Fri, Feb

A jewel of a printer

A jewel of a printer

Sophie Matthews-Paul visits Roland DG's UK headquarters and puts the company's new metallic ink option through its paces.

With the boundaries surrounding inkjet printing being pushed further into the distance with every machine launch, it is hardly surprising that the next development has been the arrival of a metallic ink. Roland DG's introduction of its SolJet Pro III XC-540 MT demonstrates clearly how the incorporation of this innovative addition to its established eco-solvent technology is ready to take wide-format digital technology another step along the road to versatility.

Roland DG's Soljet print-and-cut solutions already have white ink established as an option. The inclusion of a metallic silver now turns this machine into a unit which is more than adequate for the colour and quality needed for the majority of display applications.
Using a silver within the existing ink set means that all colours can benefit from a metallic effect, including white, and the results broaden the range of effects and finishes which can be incorporated into many different types of output, including stickers and decals, labels and packaging prototypes. To date, wide-format digital inkjet hasn't been able to cater for applications where a metallic element is desired but, certainly, the Roland Soljet III XC-540 MT produces excellent results across a range of different surfaces and types of material.

The addition of metallic silver to other shades in the CMYK palette, as well as white, means that glitter effects can be included as part of the workflow without any complicated or difficult processes when the file is Ripped and printed. Display producers who are accustomed to the print-and-cut methodology are already familiar with creating cutting paths to be applied to images. Generating the extra colour option does need the skills of a user well-acquainted with, say, Adobe Illustrator, Photoshop or CorelDraw, the most commonly used packages for origination. Operators need to be accustomed to working with some of the finer elements found in these programs to be able to create the necessary masks and channels to bring in the metallic as though it were a spot or special colour.

Nonetheless, the fact that the metallic ink works to greatest effect when used with other colours is indicative of its ability to blend smoothly with existing shades. Thus, obvious examples, such as gold, are complemented by the entire palette of standard colours without any compromise on the 'glitter' effect. There are no complications when sending the job to the RIP as Roland's bundled VersaWorks is configured to work with standard CMYK, plus integrated options for outputting with white and/or metallic inks.

The Roland Soljet III XC-540 MT is the logical choice for the addition of metallic ink. It is a popular and cost-effective system which has long proved its worth amongst sign-makers and print service providers who want a 1.37m print-and-cut option. At a whisker under ?26,000 it is very keenly priced for what it achieves in terms of throughput speed and quality.

Although the formulation of the new metallic ink is being closely guarded by Roland, the way it works within the printer is such that settling of the particles and clogging won't be an issue. Considering the density which can be achieved, along with the smoothness of finish, the company has obviously maintained the balance between viscosity and the ability to perform to fine tolerances in the ink lines, printheads and during the jetting process.

Examples of application produced using metallic ink range from stickers and labels where the gloss and glitter provided play an intrinsic part of the original design. For larger jobs, the inclusion of this option results in effects which literally 'pop' off the material, such as with photographic images where elements can be lifted with the incorporation of metallic elements in specific areas. The media plays a part, of course, as does the initial design and Roland says there are no problems over-laminating jobs for additional durability.

With its history steeped in sign-making products it's sometimes easy to forget that Roland DG has been instrumental in bringing to market variations on an original theme, and for taking an established technology and pushing it one step further. Certainly the idea of metallic ink isn't new but physically finding a way to incorporate it into an existing machine structure makes more sense than starting again with a completely new printer design and configuration. This new option sits neatly alongside the established eco-solvent inks and additional white and shouldn't take long to prove itself as a valuable addition to the display industry.


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