Star product: Epson SureColor SC-F6000/SC-F7000

By Pamela Mardle, Thursday 22 November 2012

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Epson has unveiled the first SureColors developed specifically for dye-sublimation printing

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The Epson SureColor SC-F6000/SC-F7000

What is it?

The launch of the SureColor SC-F series marks Epson’s first venture into the dye-sublimation printing market. The two roll-fed CMYK printers enable users to print to sublimation papers to then transfer images to fabrics.

When was it launched and what market is it aimed at?
Both machines were unveiled at Sign & Inkjet Printing Expo China 2012, held in Guangzhou on 14-16 November, and have their commercial launch set for March 2013.

With the SC-F6000 printing at widths of 1,118mm (44in) and the SC-F7000 at 1,626mm (64in), they will cater for customers in such sectors as soft signage, sportswear, accessories, customised promotional items, banners, flags and corporate merchandise.

Epson opted for the two sizes to target commercial textile printers producing fabric rolls, rather than smaller-scale outfits.

Epson director of C&I Prographics Duncan Ferguson says: "Digital textile printing is relatively young; the vast majority is still screen printed."

Epson also used experience from a previous project, where it worked with Italian machinery manufacturer Robustelli, in the development of the new machines. "We have been learning about the market for the past 10 years through our partnership with Robustelli, developing the Monna Lisa inkjet textile printer," says Ferguson.

How does it differ from previous Epson models?
Ferguson says that the basic technology is the same as the SC-S and SC-T series machines launched earlier this year. All are manufactured at the same site using similar techniques. However, for the SC-F printers, Epson has adapted its MicroPiezo TFP printheads to work with dye-sublimation ink as the team had noticed that many customers were already buying Epson printers and using other manufacturers’ inks to print onto textiles.

It also developed specific dye-sublimation inks, the Ultrachrome DS range, to work with the SC-F units.

"A lot of customers were buying printers designed for aqueous graphic printing and using sublimation ink. So we looked at the issues in the market and decided to develop our own ink and tailor the printheads to offer improved reliability," says Ferguson.

What is the USP?
According to Ferguson, a major design change for the SC-F printers is the integrated ink tank. Instead of the more conventional cartridge system, a 1.5l tank is fixed into the printer and is refilled through a port using 1l foil ink packs, which come with a chip to enable Epson engineers to quickly trace batches if issues arise.

The tanks were developed for simplicity and enable printers to more than double the size of the ink delivery system, compared with the 700ml cartridges standard on the SC-S and –T ranges, making the SC-F machines suitable for longer runs.

Epson claims that it is the only manufacturer in the sector that produces all the components for its machines itself, from the chassis through to the inks. Ferguson says that this improves reliability and reduces the final cost to customers.

How fast is it?
In textile production mode, both machines can print at 28sqm/hr. It can process soft signage at 56sqm/hr.

How easy is it to use?
Ferguson says: "We believe that the majority of users will be able to use it out of the box, with a bit of initial training from the dealers, because in operational terms, it’s very similar to the existing graphics printers that we have been selling for 15 years."

What support is on offer?
There will be training courses available, but Ferguson says the priority is to train existing service partners and resellers so that they can both sell and support new users. Resellers will be decided two months prior to the launch, according to Ferguson.

How much does it cost?
The final price of the machines is to be decided in January 2013, but Ferguson expects that the SC-F7000 will start at just under £15,000.

What is the sales target?
There are no machines in use yet, but Epson is aiming to achieve 50 to 70 European sales a month, including 10 being shipped in the UK.


SPECIFICATIONS

Print width SC-F6000: 1,118mm SC-F7000: 1,626mm
Speed 28sqm/hr in textile production mode
Resolution
720x1,440dpi
Price Less than £15,000
Contact
Epson 0871 423 7766 www.epson.co.uk


ALTERNATIVES

Mimaki JV33

The Mimaki JV33-130 and JV33-160 comes as standard with a Level 3 Postscript RIP and take-up roller. Included in the price is Mimaki’s two-year ‘gold standard’ warranty for all parts and labour.

Print width
JV33-130: 1,370mm; JV33-160: 1,620mm
Max speed 20sqm/hr
Resolution
720x1,440dpi
Price
JV33-130: £14,995; JV33-160: £18,995
Contact
Hybrid Services 01270 501900 www.hybridservices.co.uk

Mutoh ValueJet 1638W
The ValueJet 1638W is suitable for applications such as soft signage, sportswear, promotional products and clothing. It works with Mutoh Disperse Dye inks with drop-on-demand Piezo printheads and comes with an optional 1l bulk ink system.
Print width
1,625mm
Max speed 65sqm/hour
Resolution
1,440 dpi
Price
£18,190
Contact Colourgen 01628 588722 www.colourgen.com

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