstances:
prints last up to 3 years outdoors. They do require
lamination for high scrub applications, such as vehicles.
printers do better graduated fills, and produce superior
hi-resolution photo quality prints, especially in a small
Inkjet printers are faster. The
is much faster, even compared to other Inkjet printers.
The ValueJet 1304 prints up to 143 square feet per
hour and the ValueJet 1614 prints up to 183
square feet per hour!
printers print on a wider variety of media, such as paper,
some fabrics, and generic vinyl banner material. (Thermal
transfer printers require special vinyl banner media.) The
MUTOH ValueJet 1204Plus even prints on pre-grommeted
Mutoh ValueJet 1608
Hybrid Inkjet printer has both roll-feed and flat bed
capabilities for printing on flexible, as well as rigid
Most Inkjet printers use solvent inks,
which are not environmentally friendly, and the fumes are
dangerous to the health of the operators, and everyone who
contacts them. Ventilation is required to make the
work place safer and tolerable.
Mutoh ValueJet 1324
Mutoh ValueJet 1624
use low toxicity, light solvent Eco-Ultra inks, which
significantly reduce toxic fumes and environmental impact,
however ventilation is still recommended. The
Mutoh ValueJet 1608
Hybrid is the
greenest Inkjet printer, utilizing long-lasting
MUBIO inks, made of 80% vegetable substances.
Inkjet printers have lower production
costs only when lamination is not required.
Inkjet print and cut may not make sense, but if you pair
your Inkjet printer, for instance the Mutoh ValueJet 1304
or 1614 with an optical cutter, you get print and cut
with the added advantage of being able to print while
There you go,
the low-down on digital printers. If you're shopping for
your first printer, hopefully this will clear up any confusion.
On the other hand, if it generates more questions on your
behalf, that's a good thing, as well. The more questions
you have, the more likely you are to get the answers you need to
make a qualified decision in the best interests of your
I'd just like
to re-emphasize that once you've entered the digital printing
market with one large format printer, it's time to plan on
investing in a second as soon as possible. This will
allow you to grow your business even more by opening the door
to new markets.
- Diane Corbin
Reprinted from the June 2007 issue of
SIGNED UP e-newsletter.
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