Star product: Roland VersaExpress RF-640 8 Colour

Barney Cox
Monday, December 17, 2018

An extended inkset makes this eco-solvent stalwart stand out.

What does the machine do?

Based on Roland DG’s established VersaExpress RF-640 1.6m/64in roll-fed eco-solvent printer, the new eight-colour incarnation adds orange, green, red and light black to the standard CMYK set and is the first eco-solvent machine to offer that configuration of colours.

“It reaches the colours that other eco-solvents can’t, enabling it to hit 99% of the Pantone+ solid coated colour range,” says Roland DG head of sales for UK and Ireland Rob Goleniowski.

When was it launched and what market is it aimed at?

“It was officially launched on 16 October but it had been previewed at Fespa and Sign & Digital UK earlier in the year,” says Goleniowski. “At both shows it received a fantastic response. The overall solution was wanted and the print quality was stopping people in their tracks.”

The key demand for many prospective users is the ability to better hit challenging brand colours across a number of exterior and interior applications. 

“A lot of brand colours are very hard to reproduce out of CMYK,” he says, both for high-end brands and big names on the high street. To date there has either been a compromise on the colour accuracy of printed output or the reversion to older time-consuming techniques such as cut coloured vinyl to ensure spot on specials.

How does it work?

At the heart of the machine is Roland’s VersaExpress RF-640 eco-solvent printer. This is an eight-channel roll-fed machine using piezo heads that has been around for about four years and, according to Goleniowski, has “always had a reputation as a sturdy printer that keeps going day in and day out to churn work out”.

How does it differ from previous products?

While the hardware is exactly the same as its four-colour counterpart the eight printheads and ink channels each carry a separate colour, whereas the four colour configuration used two channels per colour. The main difference is that rather than using Roland’s own VersaWorks front-end it uses the ErgoSoft RIP, which is better suited to handling the extended colour gamut separation. Roland already partners with ErgoSoft for the front-ends for its Texart range of dye-sub textile printers. 

How fast is it?

As you’d expect the use of eight separate colours rather than two pairs of four does reduce throughput but not dramatically. 

“There is a difference, it is slower, but that said it is no slouch,” Goleniowski says. “It can happily produce 8m²/hr compared to 11m²/hr for the four-colour RF but given the advantages in terms of quality you wouldn’t compare them head to head. It will easily produce 50m² per day and if you consider that a lot of the work the eight colour machine will take on is currently produced using a mixture of cut coloured vinyl and print, you cut out the laborious process of laying up the cut vinyl and there is no need to match print to vinyl saving a lot of time in artworking.”

What is the USP?

The extended colour gamut and, thanks to the light black, photographic reproduction quality in a machine that can produce durable output for outdoor use (the output has a three years UV resistance warranty for exterior use). “Machines with an extended gamut have tended to struggle with outdoor durability,” adds Goleniowski.

How easy is it to use?

Anyone familiar with Rolands, and other eco-solvent printers, will be comfortable finding their way around the hardware. As for the ErgoSoft RIP, while he admits it is different to the standard VersaWorks offering and that many Roland customers choose its printers because the software makes them so easy to use, he doesn’t see that as an issue.

“ErgoSoft itself is easy to use and offers a lot of automation. Also, the type of customer buying this machine will be familiar with running multiple RIP platforms, so won’t be fazed by not having VersaWorks.”

What training and support is on offer?

Like all Roland machines the package includes installation, on site training and RolandCare warranty. It is also possible to get additional training if needed either on ErgoSoft or in more specific tasks such as how to profile a specific media.

How much does it cost?

The package price is £12,999, which is £3,000 more than the four-colour machine but that is accounted for in the additional cost of the ErgoSoft RIP. The special colour inks are the same price as Roland’s standard EcoSol Max 3 CMYK ones at £85.99 per 500ml pack. Running costs may be lower due to reduced ink consumption.

“A red out of CMYK would have high coverage of both magenta and yellow, whereas this machine would be predominantly just red producing a better quality at a lower price,” Goleniowski says.

What is the sales target?

About 10% of the sales of eco-solvent roll-to-roll machines could benefit from its attributes. “It might look niche at first glance but it’s very much not,” he says. “The colour accuracy meets the needs of a number of core sectors including vehicle livery, sports branding, exhibitions and retail.” 


Type Roll-fed eco-solvent piezo printer

Width 1.6m

Number of colours Eight: CMYK plus red, orange, green and light black

Speed Up to 10.5sqm/hr

Workflow ErgoSoft RIP

Price Printer £12,999, inks £85.99 per 500ml

Contact Roland DG 01275 335540


Epson SureColor SC-S80600 

The SureColor SC-S80600 is a 1.6m printer with nine or 10 colours, including white or silver for high-value applications. Standard colours are CMYK plus light cyan, light magenta, light black and red and orange 

Width 1.6m

Number of colours Nine or 10

Speed 12.5sqm/hr (8-pass mode)

Price £21,354

Contact Epson 01442 227246

Mimaki JV150

Available as a 1.3m and a 1.6m models, the eight-colour version uses CMYK, light cyan, light magenta, light black and orange can hit 94.8% of the Pantone Coated Colour chart. As standard ink is supplied in 440ml cartridges, a bulk ink system offers savings of around 20% for volume users.

Width 1.3 or 1.6m

Number of colours Dual CMYK or CMYK, light cyan, light magenta, light black and orange

Speed Up to 28sqm/hr in eight-colour mode

Price From £9,995

Contact Hybrid Services 01270 501900


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