When Is It Time to Upgrade Your Printer?

Michael Clementi

The start of a new year is the perfect time to evaluate your business goals and ensure that you have the right equipment to help you reach those objectives. With all the new printers and different technologies available today, we asked in-house printer expert Michael Clementi to weigh in on how to tell if it’s time to replace your old printer.

Q: What are the most common ways to tell if your printer is aging?

A: For aqueous piezo technology (like Epson or Roland), you’ll experience vertical banding running the length of the print, errors that you cannot navigate past or an increase in the number of cleanings needed to produce a healthy nozzle check. For aqueous thermal user-replaceable printheads (such as Canon or HP), you may see hardware errors on the machine. You can call a LexJet representative to help determine what may be causing the error; however, if you need service, it would be best to contact the printer manufacturer for quotes or troubleshooting. Some hardware-related issues indicate the need for a head replacement – not uncommon for thermal printers – but errors related to what I call the “drive train” of the printer (i.e.: belts, head/carriage motors and internal electrical components) might be reparable, but the difference in cost of repair vs. upgrading to the latest technology might be almost negligible.

Q: Are there any repairs that are worth the cost rather than buying a new printer?

A: If it is an older Epson or Roland that needs a full printhead replacement (which are not user-replaceable and can cost more than $600 for just the parts, not including labor), it makes more sense to use those funds towards a new printer. With a new model, you will have better ink usage, print more profitable jobs, work with current technology and have a printer that is covered under warranty. New technology has allowed for increase in output and a significant decrease in the footprint of the printer. New printers will also be more efficient and will offer a wider color gamut than older models. If your current printer is several generations old, it may be difficult finding parts for the repair due to the manufacturers halting production of older parts (as they call, “end of life”).

Q: What kind of lifespan can I expect to get from a printer?

A: The average lifespan for aqueous machines is three to five years, depending on the technology, frequency of use and how well it is maintained. Solvent and latex printers can be in the six- to eight-year range, again depending upon use and maintenance.

Q: When is it a wiser investment to upgrade rather than repair?

The Branding and Presentation Role of Large Format Inkjet at The Marketing Store

Color management inkjet printingHeadquartered in Chicago, The Marketing Store is a global branding and promotions agency with offices on five continents. An important component of its creative services is its ability to print large format, both for its clients and for presentations and mock-ups.

“Being able to print large format images sets you apart from other agencies when you give a creative pitch, plus we’re able to produce graphics for trade shows and special events,” says Steve Fischer, production artist for The Marketing Store.

Whether it’s packaging, promotional materials or something out of the ordinary that needs to be brought to life, The Marketing Store’s print shop studio is able to meet the challenge with its contingent of three printers – a Canon iPF9100, Epson Stylus Pro 7900 and HP 5500 – plus media advice from its LexJet customer specialist, David Finkel.

Print production studio inkjet“As more projects and requests come in for specialty applications it’s good to have LexJet in our back pocket. Sometimes there are weird requests and with every pitch there’s some sort of specific challenge that requires a new way of presenting materials. If there’s something I don’t think I can achieve I can call David to help me find what I need. He’s been great at finding materials and making suggestions,” says Fischer.

Fischer adds that they try to do as much in-house printing as possible, occasionally farming out larger projects that go beyond the capabilities of their current printer mix. The concept of The Marketing Store is to be as full service as possible and to meet any need their clients may have. The studio blends photography, color management, file preparation and print production seamlessly to help fulfill the overall mission.

“The studio supports the rest of the agency, and we’re always looking to expand our capabilities,” says Fischer.  “So, instead of having to go out to produce creative we can keep it in-house, which not only keeps our costs down but allows us to ensure quality.”

Inkjet printing presentation boardFischer adds that The Marketing Store’s studio has had great success with LexJet 8 Mil Production Satin Photo Paper and LexJet TOUGHcoat Water-Resistant Self Adhesive Polypropylene for presentations boards, promotional product mock-ups and displays.

Communication through Appropriate Material Selection

Design, material selection and overall execution by Capitol Exhibit Services contributed to an effective exhibit for the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency's office in the Pentagon. Photo courtesy National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency.

Every graphics project is ultimately about solving a communications challenge. Sometimes it’s as simple as identifying Joe’s Bar and Grill, while other times the message is far more complex. Moreover, while design is the foundation of effective communication, there are other factors that contribute to and complement the design to create a cohesive and consistent message, such as material selection and the right media mix.

Capitol Exhibit Services, based in Manassas, Va., successfully tackled just such a challenge at the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency’s office in the Pentagon. The challenge in this case was taking a number of design elements and creating a wall-length exhibit that would illustrate the support and services the agency provides to the U.S. military: Humanitarian support; disaster relief and recovery programs; intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance; global positioning systems; homeland security, support for America’s war fighters; and navigation safety.

The original design called for an anchoring graphic middle panel with a metallic vinyl as the background, an informational panel on one side and a continuation of the graphic panel on the other. Capitol Exhibit Services decided that the more effective print medium for the graphic panels would be LexJet’s Sunset Photo Metallic Paper.

“We were looking for an alternative to metallic vinyl that would still give the graphic an extra shine so I called Jaimie Mask at LexJet for some alternatives and she suggested that we try the Sunset Photo Metallic Paper. Jaimie is a wealth of information and a very good person to have on the phone when we need help finding the latest materials,” says Barney Gault, manager of graphic design and production for Capitol Exhibit Services. “It’s a beautiful paper; it looks just like the Kodak Endura I used to work with in a previous life. Instead of a metallic background, most of it is white, but even the white has a pearlescent shine to it with this paper.”

The graphic was printed on the company’s HP 5500 in about 12 panels, each of which was 40 inches wide and eight feet long (applied vertically). “It worked beautifully. It’s a heavy paper, so instead of wrapping it around the edges like we normally do, we flush mounted the paper and wrapped the laminate around the edges.”

Dimensional letters painted silver cap off the top of the main panel. The secondary panel that details the support and services provided by the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency was printed on LexJet 8 Mil Ultra Photo Satin Extra and applied second-surface to 1/4-in. plexiglass on stainless steel standoffs.

“I’ve used the Sunset Photo Metallic Paper for a lot of second-surface applications. It’s a great look because you get the depth of the plexi and the shine of the paper. However, one of the prints was larger than 44 inches so I couldn’t use the Sunset Metallic. If I was going to use it on one panel I needed to use it on all of them for that particular piece,” says Gault.

Heart of America Beverage Reinforces its Brands

Heart of America Beverage, based in Springfield, Mo., thrives on the unusual when it comes to promoting its brands through point-of-sale promotions. “The signs and promotions we get into can be ridiculous, like mini-fridges, bar wraps, and big graphics on the sides of buildings. It’s the out-of-the-ordinary signage that gets the most attention in the market, which is more advertising for our brands and for the accounts we’re serving,” says Steve Teters, graphic designer for Heart of America Beverage in Springfield. “Our salespeople can go relatively crazy and pitch just about anything to give our brands maximum visibility.”

Heart of America, which used to be known as The Beer Company before it acquired Heart of America Beverage and adopted the name, has in-house printing capabilities in three of its four locations, which are spread out from Springfield to Joplin and Sedalia in Missouri, and into Oklahoma. The Springfield branch is the hub of the Heart of America wheel and is the primary printing center.

Teters says that print volume has increased significantly in recent years, prompting Heart of America to invest in two large format Canon printers. As a result, production has increased and the print operation has become more efficient in the process.