Roland DGA Corporation describes their newest wide-format dye-sub printer as an intelligent multi-function dye-sublimation printer. That’s because the Texart RT-640M uses specially formulated Texart SBL3 sublimation inks that enable you to print directly onto coated polyester fabrics or on different types of sublimation transfer papers.
The direct-to-textile print option on the Texart RT-640M simplifies the production of dye-sublimation fabrics for soft signage and trade show graphics. The ability to print to different types of transfer paper lets you create a range of products, including sublimated hard goods and rigid signs to apparel and decor fabrics.
Roland’s Texart SBL3 inks are available in 4-color (CMYK), 8-color (CMYKLcLmOrVi), and 8-color fluorescent (CMYKOrViFyFp) configurations.
The RT-640M includes several advanced features:
The media take-up incorporates adjustable front rollers for no-skew printing, as well as magnet weights for improved tensioning and performance.
State-of-the-art 8-channel printheads deliver unmatched color and image results on a wide range of materials. The heads also optimize ink coverage for lower operating costs.
The Roland Bulk Ink Switch System features 1000 cc pouches and automatically switches to a back-up pouch for non-stop printing in a 4-color configuration.
An ink collection channel within the platen facilitates direct printing onto mesh, flag, voile and other thin textiles.
The Texart RT-640M comes with ErgoSoft Roland Edition 2 software. This software offers unique tools for textile dye-sublimation and allows users to RIP up to eight jobs simultaneously.
ErgoSoft Roland Edition 2 boasts an Aurelon PDF engine with 64-bit native support, plus unlimited hot folders and job cost estimation. Other features include a new smart fill function, rectangular image nesting, variable data, and a huge range of color profiles, and more.
“The RT-640M is an unbeatable investment for anyone looking to get into the dye-sublimation market,” said Lily Hunter, Roland DGA Product Manager, Textiles and Consumable Supplies. “This value-packed inkjet offers the most flexibility you can get in an entry-level sublimation printer. Its multi-function capabilities allow users to easily and cost-effectively produce everything from flags, soft signage and backlit signage to ChromaLuxe photo panels, apparel, and décor.”
Chromaluxe is backing up the certification with an outdoor-life warranty of two years for photography-based prints and three years of signs.
“The ChromaLuxe certification and warranties provide assurance to Texart series users that their graphics sublimated to ChromaLuxe EXT panels will stand up to powerful UV rays and the elements,” said Lily Hunter, Roland DGA Product Manager, Textiles and Consumables. “They get the best of both worlds – colorful, vibrant graphics and the very best outdoor durability possible.”
This ChromaLuxe certification applies to all standard Texart SBL3 inks. The inks are available in 4-color CMYK configurations or 8-color configurations that add Light Cyan, Light Magenta, Orange, and Violet inks to the CMYK inks.
Designed to bring out the best in Roland’s advanced Texart RT-640 and XT-640 dye-sublimation printers, SBL3 inks are ideal for creating vibrant sublimated signage, apparel, accessories and hard goods. In addition to producing rich, durable graphics, these water-based, fast-drying inks contain a high concentration of dyes. This allows for reduced ink usage while retaining maximum vibrancy.
ChomaLuxe is a global manufacturer of premium print media for applications that require superb image quality and durability. In addition to sublimatable aluminum panels, they offer sublimation-ready tempered hardboard, tabletops, wood/MDF panels, and flooring panels.
All coatings and substrates are made in the USA with manufacturing and fabrication done in Louisville, KY. With additional locations in Belgium and Australia, ChromaLuxe provides products to more than 80 countries.
ChromaLuxe is an extension of Universal Woods, the world’s leading manufacturer of hard surface sublimatable products and mezzanine decking. It is also a sister brand to Unisub, which provides the highest quality custom sublimatable products. To learn more about ChromaLuxe, visit https://www.chromaluxe.com.
If you own UV flatbed printers or dye sublimation printers, it can be difficult to imagine all of the creative ways the equipment can be used. So consider inviting a few local artists, designers, and makers into your shop and ask how they might use the printers’ capabilities.
For example, in January Roland DGA and artist Bonny Pierce Lhotka hosted a 3-day Imaginarium project at Roland’s headquarters in Irvine, California. Lhotka, author of the book ‘Hacking the Digital Print,’ helps photographers and artists understand how photographic images can be output or transferred to dozens of different surfaces. She has experimented with creative photo composition and printmaking techniques to create original mixed-media artworks on many surfaces beyond art papers and canvas.
During the Roland Imaginarium event, six artists, photographers, and multimedia designers made art with Roland VersaUV LEC printer/cutters, VersaUV LEF benchtop flatbed printers, and Texart dye-sublimation printers. Jay Roberts, product manager for UV devices at Roland DGA, led a team of printing experts who helped the Imaginarium artists experiment with different processes, materials, and machines.
Artist Dorothy Simpson Krause came up with two thought-provoking projects: a limited edition art book (“Ladies of the Night”) housed in a decorated aluminum box and “WarZone,” a traveling board game with no winners.
Art Book in Decorated Aluminum Box
“Ladies of the Night” is a concertina book, meaning that the pages are printed in one continuous strip and folded like an accordion. When you grip the folded pages in one hand, you can flip through pages with the other. For this art book project, a 9.5 x 57-inch print was folded to 12 pages (9.5 x 11.5 inches each). It was housed in a 10 x 12-in. aluminum box that was printed with an image from the book.
The pages featured digitally manipulated photographs Krause had taken in 2003 of twin performance artists Abigail and Emily Taylor for a series called “Body + Soul.” Text on the final page of the “Ladies of the Night” book provides statistics about prostitution in the United States.
“My project had several distinct challenges,” says Krause. “The ink needed to be as rich on the reverse as on the front and not soak into the uncoated back side. The prints had to be scored and folded into pages without having inks crack on the edges of folds. And the images on the back and front of the 57-inch long print had to be perfectly aligned.”
Jay Roberts recommended ways to resolve these issues. The books was printed with Roland’s Eco-UV S ink on a VersaUV LEC printer/cutter. The VersaUV printer typically prints on a range of flexible materials used in package printing.
The Eco-UV S ink is dense and flexible and was designed to shrink or stretch when wrapping vehicles.
For the “Ladies of the Night” book, the ink produced deep rich blacks on both the coated and uncoated surfaces of Roland’s Premium Matte Paper. And the ink didn’t crack when the pages were folded. A scoring machine was used to make indentations for folding the pages.
“The paper and ink were so heavy, it would have been difficult to score the pages by hand,” says Krause.
A Roland VersaUV LEF-300 flatbed printer was used to print the aluminum box that holds the book. To replicate the look and feel of an embossed book cover, a layer of clear gloss ink was applied to the letters of the book title.
To prepare the image the cover image for the box, the white on the costume was selected in Photoshop, saved as a spot channel and designated to print as a 100% white base layer on the aluminum. After the image layer was printed, the clear gloss layer was applied, using a file that included only the letters of the image with the red omitted.
Before the box was printed, the edges were taped to keep them clean from overspray from the printer. An outline template was printed on the surface of the flatbed to ensure consistent placement as the layers were printed.
As an add-on to the book project, Krause used Roland’s Texart RT-640 Dye Sublimation printer to transfer six images from the book onto 11 x 14 –inch aluminum panels that had been painted white and treated with a polymer coating.
The images were first printed in reverse with dye-sub inks onto dye-sub-transfer paper. The image transfer occurred when the prints were subjected to a controlled amount of heat and pressure in a flatbed heat press. During the heat transfer process, the inks became gases that permeated the coated surface of the metal. The print are very durable and scratch resistant and feel smooth to the touch.
“The white details of the costume are crisp and vibrant, while the underlying metals provides a glowing reflectivity,” said Krause.
War Zone: A Game Without Winners
“War Zone” is a traveling board game with no winners. The suitcase-like polystyrene box, game board, spinner, and “us” and “them” checker-like magnets were designed by Dorothy Krause and printed on Roland devices.
After printing an outline for the box on the surface of the UV VersaUV LEF 300 flatbed printer, the box a white layer was printed under the entire title, followed by a layer of gray and red. Ink. Two layers of gloss ink was printed over the “War Zone” title to provide an embossed-like effect.
The box was lined with contour-cut board printed with an image of the first atomic bomb blast and text about the nature of armed conflict and human aggression. A spinner board was contour cut and printed with a map that shows countries with ongoing military conflicts.
A checkerboard-like game board was printed on 9 x 12-inch matte board with the “rules of engagement” printed across the bottom. The “soldiers” are red and black magnets that were printed with white ink to read “us” or “them.”
Other Projects at Imaginarium
In addition to Bonny Lhotka and Dorothy Krause, other artists at the 2017 Roland Imaginarium included Jake Welin, Ileana Frometa Grillo, Karin Schminke, and Sean Teegarden. They used Roland printers to transfer photos and multi-layered image compositions onto pre-painted and plaster-treated canvases, transparent films, film reels, birchwood, pre-cut wood panels, and other unique media.
In a blog post that showcases the work of the six artists, Ben Fellowes of Roland DGA writes, “It was a pleasure to watch this talented group of artists at work and eye-opening to see what they did with our printing technology. At Roland, we have always understood the potential of our machines as fine art tools.”
The printers used at the Roland Imaginarium were’t specifically designed for artists, designers, and makers. But partnerships with creative professionals could ultimately help users of these devices create some strikingly beautiful products in the fields of apparel, awards, packaging, gifts, and interior decor.
The Roland VersaUV LEC series of UV printer/cutters was designed to print, contour cut, varnish, and emboss flexible substrates used to create bags, folding cartons, labels, and specialty graphics. This printer is available in 30-inch and 54-inch widths.
The Roland VersaUV LEF-300 Benchtop Flatbed printer can print directly on rigid and flexible materials up to 3.94 inches thick and up to 13 inches wide and 30 inches long. It is typically used to print on promotional products, giftware, awards, smartphones, tablets, jewelry, trophies and specialized signs.
Many artists, photographers, and designers now know they can earn income by licensing designs that print-service providers can output onto apparel, accessories, decorative art, tabletops, laminates, and fabrics.
Some entrepreneurial creative professionals are teaming up print-service providers to design and create their own branded lines of products for sale online or at art fairs.
According to Dorothy Krause, “Artists are becoming more and more aware of the advantages of flatbed printers, dye-sublimation printing, and contour cutting devices.” Printers that can use gloss, white, and metallic inks (such as Roland’s) are particularly versatile for creating interesting designs.
She believes artists and print-service providers can both benefit from working together to envision new and exciting ways to push the boundaries of what’s possible.
Printing firms and photo labs that use dye-sublimation printing to produce “metal photo prints” for professional photographers and home decor should be aware that all pre-coated metal panels may not be equally durable.
According to Henry Wilhelm, Director of Research at Wilhelm Imaging Research (WIR), “Very complex interactions take place between sublimation inks and the ink-receptive polymer coatings of dye sublimation prints.” He said some interactions occur during the short, high-heat image transfer step involved in making metal photo prints. Other interactions occur very gradually over time, during the long-term display and storage of the prints.
“What a metal photo print looks like when it emerges from the heat press tells you nothing at all about how long it will last,” said Wilhelm. He notes that “Sublimation on metal photo panels is a new and rapidly advancing technology, and all aluminum panels — frequently referred to in the marketplace as ‘metal prints’ — are by no means the same. If your lab is using untested products, both you and your customers are flying blind.”
WIR is widely recognized as the world’s leading independent print permanence testing laboratory.
ChromaLuxe Panels Pass Tests with Flying Colors
One of the first companies to promote sublimation printing on high-quality metal photo panels was ChomaLuxe. The Louisville, Kentucky-based company supplies high-quality blank metal, wood, and other rigid substrates for applications that require superb image quality and durability.
Comprehensive, multi-factor print permanence tests at Wilhelm Imaging Research have confirmed the durability of ChromaLuxe sublimatable aluminum photo panels.
Although the 4-color Epson and 8-color Sawgrass inks have different dye formulations, and distinctly different individual ink fade patterns, both brands of inks proved to be well matched to the latest ChromaLuxe sublimation coating formulations.
What makes the WIR Display Permanence Ratings for ChromaLuxe panels most impressive is the fact that the prints can be safely displayed without being laminated, displayed behind glass or acrylic, or face-mounted to acrylic sheets.
ChromaLuxe prints have unprecedented resistance to surface abrasion, high humidity, atmospheric ozone, and contact with water.
Wilhelm Imaging Research found that unframed, displayed prints made with the latest generation of ChromaLuxe aluminum photo panels are far more stable and longer lasting than Kodak Endura or other current silver-halide papers, including silver-halide prints framed under UV-absorbing acrylic or glass or when face-mounted to UV-absorbing acrylic.
About Dye Sublimation
Dye-sublimation printing is an attractive process for creating durable photographs because it uses heat to infuse the inks directly into a specialized coating on the surface of metal panels, tabletops, or wood.
ChromaLuxe has committed substantial R&D resources to constantly improve the image quality, permanence, Dmax, and printing consistency of sublimatable photo panels.
“Genuine ChromaLuxe prints now offer photographers an unmatched combination of display permanence, physical surface durability, and color brilliance,” said Kristina Lowe, director of marketing for ChromaLuxe.
You can see ChromaLuxe photo and art panels at the PDN PhotoPlus International Conference + Expo, October 27-29, 2016 at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center in New York. The PDN PhotoPlus International Conference + Expo is the largest photography and imaging show in North America. It is attended by over 21,000 professional photographers, photography enthusiasts, videographers, students and educators from around the world.