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Under the Hood

Epson SC-F10000

Brian Sims looks at the capabilities of Epson’s SC-F10000 and how this fast, high-volume dye-sublimation printer can enable you to break into markets such as fashion and leisurewear

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The Surecolor SC-F10000 comes with a substrate capacity of 60kg in weight

Textile by volume

For textiles produced on an industrial scale with enough depth of colours to grab consumers’ attention, Epson has developed the ideal solution.

The SureColor SC-F10000 has been produced for fast, high-volume dye-sublimation printing, suitable for fashion, leisurewear and any application that needs colourful textiles.

The size of the printer is the first thing to hit you. Capable of printing on media up to nearly 2m in width, the physical size of the machine is 4.5m wide and 1.8m tall.

The SC-F10000 can handle media with a 1950mm width and a diameter of up to 250mm

The second thing worth commending is to do with the machine’s production capabilities. During production, the colour almost looks like it is poured onto the substrate when the machine is in full effect. The F10000 has four print heads which are 4.7" in size, meaning the ink deployed from either three or ten litre tanks enable the printer to achieve productivity levels of up to 255m2/hr, making it very efficient.

The inkjet technology contained in the printer head is deemed by Epson to be a market leader and is in a large number of its printers. In 2007, the company came to the market with a new concept, the introduction of its Thin Film Piezo (TFP) technology which is used across the complete range of printers and is now truly tried and tested.

The piezo element of a print head is common to all printers using this technology and has to be produced in very thin sections. Epson chooses not to follow this path and instead uses a proprietary process to form a dense piezo crystal element that is just one micron thick on a silicon wafer.

The heads are produced with what Epson calls “Micro Electro Mechanical Systems” (MEMS) which means elements of the head are placed 84.7 microns apart on silicon or glass. With ink channels and nozzles produced by the MEMS process, Epson claims the PrecisionCore TFP print heads can produce almost perfectly round dots with great precision.

The PrecisionCore TFP print heads have the print chip less than one hundredth the width of a human hair in thickness, and by using materials this small you can have a relatively small print engine and large ink deployment.

The PrecisionCore TFP print head can place dots extremely accurately in both size and position in the colour gamut which is why Epson claims in its 2013 PrecisionCore white paper that the raw specification of DPI (dots per inch) is now an “obsolete way to compare print systems”.

Epson also argues that resolution measured in DPI is not necessarily the best way to quantify print quality. The company does however agree that DPI is part of the methodology. Greyscale and accurate dot placement is also a key consideration.

Supporting ink technologies

The dot is laid onto the substrate in a combination of three patented technologies: Multilayer Halftone, Look-up Table (LUT) and Micro Weave.

The purpose of the use of the Multilayer Halftone is to ensure the banding that can be an issue with inkjet technology is overcome by using three different layers of halftone ink dot deployment. In doing this, the random nature of the placement of the dot means the boundary between the screens are not produced.

LUT technology has been developed in collaboration with the Munsell Color Science Laboratory at the Rochester Institute of Technology in the US. The purpose of this is to increase the colour fidelity and give a smoother graduation between colours.

Finally, the Micro Weave technology ensures smooth lay down of the ink, compensating for any issues that come from the print head moving perpendicular to the substrate. With all these technologies, the images produced are vibrantly coloured.

The Piezo electric print head uses the UltraChrome DS range of specially developed inks. A key market for dye-sublimation printing is clothing and on top of the quality of the dot produced, the UltraChrome DS inks come with the OEKO-TEX certificate which means they are suitable and safe for direct skin contact products.

OEKO-TEX is a test and certification system that is used to ensure products used in applications with direct skin contact are safe and will not result in a negative reaction. There are a number of locations worldwide including Japan and Europe with a number of offices throughout the other continents which monitor and control the chemicals used to avoid any reaction to the inks on our skin.

Given the depth of technology invested into the PrecisionCore TFP print heads and the UltraChrome DS inks, the SureColor SC-F10000 will be able to print to a high level of quality and depth of colour vibrancy.

Replacing heads made easy

Colour control means nothing if you cannot keep the print head fully functional and again, Epson has a system to ensure the heads are all kept in the optimum condition. The machine monitors the performance of the individual nozzles and if they start to block with the cleaning function having not resolved the issue, the machine directs which head to change.

Colour control means nothing if you cannot keep the print head fully functional and again, Epson has a system to ensure the heads are all kept in the optimum condition

The operator can easily switch to a new head and using a camera, the machine will complete a recalibration check to ensure the newly installed head is working to the expected level and then the interface will complete the task by showing the exchange and calibration has been successful.

The machine monitors the performance of the individual nozzles and directs which head to change

With all aspects of the colour deployment covered, obviously if you are attempting to print fabrics on an industrial scale, you need to be able to control the substrate.

The SureColor SC-F10000 comes with a substrate capacity of 60kg in weight and as mentioned before 1950mm media width and a diameter of up to 250mm. To ensure this wide width of reel unwinds and winds accurately, Epson uses the Advanced Auto Tension Control system. This ensures the substrate is kept at an optimum tension all through the printing process.

Whilst this press is not small, it has been well designed to give volume in capacity and in reliability.

Brian Sims Principal Consultant, Metis Print Consultancy, www.metis-uk.eu

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