When I was asked to lead the launch process within Epson America for the Epson Stylus Pro GS6000 solvent-based printer, I did not realize the impact we were about to make. Being fairly new to this industry, my expectations for the final product were not always what this industry was used to. Over the year it took us to launch this first-ever product from Epson, I learned a lot about what was wrong with the solvent printing industry.
My first visit to a signage tradeshow was disappointing. All the solvent-based printers I was looking at, in my opinion, had terrible print quality. They had very poor banding, high grain or noise, and terrible colour gamut and accuracy. From one of the major brands, I was told to stand back a little and the print quality would be O.K. I was amazed that was their answer to poor image quality. Was anyone interested in higher-quality solvent printing? Or was this entire market simply doing the basics, not wanting to see if solvent print quality could be further improved. This would not be the case with my new Epson solvent printer.
Another area I found lacking in improvement was overall print speeds. In all the customer visits I made during our early specification phases, print speeds were among the most wanted features. Yes, some printers were running fast, but they were either producing very poor quality doing so, or they were very expensive devices. This was a major reason why we developed a new Dual-Array MicroPiezo AMC print head for our first solvent printer. We wanted to ensure our new solvent printer would be the fastest roll-to-roll device within our target price range.
Next, we wanted to dramatically reduce the overall cost-of-ownership by designing a solvent printer that required very little maintenance. I was quite shocked to find the extreme downtimes and maintenance requirements for many of these products. Some printers required up to five print head replacements per year! To Epson, that would be a show stopper for sure. The answers I got from many customers was that this was normal. "Every solvent printer breaks like this. It's solvent printing!" Again, this would not be the case for our first solvent printer at Epson.
I'm always amazed by this market when it comes to environmental issues. As I visited numerous sign making customers, trying to learn more about what they wanted in a new-generation sign printer, no one seemed willing to do something about the smell. You can really tell which companies were using the harder solvents by simply walking into the front door. Was this harmful to the environment? What about worker health? The various owners of these products understandably did not like this situation, but for financial reasons, put up with it. At Epson, we made a commitment to not go down this path. If we were to bring a new solvent printer to market, we were going to change this forever.
After spending a significant amount of time looking at and studying these issues, our engineers developed the Epson Stylus Pro GS6000. This printer was built to change the way you think about solvent printing and address the issues of print quality, print speed, reliability, and environmental friendliness. With industry leading features like extreme colour gamut and print quality, true production-level print speeds, a reliable Dual-Array MicroPiezo AMC print head, along with a solvent ink that is less harmful to the environment, I feel Epson has built an ink jet printer the way solvent printing should be.
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