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The search for unbiased information!

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Jom

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Post Fri May 23, 2003 3:42 am

The search for unbiased information!

Well,

This is going to be a long one (and my first real post at that!). :o Ultimately, I'm looking at what Printer, Cutter, or Printer/Cutter combo would best be suited for the situation I'm outlining below, however, this topic has a lot of merit for many of you I'm sure.

We'll be using the printer for Decal Doming. The exact specs of the project (business) are outlined below:

- Decals that will ultimately be domed
- Typically average orders of 1,000 Decals
- Decals are no larger than 2x2 and typically 1x1
- Consist of common shapes such as ovals, squares, and rounded rectangles
- Example: Roughly 50 decals could fit on a common 8x11 piece of paper
- Use: Half Indoor applications and Half outdoor ( not of critical importance because doming provides UV protection)
- Material: Coated Vinyl or Polyester
- Like to spend under $5K for a new or used printer/cutter combination or printer and cutter

What we've found through research:

Rolands:

- We’ve looked at the Roland based machines (specifically the PC 12 and PC50). Both machines are within our price range and don’t seem too big. We ruled out the PC60 and PC600 because of the huge size. We don’t need a machine that big for 1x1 or 2x2 decals.

The Question:

- We’ve been told to steer away from the Roland machines due to print head problems and high expense of the ribbons ($6-$8 per sq foot). What is your take? Roland, yes or no? Can we get away with 300dpi on small logos (PC12 or PC50)?

Separate Print/Cut Solution:

- We’ve also been advised that an ink based solution might be better. Ink based has high resolution and is less expensive to run (.80 to $1.50 per square foot). UV isn’t an issue because of the doming. The Epson 2200 was mentioned. The small cartridges on this machine are less expensive but also don’t last very long either. This setup was recommended with a DGI Cutter.

The Question:

- This solution seems O.K. to us but we’d like the most “automated” system possible. The less loading and reloading the better. This is why we’re more pre-disposed to the Rolands because of the print and cut function. What do you think about the Epson w/ Graphtec setup? What ink based system would you recommend? Those of you that use a seperate printer cutter and have ever done any sort of volume in decals, is the setup from the printer to the cutter a big deal?

Software:

- We’ve heard good things about Sign Lab. What do you think? What would you recommend?

- Sign Lab is very expensive. All we need is something that can print and put registration marks on a layout for cutting. Anything less expensive and easy to use available?

This is a pretty rough outline. We're almost totally predisposed at this point to jump on the inkjet bandwagon. The doming will offer better UV protection which automatically takes care of one of the drawbacks to an inkjet.

I've actually talked to a few members of this board on the phone to get their take. I've also spoken to a bunch of sign supply companies. The general take is that whatever they sell is the best :) Unbiased information seems impossible to find!

I was just wondering what everyone here thinks. I certainly think this post could be helpful to many that are considering a thermal or inkjet setup.

Whew! Told you it was a mouthful.

Jom
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John Childs

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Post Fri May 23, 2003 7:04 am

Jom...

I'm afraid I can't help with the print side of things, but with regards to software, rather than look at an industry specific package you could try someting more general like Adobe Illustrator or Corel. I don't know how much Signlab costs but suspect that, purely because of volume, a general package would be much cheaper both to buy originally and also to upgrade every so often.

We have been using Illustrator successfully for over twelve years now and despite only using about ten per cent of its capabilities have yet to find anything we couldn't do with it.
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Michael.

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Post Fri May 23, 2003 8:57 am

Hi Jom...

I agree with John about the software - Corel would have been my first suggestion - you can get recent versions for next to nothing (free with breakfast cereal sometimes) and there's an 'add-on' you can get (cheap) to output to cutter/printers too?...not sure of the name but it's been mentioned here before.

With regards to the hardware - the problem is that advice will always be biased to some degree - itf it's a dealer talking then they need to sell their gear, if it's a user talkin' then chances are theirs is the only set up they know and they have adapted and evolved their work around the gear they have...

Why not put together a small sample run and output it to several other trade supply companies. First ring around to determine what set-up they have, make a note, send the job and when you get them back you can compare the output and the costs?...though costs will very depending on the establishment. You could at least decide about the quality and finish.

Or...get each of the suppliers of these machines to demo it for you at your premises - many will do this - or - invite you to bring a sample file to their showrooms where they'll run the item before your very eyes...

good luck and watch for more advice below...

more soon

mike
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Chalkie

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Post Fri May 23, 2003 9:30 am

I'll echo the Corel suggestion.

Slightly outdated versions are available here for the equivalent of about $75 and I would think you would be able to find something at least as cheap in your neck of the woods.

Roland supply drivers which allow cutting direct from Corel free of charge and I think possibly Graphtec do as well.

Hardware wise there have been a lot of negative posts about the Rolands and apparently the smaller PC12 fares even worse than the larger ones.
You might want to have a look at Rolands own forums (via their website) to get more user feedback.
________
Medical Cannabis
Last edited by Chalkie on Sun Mar 20, 2011 7:57 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Jom

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Post Fri May 23, 2003 2:24 pm

Chalkie,

If you can name a forum, I've done research on it :) You're right, there is a ton of negatives being said about the Rolands (on all sign boards including their own). I've been told, however, that this is often because of user error... at the same time, I've been told it is because the machines are very tempermental. Being new to the industry, the Roland doesn't sound like the best decision for me.

At this point, the decision is mostly made to stay away from the thermal devices. An inkjet is the direction we're headed.

Corel is what we originally planned on using, I just didn't think it would be able to do everything. We have Illustrator here already (college edition :lol: ). I have access to Corel through the university as well.


Inkjet v Thermal aside... What type of small cutter (24" or less) cutter would you recommend? The printer we use will be less than 24" as well so large equipment is just overkill.

Thanks for the suggestions so far!

Jom
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Glenn Sharp

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Post Fri May 23, 2003 3:44 pm

Jom,

As a user of the Roland PC60 for a few years now (I know you said it was too big for your needs but second hand models are good value for money) I would think this machine would be ideal for your needs.
If your choice of machine is strongly based on budget the PC60 probably isn't the best choice in terms of running costs & replacement print heads, although we have had our machine for about 3 years and replaced the head once. We have used the printer for a variety of different uses over the years including large format stuff but I've always thought it's real strengths were for the profile cut badge sort of designs. It's ability to print & cut with the minimum of hassle is great & I've always found it really reliable, If half way through the job it runs out of cartridge it will sit patiently waiting for you to replace it & then happily carry on priting once replaced.
It,s also a half decent stand alone cutter if your needs ever changed

Good Luck for the future.

Glenn.
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Carrie Brown

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Post Fri May 23, 2003 4:33 pm

I too use Corel draw as one of our packages and you will find it a very cost effective package to do what you need it to do. I will suggest as for the cutting/printing option would be a second hand pc60. If you need some advise over email, feel free to email us.

stephen@csdesigns-uk.com

Regards

Stephen

C&S Designs
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red dragon

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Post Fri May 23, 2003 5:08 pm

Jom,

You are in the lucky situation of being in the States. The range of inks and options for cutting to you are far higher than they would be this side of the pond. :-?

For what you have outlined I would recommend the inkjet option, but instead of cartridges I'd look into a bulk ink supply system, utilizing Archival inks (this would double the longevity of aging along with the doming) these are available for many of the Epson range.

There is a program available out there marketed by a Swedish company called SignCut2002, they have a module called SignDecal Pro (I think that's correct) this comes with a device which would allow you to cut out the printed decals, without having to buy any specific cutter. This can be used as a stand alone program or as a plug-in for Corel.

The company name is Whisqu Graphics
www.whisqu.se

If not have a look at Xpres they have also released a cutting system which you can use to cut printed items from another printer source.
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Mike Grant

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Post Fri May 23, 2003 9:44 pm

I have a Roland PC60 and use it for domed decals. Yes they do have bad press, but have you ever heard the saying "A bad workman always blames his tools" Well I have had my machine about 3 years now, it was an ex demo model and has run a treat. I have had a new head about 2 months after buying it which was part of the original deal with the seller, but only after I had stuffed the head with a tiny (read miniscule) shard of aluminium. Now this was my steepest learning curve, and the roland technician gave me the clean before you print info that the supplier neglected to give me. I have never used the cleaning pen that should have came with the machine which roland recommend you use after every print run, simply as I don't have one. I clean the vinyl very carefully before printing an have had no problems.

Your statement about the Roland being to big puzzles me. Why limit yourself to a small machine, if you are doing runs of 1000 or more you would be better off with the wider format, just lay up your artwork to suit a page size that you can cut up after you have finished. To me that is common sense.

The output is also 600 dpi that is brilliant for even the smallest of prints and has the advantage over inkjet printers of being able to print spot colour gold and silver.

I am sorry but I cannot give an unbiased opinion only an honest one.

Good luck with your choice.
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Phill Fenton

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Post Sat May 24, 2003 1:13 am

I agree with Mike. The PC600 is ideal for this type of thing. Yes the running costs are higher - but for small items like this (where materials cost are a small component of the overall price) it is the ideal machine. :D

And yes - reliability is down to ensuring a clean environment - and careful cleaning of the substrate prior to printing
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Jom

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Post Sat May 24, 2003 6:35 pm

Wow,

To be honest, I had almost written off the Roland Thermals... I found several good deals on them but with people whispering that that there were head problems galore (which many on this board clearly have not experienced) in addition to the high expense of running($6 as much as $10 for a 1ftx1ft print) swayed me from them.

I'd like to clarify 1 or 2 quick points.

By "too big" I meant that space is limited where we are. There is room for a PC60 or PC600 BUT the smaller the better. We haven't written them off because a larger office is certainly a consideration.

The other is that the cost issue is important because we'd like to have a lot of room to grow with the machine. If we got an order for 50,000 decals, I'm concerned that we couldn't cut as good of a deal if we were running a machine where the operating costs were double or triple that of an inkjet machine.

Mike,

If I may... What type of volume are you printing off your PC60?

I appreciate all the help guys! This board is absolutely unreal.

Thanks!

Jon
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Jon Aston

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Post Sun May 25, 2003 3:41 am

Unbiased opinion? (Does such a thing exist?)

50,000 decals is not a job suited for digital printing.

For short runs of decals, don't rule out the Gerber EDGE...far more versatile and cost effective than any Roland thermal printer.

Sorry...I know that reads as rather "stand-offish"...just the cost of brevity.
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Chalkie

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Post Sun May 25, 2003 7:40 am

Sorry, to me that just reads as yet another post plugging the Edge from someone who sells them, but doesn't quite make that clear to anyone who might be looking for an unbiased opinion and may confuse your post with that of a normal user.

Phil
________
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Last edited by Chalkie on Thu Feb 24, 2011 1:16 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Mike Grant

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Post Sun May 25, 2003 8:29 pm

Jom wrote:Mike,
If I may... What type of volume are you printing off your PC60?
Jon


The largest run in one go has been 500.
The reason for this is because we also screen print as well so there is an eventual cut off point when screen printing becomes a cheaper option for us. I also consider the cost of having things edge printed via another local shop, but do prefer to keep as much in-house as possible.

Size also plays a part, so if they are only 1" square I would have no hesitation using the Roland for a large quantity. (We are still waiting for that order :wink: )
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Jon Aston

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Post Mon Jun 02, 2003 2:00 pm

Chalkie:

We do sell the EDGE...in CANADA.

I don't have anything to gain from Jom choosing an EDGE over another system. I'm simply encouraging him (and anyone else facing similar decisions) to consider all the options...and I think my post is pretty clear as to where my bias is.

I, for one, wish that user profiles on this site were open to viewing by everyone. If that were the case, anyone who had any concerns about the man behind the post could quite easily discover who I am and what I am all about.
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Rodney Gold

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Post Sat Jun 07, 2003 3:50 pm

Heres a definitive reply , considering Im in the same industry

There is only ONE reason to use a thermal printer in your case and that is the ability to print gold and silver - Its a huge advantage in the domed decal business to be able to "foil"
I have 2 Roland thermals and they , to be frank , suck , I have the PC60 and the PNC 5000 and have had a 600 and a pc 12 on demo - they need to be used in a clean room environment , are not good for large graphics , are alittle flaky ,
They will not print full colour well for the kind of detail you need want to get bye on "spots" , dither is noticeable if you are perfectionist and continous tones or fades dont reproduce nearly as well as on a inkjet running high dpi
Running costs are high and you cant use wax ribbons when doming as the waxes run into the resin and smear so any savings or DPI advantages must be ignored if in wax ribbon mode
I kown I'm moaning , but have used the Rolands VERY succesfully in manufacturing badges , inserts , domed decals etc
The Edge , tho I havent owned one , is better - according to my pals that do own them in terms of running cost and reliability ?? I dunno
Even with all their need for tlc , the rolands are the cheapest way to get into small decal doming with the least initial cost , but should you wish to grow and get busier , you will soon learn that thermal resin printing is not ideal.
You state you do 1000's at a time , at that level you should have a production machine , any solvent type inkjet and cut combo will do , we have gone from our PC based solution to a Roland Soljet 540 pro II and it dramatically increases production , like 1600 decals an hour at 1440 dpi
One of the advantages the roland PC thermals has is to print on various colours quite well , inkjets cant really print onto dark and a gold printed black background domed decal looks fabulous , deep piano gloss and shimmer

Inkkjet prinitng "a la" desktop stuff is also not ideal for doming , tho works , the inks have moisture which affects the doming process leading to bloom and aline migration and they can run in the resin but something like a Epson 3000 that does a2 and a flatbed cutting system is an option and using care when doming is an option
Still thats not a true production system.

As to software , Corel ,Signlab etc , take your pick
With the Rolands you must use their RIPS and signlab has its good internal RIP and has a very nice badge/serialization routine , thus you can offer serialized or personalised items. Its not a cheap program as is Corel but is suited better to what you need , Corel is not a sign program and often there are no workarounds for what you want to do - buy a sign or dedicated program , it pays in the long run

Basically you are printing both vector and raster artwork , we often import jpegs or othewr formats into various packages and print/cut , so some decent raster package like photoshop is a must
You asked for unbiased , well here you have it , I have been there done that and got the t-shirt and paid thru my teeth for that pleasure ;)
Good luck with your endevour
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Jom

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Post Mon Jun 09, 2003 3:45 am

Rodney,

Wow! A wealth of information in a great post.

I appreciate the time you took to write the reply. We're still evaluating our final options. We'll be doing some sample runs this week. Ironically, our doming setup was much easier to come up with than our print/cut setup.

We're running a Measured Shot dispenser. Allows for quick switching of small 30cc syringes. It's run by an inexpensive (and quiet thankfully) compressor.

I'll post information and pictures once we get going a little bit!

Thanks again,

Jom
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keith

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Post Fri Jun 13, 2003 11:43 pm

the search for unbiasd information

I really wish we'd joined UKSG before getting our PC600 last June.
We are now on our third Yes third model due to various problems. I think the machine is too technical even for their most experienced engineers. We even asked Roland for the disc to recreate the artwork they used on their brochures and advertising material as we didn't believe it could do it. We didn't get a reply. :evil:
Fingers crossed though, this third machine is producing really tip top artwork and we have used it to produce vehicle graphics, logos for signs, as a second cut machine when needed, printed garment graphics and lots and lots of decals!
It is extremely versatile but take care. Remember when it's unwell it can be very costly in lost profits!
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Kevin.Beck

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Post Sat Jun 14, 2003 7:48 am

Keith, with referance to the artwork seen hanging from the Rolands in the trade mags.

I was told by a sales rep, they had to change the adverts, as the images were produced on differant machines, and not the pc600....
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Rodney Gold

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Post Sat Jun 14, 2003 8:14 am

Things to be careful of on the Roland pc's are non roland refill ribbons , the gold and silver ones , some makes "flake" the gold foil off and this gets between the tracks that lead to the pins on the head and short them , this costs a new head. We used a lot of aftermarket gold cos it printed "bright" just like a shiny foil rather than the roland gold which is a sort of matt crushed.
Preheating vinyl before printing works well too , as does a clean dry warm room - we use ours in a room with an airconditioner and make sure its really dust free, keeping your vinyl in closed bags stops dust and lint , and cleaning the vinyl with alcohol and a lint free rag is a must , we also use a static gun prior to printing.
Funnily enough , the cheapest vinyl printed better than the most expensive.
Always make sure the foam roller near the head is clean , this is actually what lays down the print , not the heads
There is also another tip , we saved a lot of ribbon by printing vertical columns instead of rows on large jobs , tho my pc60 didnt have the ribbon saving thing - but even if yours has , and the space between items isnt enough to activate it , printing columns would save

This is just my opinion , but using the PC for garmets is pretty expensive , considering one can buy a cheap Epson printer and sublimation inks and get better results and be more flexible and reliable- in all the years we never used our colorcams for garments.

Where we really scored was using them for domed badges - we cut blanks out of gold engraving laminate or brass with an engraving machine , applied the printed vinyl which is about 1-2mm smaller then the blank and domed the whole thing
We also made 1000's of medal and trophy inserts with club logos etc , domed too (they are standard 1" and 2" diameter circles)
Some doming resin doesnt stick well to just vinyl cos of the plasticisers in the vinyl.
We did a fair amount of small stickers etc as well , but that wasnt the main thrust

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