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Need To Know

Inkjet Ink Technology

As large-format printers become an ever-more important consideration for the modern printer, so are the consumables used during the process. Rob Fletcher casts an eye over the latest inks available

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It is important not to forget about the unsung heroes of the print production process, such as ink, for ensuring the highest quality products

Ink-ling for success

Walking around some of the more recent trade shows, it was easy to see where the majority of visitors’ attention was focused—machinery. Whether it was a press producing print, or a laminator adding an extra special touch to a finished piece of work, it is hard to take your eyes off such a technical process.

However, as we all know, what matters most to the customers of our industry is the final look of a piece of work. If the finished article does not stand up to their expectations, then do not expect them to return any time soon. And while print and finishing technologies have a major role to play in the look, and feel, of a finished product, so do the consumables used during production.

One key member of the consumable family is ink, which is used by companies across the industry on a host of different projects—be it wide- or large-format print, or something further afield. Selecting the right ink is critical for any print job, so, with this in mind, what sort of products are out there to help your work stand out from that of the competition?

Driving profit margins

While known by many for its printing equipment, Roland DG also has a host of inks on offer to the market. Mark Elvidge, product manager, explains that using high quality inks will help the user avoid problems throughout the production process.

“At Roland DG we pride ourselves on our widespread, high quality ink products and develop each ink with the end-user in mind, allowing businesses to add a premium value to their product ranges,” Elvidge says, adding: “The importance of a good quality ink in driving significant profit margins cannot be stressed enough.
For many of our customers, a high-quality input creates a high-quality output, increased productivity and maximum cost-effectiveness.

“Our most popular ink range is the Roland Eco-Sol Max range, the durable and reliable eco-solvent ink ideal for both outdoor and indoor use. With a wide colour gamut, Roland DG’s Eco-Sol Max inks are designed to provide a comprehensive, economical package suitable for businesses of all shapes and sizes.

“Another popular ink range is the EJ Inks, designed exclusively to work with Roland DG’s high production Sojlet EJ-640 wide-format printer. The EJ ink range is available in 1,000cc cartridges and allow for longer print runs to maximise profit margins, delivering bold and exciting colours at an impressive operating cost. The cartridge capacity and specially formulated inks for the EJ-640 allow us to offer savings to the end user of around 30 percent against the major competition.”

Roland DG’s EJ inks, designed exclusively to work with the Soljet EJ-640 wide-format printer, are available in 1,000cc cartridges

Elvidge is also keen to highlight Roland DG’s new TrueVIS INK range, which has been developed specifically to accompany the company’s FlexFire print head technology in the new TrueVIS VG Series print and cut machine.

“Utilising advanced eco-solvent tech-nology, the ink range offers exceptional performance output whilst also meeting strict environmental standards including Greenguard Gold certification for air quality,” Elvidge says.

Also on offer from Roland DG is the ECO-UV Ink, which caters for the Roland DG VersaUV range of printers, and print and cut machines. The ink is cured using low heat, long life LED UV lamps, which Elvidge says make its ideal for prototyping and tactile prints, as well as numerous personalised applications.

In addition, Roland DG can assist those in the sublimation market with Texart ink, designed to work on the Texart RT-640 and Texart XT-640 dye-sublimation transfer printers. Elvidge highlights apparel, sign, interior décor, and fashion as some of the main applications that can be created with the help of this ink.

Roland DG can assist those in the sublimation market with Texart ink, designed to work on the Texart RT-640 and Texart XT-640 dye-sublimation transfer printers

Damaging impact

Aside from OEM inks, on the other side of the coin, printers also have the choice of third-party solutions from a host of suppliers. One such company is Sun Chemical, which has a whole host of products on offer. Tony Cox, business manager, digital aftermarket at the firm, warns the use of lower quality inks may not only impact the final look of work, but also damage production machinery.

Tony Cox, business manager, digital aftermarket at Sun Chemical, warns that the use of cheaper, lower quality inks can damage machinery

Cox explains: “Poor quality inks often contain low cost raw materials and sub-standard pigments resulting in premature fading, poor adhesion to substrates causing peeling, as well as damaging machines.

“In most cases, low cost ink is cheap for a reason because the manufacturer has selected lower grade raw materials and pigments. As a result, the quality and performance of the ink will be significantly compromised and any initial savings made through the purchase of cheaper and lower grade ink can be offset by issues in production, product returns, and wastage.
“In addition, poorer quality inks can also affect efficient workings of the printing machines, unscheduled downtime and maintenance which is both costly and detrimental to customer delivery times.”

To avoid such issues, Cox urges print companies to consider using inks from Sun Chemical, highlighting the Streamline wide-format solvent inkjet range, which is matched to the original inks for colour and density, and developed to be miscible with OEM inks.

Cox explains: “The Streamline range of solvent-based alternative inkjet inks is available for many wide-format printers including Epson, HP, Mimaki, Mutoh and Roland DG. The latest addition to the Streamline family of inks was the recently launched Streamline Ultima HPQ LO ink series, a high performance ink that has been developed for use in the Mimaki JV300 and JV150 high-speed wide-format printers and benefits from our low odour.

“In addition, inks in the Streamline range now carry ‘Greenguard’ certification, providing assurance that the inks are fully compliant with stringent indoor air quality emission standards. These include Streamline Ultima HPQ LO; Streamline ESL HPQ LO; Streamline ESL 2 and Streamline SGX.”

Alternative options

Another company well placed to speak about some of the latest ink technologies on the market is Quality Print Services (QPS), a supplier of a range of inks to the market. Chris Bailey, managing director, suggests that switching from OEM inks to products from alternative suppliers could help increase profitability.

Bailey expands: “OEM suppliers take a great deal of time to ensure their ink is optimised for their systems, but the down side of this is that the ink is generally the most expensive option for the printing system, as they rely on the end user to remain loyal to the OEM product to satisfy warranty and service requirements. However, whilst the ink is generally very reliable the high costs to the end user significantly reduce profitability.

O Factoid: Some of the earliest uses of ink can be traced back to China in the 23rd century BC.  O

“Switching to an alternative ink supplier can increase profitability, without the immediate need to find additional work, however, a balance must be achieved. In reducing ink costs, the end user must be able to maintain output quality and printer reliability and not eradicate any saving made on the cost of the ink with increased production waste and printer down time.

“It’s important when selecting an alternative ink that the supplier can identify the manufacturer, demonstrate where the ink is manufactured and not hide their current ink offering behind own brand labelling.

“The main problems with an alternative low quality ink are the obvious factors such as reduced printer reliability, increased production waste and higher maintenance costs. This is often compounded by poor or non-existent support from the supplier.”

On this note, Bailey highlights the type of ink on offer from QPS, namely Nazdar, a well-respected brand in the industry, commenting: “As the main UK distributor for the Nazdar digital products here in the UK we provide full technical advice and support for the authorised reseller channel, which means the end user can rest assured that there is an experienced and full support network behind every drop of Nazdar ink supplied.”

QPS stocks Nazdar inks that can be used with wide-format technology such as Mimaki, Mutoh, Roland DG, and select HP latex devices

He adds: “All Nazdar ink is manufactured and tested to be at least as durable as the original product the ink has been formulated to replace. In many cases the Nazdar product demonstrates better durability and resistance properties by design.”

Chris Bailey, managing director of QPS, says that switching from OEM inks to quality products from alternative suppliers could help boost profitability

QPS supplies Nazdar ink as a ‘Plug and Play’ solution, which means that the ink can be installed on the target printer, with full chemical compatibility so there is no wasted ink or time due to printer flushing. The firm stocks specific Nazdar inks for Mimaki, Mutoh, Roland DG, and select HP latex printers, while the Plug and Play principle has also been extended into the UV curing ink markets with colour matched ink sets for the Canon (Océ) Arizona and Fujifilm Acuity printers.

QPS stocks Nazdar inks that can be used with wide-format technology such as Mimaki, Mutoh, Roland DG, and select HP latex devices

The options and products presented here show not only the vast array of inks available to the market, but also the two different routes companies can go down in terms of OEM and third-party products. While Elvidge at Roland DG makes a valid point about having the ongoing support of the manufacturer by opting for OEM inks, both Cox and Bailey also highlight that, while third-party inks may not have the best reputation, due to some cheaper, lower quality alternatives giving them a bad name, there are plenty of quality options available.

However, despite their differing views, one point remains clear throughout—do not skimp on cost if it means the quality of final output is impacted, as, after all, this is what matters the most to both you as a printer and the paying customer.

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