The Epson 9900 – Finally a Really New Epson

By Ron Ellis

 

               It has been a long time since Epson has released a truly new printer for the graphic arts market. Everything since the Epson 76/9600 line has been based on the 78/9800 line which has been out for many years. Even the upgrade from the 78/9800 line to the 7880/9880 line was little different from the previous model of printer. Even worse – over all these years speed barely improved and it seemed like the head technology actually got worse with many users reporting nozzle clogs on a daily basis. Even so Epson has remained the dominant printer used by the graphic arts industry for proofing. As other manufacturers have come out with newer and faster printers for the proofing market the Epson printers began to show their age. Now, the new 79/9900 printers have finally begun shipping, and after several installs the new printer is beginning to develop its own reputation.

               The first thing about the new printer is that it is fast – nearly twice as fast as the current shipping EpsonŐs. Speed has long been an issue with Epson printers, and with the new ones most users will be happy with the improvement. Many users who plan on moving to the new Epson are doing it solely on the basis of speed. The printers are available in a 24Ó and 44Ó model (there is no longer a 17Ó version).

               The second major advancement with the new printers is an optional built in spectrophotometer. The optional spectrophotometer is a based on the XRite Pulse. Unlike competing machines with built ins spectrophotometers this one can be purchased separately and added at any time, as well as switched from one printer to another if needed (although not just Ôsnapped inŐ, the install procedure is a little more involved). IN addition the spectrophotometer can be specified as UV filter or UV included (unlike other competing machines which only include UV filter devices). It also contains both white and black backing plates. The addition of the spectrophotometer has big implications for closed loop calibration, and means that the operator, depending on the rip they are using, can easily calibrate the device remotely or at any time without having to manually perform the measurements. This also has major implications for those interested in remote proofing, as one can remotely calibrate and verify proofers and proofs using the built in spectrophotometer providing the RIP supports it. (Most of the major RIPs such as CGS ORIS ColorTuner, EFI Colorproof XF, and GMG Colorproof all support both manual calibration, relinearization, and proof verification using the internal spectrophotometer). The printer contains a built in dryer to help make sure prints are dry for reading.

               Another important feature is that the print heads have been completely redesigned. In the current generation of EpsonŐs nozzle clogs are a cause of major problems and loss of productivity. In the new generation of EpsonŐs the nozzles also are able to automatically detect and repair clogged nozzles. The 10-channel MicroPiezo TFPŞ print head also contains more nozzles which allow the printer to attain the higher speeds as well as 3.5 picoliter droplet sizes that procude higher resolution prints than the previous Epson printers.

               The new printers also contain more inks – using ten inks rather than eight as in the previous printers. The printer actually contains 11 inks, and can automatically switch between photo black and mate black ink modes (using 10 inks at one time depending on the mode.)  The new Epson UltraChrome¨ HDR inks contain an additional orange and green set of inks which make for a much larger print gamut than previous Epson printers. For CMYK prints the extra colors are not a big deal, but for accurate spot color matching these inks will prove important. The extra gamut available is especially import for spot color matching, and also for fine arts and other applications. Right now with the current Epson printers there are some spot colors that cannot be produced accurately. While the new printers will not be able to match all spot colors, matching will be improved. In addition to an expanded gamut the new printer also addresses some of the issues with black reproduction. The new ink set contains a black ink that is much denser than previous black inks.

               The 900 series printers also have some innovations that are new to Epson, but which have been available in competing ink jets for years. The new printers now contain a media tracking system which barcodes and tracks media according to type and length. In addition to tracking media the printer contains new features such as myEpson, which allows users to track printer and media usage, including cost per print, reports, and remote print monitoring.  While competing printers such as HP and Canon have had these features for years  - resulting in the comfortable relationships they have large IT organizations – these are welcome features for Epson.

               There are other items that will be welcome to users of Epson printers. The printer is quieter than previous Epson printers as well, and the paper catch is an improvement over the horrible paper catchers in past Epsons. These little things often caused buyers of the previous generations of Epson printers to wonder who way designing these printers and what where they thinking. (Many were amazed at how horrible the paper catchers of generation after generation of the larger Epson printers were. We all though the person who designed them should be fired – but the horrible design stayed for three generations of Epson printers.). The cutter is changed as well – instead of cutting from the left and right a new rotary cutter cuts the paper in one direction. Media also loads differently, with a new spindle free media loading technology. There is much to like about these new Epson printers but most of all the speed and a new generation of non-clogging print heads are appealing to most users of the current Epson printers. The inline spectrophotometer option offers even more potential for remote calibration, proof validation, and automated relinearization. But most of all – itŐs fast.

 

Ron Ellis Consulting, LLC

Boston, MA

 

Ron Ellis is a Boston-based consultant specializing in color management, graphic arts worflows, and press calibration. He has provided installation and training services to dealers, manufacturers, and content creators since 1986. An IdeaAlliance G7 Expert and co-chair of the GRACoL Committee, Ron also specializes in creating internal working spaces for brands and agencies that allow them to work more efficiently with vendors, saving both time and money. Ron is published frequently in industry magazines, and has produced training materials for numerous printing industry vendors and publishers. Clients include:, Gannet, Hill Holiday, Pantone, PublisherŐs Clearinghouse, TomŐs of Maine, TracyLocke, WB Mason, as well as hundreds of printers, agencies and content creators. He can be contacted at 603-498-4553 or through his web site at www.ronellisconsulting.com.