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hp-latex-360This last year HP released it’s 3rd generation latex printer. Since HP released their first generation latex printer, the HP L25500, they have rocked the sign and graphics industry. Fast curing, non-toxic printing with a wide range of other benefits. The latest release, the HP 300 series gave consumers more options, starting with a minimal printer, the 310, a medium duty printer the 330 and their high performance printer the 360.

This last year, we were one of those printing companies that needed a 2nd printer. We had previously purchased an L26500, now called the L260, and were deciding on wether to purchase a new 300 series printer, or buy a used L260. I’m sure many other print shops are or were in the same boat.

The obvious benefits of purchasing a used L260 are:

  • Cheaper
  • Color matching would be easy
  • Same inks, same parts

But then the Latex 360 had it’s greater selling points:

  • Faster warmups
  • Non-scratching inks
  • Faster production
  • 8″ Touch screen display
  • LED Backlit printing enclosure
  • Up to 64″ media
  • Built in Spectrometer for color profiling

So we did it. We bought the best, the Latex 360. It’s a beautiful piece of printer, the nicest looking I’ve seen. Overall, we are pleased with our decision, but there are a few things that have been a disappointment. First, let’s go over what we are really pleased about.

First, the overall operation is nice. The touch screen display is nice and the manual is built into the printer so that the operator can read everything directly from the touch screen.

Second, the print width is great. We’ve already taken advantage of the new print width, printing on 62″ banner material.

Thirdly, the scratch resistant inks are really nice. The prints really are scratch resistant.

Fourthly, the built in spectrometer is cool. But there have been some cases where we should have just stuck with the stop HP profiles.

Fifthly, the printing is faster, kinda. Where you have a long job to print, such as a long nesting of banners, printing is super fast, especially since banner printing using 6-Pass printing is super fast, and the print quality is super high.

Sixthly, the maintenance upgrades are brilliant. Instead of replacing multiple ink maintenance items, the funnel, the ink maintenance cartridge and the ink container, everything is combined into the ink maintenance cartridge. That’s it. You only have 1 thing to replace (besides print heads of course).

Seventhly, The 1.5 minute warmup time is AMAZING! The L260 takes so long to warmup. The 360 really shines in this area.

Ok, so let’s talk about some of the bad things.

Firstly, for some reason it’s much harder to load. It’s not nearly as easy to feed media into the L260 for some reason. The media hangs up almost every time we try to load.

Secondly, the take-up reel is our main issue and it’s kind of a big one. The take-up reel on the L260 utilized light sensors. The new 360 uses pressure, meaning you HAVE to use the tension bar for every print. And because you have to use the tension bar to print, it makes attaching the print to the core really tricky. The expectation is that you waste the first 6-8 ft of every print. With the L260, you only needed to tack it to the core once the print got low enough. The tension bar was always optional. Now it’s mandatory.

Thirdly the take-up spindle is made to fall out whenever you try to slide off the core. In the past you could just unlatch it and pull it out just enough to slide off the core. Now it falls off.

Fourthly, the printing is faster only when you can do a long continuous print. However, in our shop, most of our printing involves dozens of 3ft jobs of decals. The L260 takes on this kind of task well since it doesn’t cool down between prints. The printing is almost continuous, one job to the next. However, the new Latex 360 has a long cool down time between jobs. So there really isn’t any speed increase for our workflow, unless we are printing banners.

Fifthly, on the L260 it was really easy to advance or retract the media at any point in the operation with a stationary button. However, with the 360, you have to go into the substrate menu in order to move the media.

Overall, we are pleased with our decision. There are a few things that we think could have been made better, but it is a nice printer. Having 2 printers has been a great move for our company, and it’s nice having the latest in HP Latex printing technology.

If you have any specific questions about the printers, ask below!

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If you are in the sign industry long enough you will be asked to hang a sign in a situation that doesn’t allow for standard mounting solutions. 3M VHB tape is often a good alternative in situations where nails, screws and bolts cannot be used. Checkout this video from 3M describing the different VHB tape for different applications:

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Fotoba XL TJOL Automatic Cutter

fotoba-xl-automatic-cutterHokey Smokes Bullwinkle! I just ran across the dream team in the printing business. For those of you with HP Scitex TJ 8300/8500 Printers, the Fotoba XL TJOL Automatic Cutter will cut down your labor in a big way. Ramp up your production and the Colex TJOL will make your horizontal and vertical cuts for you as fast as you print, putting them in a nice stack, ready for packaging.

The Colex XL TJOL Automatic Cutter will cut down on labor and reprints. Check it out here: http://www.colex.com/xl-tjol-digital-cutter.html

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Flatbed Cutter Media Reference List

colexWhile perusing the Colex website looking at their flatbed cutters, we came across a great reference guide for flatbed cutter tools and the various media you can cut with them. Want to cut leather? Use an oscillating knife. Want to cut banner material? Use a fixed knife. Take a look: http://www.colex.com/sharp-flatbed-cutter-media.html

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Ezy Taper Laminator

ezy-taperToday on SignTrader.com, I ran across a manual laminator that I hadn’t seen before, the Ezy Taper. The Ezy Taper is a manual laminator that you crank by hand. The optional takeup roll is also done manually. The Ezy Taper is a beautifully crafted machine, and it’s speeds are only limited by the strength and vigor of the operator. It’s rollers are made from a specially formulated compound which allows uneven surfaces, like banner grommets, to pass through without hindering operation and quality. The machine also has several adjustments for accuracy and larger substrates.

On the other hand, this product boasts an $8000 price tag, which is a couple thousand more than my brand new Royal Sovereign laminator with heat assist and takeup roll. For that price, I’d rather have something with automation.

Here is the official Ezy Taper product video. The black background is kind of annoying, but it will give you an idea of how smooth the machine is to operate.

Let’s here from our listeners. Does anyone have an Ezy Taper? What has your experience been? Do you use it differently than you would use an electric standard laminator like a Royal Sovereign or a Seal Laminator?

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If you are researching decal making, the most important thing to help you on your journey is to learn Adobe Illustrator or Corel. These are vector based design softwares that, if you learn well, will simplify your ability to make decals when you actually buy a machine.

In decal making, you will do all of your design in Adobe Illustrator and Corel, and even define your cut lines in most cases with these softwares. So, if you are looking to purchase a decal making machine, the most helpful thing you can do to prepare yourself is to learn one of these softwares.

So, Illustrator or Corel, which one is best? The industry standard is Adobe Illustrator. The t-shirt printing industry seems to prefer Corel. And also Summa technicians seem to prefer Corel. We recommend Illustrator.

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Last week we had a decal order come in that required very complicated and delicate weeding. For every 6 messed up decals we had 1 good one. And this was using high quality 3M vinyl with a synthetic backer, the kind of vinyl that normally makes detailed weeding jobs a breeze. All of the cut out elements kept grabbing each other no matter what we did.

After sheets of getting nowhere, and playing with our cutter’s various pressure and speed settings, I finally came across a setting that was a total winner: Overcut. The Overcut setting tells your cutter how far past the end of a cut line to cut. By default, the Summa S2 for instance, has a a 0.1mm overcut. This makes the cut’s nice and clean, but it also leaves too much room for error when it comes to little vinyl pieces sticking to each other. For this job, we bumped the overcut up to 0.3mm. This made the corners and ends of cut lines not quite as precise and clean, but not by a noticeable amount. It made the rest of the weeding a breeze. You could pull a chunk of vinyl and not have all the little letters come up with it. So glorious.

If by chance you have a Summa S2 cutter, here are the steps you would take to increase the Overcut:

Click on Advanced Cutting

summa-overcut1

Click on Overcut

summa-overcut2

Bump it up to your desired amount. 0.2mm would probably be a noticeable improvement but see what works best.
summa-overcut3

Click Accept
summa-overcut4

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rainbowThere is a fairly simple way that you can help extend the life of your Printheads in your HP L26500 or your L25500. If you are like me, you often have prints that only focus on a few colors. For instance, we print a lot of black and white decals. However, this is hard on the other printheads that are getting very hot, but never get to fire any ink. This reduces the life and quality of the printhead. A solution to this is to have your RIP print a color rainbow, preferably to the left, of your longer, not so multi-colored prints. This assures that while your printheads are hot, they are all getting a chance to fire.

As you can see on the image to the left I have a .38″ rainbow being printed to the side of my decals. I’ve since reduced it’s size to .18″ since it only needs to be a very very small rainbow.

Hope this helps!

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Summa Cut Vinyl with Caldera 140107

caldera-summaIf you have a Summa cutter and use Caldera for your RIP, you need to upgrade to the latest patch. Patch #140107 allows Summa cutters to cut WITHOUT registration marks. Have a simple cut vinyl job to do? No problem. You no longer have to print registration marks in order for your Summa cutter to read them and then cut.

Here’s the process:

  1. Setup your cut vinyl artwork with a CutContour stroke like you normally would for your print/cut jobs
  2. Load your file into Caldera like you normally would.
  3. Drag the file to the printer
  4. Adjust the quantity, size media in your printer (even though you wont be printing) and change the Action to RIP. (NOT RIP & Print)
  5. Click Print
  6. Caldera will now RIP your file and load the cut job into Visual Cut
  7. Set Positioning to NONE
  8. Click Cut
  9. All done!

If you are like me, you had plug your Summa cutter into a Windows computer and use Winplot to cut your cut vinyl jobs. Then you had to go through the process of resetting the cutter and Visual Cut in Caldera when you wanted to go back to your Caldera computer. No longer!

I hope this is as helpful to you as it was to me. There have been some frustrating little quirks with Caldera as they try to utilize more functionality with the Summa and with the new Summa S2, but this was certainly a welcome update.

Thanks Summa for making awesome hardware, and thank you Summa for your commitment to making awesome, mac based, RIP software!

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Barcode System Coming to Summa F-Series

summa-f-seriesIf you have been able to experience the joy of barcode cutting with Summa’s S or S2 vinyl cutters, then you know what a time saver it is. For those of you that don’t know, if your RIP software has the capability, you can automatically print barcodes in front of every job. Then, when you take your roll of decals to your cutter, your OPOS sensor will read the barcode before reading the other registration marks and begin cutting. This does 2 things. The first thing it does is let your cutter know exactly which job is being cut. For instance, if you tell your cutter to cut job 4, but you are really cutting job 1, your cutter will recognize that you are actually cutting job 1, and switch to job 1′s cut file. The second thing it does is automatically go from one cut job to the next. As long as I have my roll of vinyl aligned well, and it’s a clean roll, I can start my cutter before I leave for the evening and the entire roll, with however many jobs on it, will be cut out and ready for me in the morning. It’s amazing.

Currently, Summa’s F-Series cutter does have a barcode system quite that robust. Meaning, it doesn’t currently cut from one job to the next automatically via a barcode system. You can scan a barcode to send it to the next job, but it’s something that must be done by a person, manually. But not for long! Summa is working hard to develop the firmware and software bring the automated barcode system to the F-Series Flatbed Cutter. Stay tuned!

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