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ColorSpan 5440uv, 5445uv, 5460uv, 5465uv: Revised comments on problems and issues with these four hybrid UV printers: flatbed and roll-to-roll Print E-mail
There is now a new entry-level hybrid flatbed printer to consider

Two years ago FLAAR had a unique opportunity to inspect a pre-production model of the ColorSpan 5440uv, 5445uv, 5460uv, 5465uv-cured printers.

Shortly after we have finished our initial evaluation review, The FLAAR Reports were issued on the 5440uv, 5445uv, 5460uv, 5465uv. By mid-2008, since more than 300 of these printers were out in printshops, there was reliable information on the ups and downs of this printer.

Our first step is to try to make a list of the issues as reported by end-users, and to estimate which problems are mechanical, which are from ink chemistry, and which are from the reality of dealing with a complex technology. Several printshops have reported issues with media feed and with ink delivery. A new and larger ink pump was supposed to get rid of most of the ink problems, but the media feed issues are something I hear about even more.

I am checking with the manufacturer to get their list of what issues the printer is facing. They are more up front and specific with FLAAR because they realize we will learn soon enough what works, and what does not work, on a printer. So for 2009, especially now that these printers have been taken over by HP, we have been updating our reports over the summer. Now in 2009 we continue to update our reports as we constantly hear of further issues and then there is a fix to remedy that issue. For example, HP has continued to invest in replacing many components and software with newer HP-certified features.

But clearly there were issues last year with media feeding; we have heard from end-users and ColorSpan has acknowledged the glitches and is designing retrofits. But what was surprising was to learn in autumn 2008, months after the HP Designjet 45500 version was out, that the HP Designjet 45500 version still has problems with the ink and printhead system. I am now needing to update the FLAAR Report all over again. This ink starvation issue I saw with my own eyes on test prints and got a good description from the printer operator. This turned out to be a problem in the manufacturing of the Ricoh printheads (so a Ricoh issue, not entirely the fault of ColorSpan or HP). It took several months to recognize the problem, more months to rectify it. Whew.

But now, in summer 2009, many of these issues have been resolved. So it is best if you switch from this ColorSpan page to the HP Designjet 45500 page (links come later in this page).

The ColorSpan 5440uv, 5445uv, 5460uv, 5465uv can print on CoroPlast, MDO board, Sintra, Styrene, banner, mesh and other signage materials

 

These are hybrid UV printers that are intended to handle flatbed and roll-fed materials all in the same printer. Of course this is the very core of the situation: no printer, not even a million dollar one, can handle every material size, shape, and weight perfectly (so far the L&P Virtu HD8 and Spuhl RS 25, RS 35 come the closest to ability to handle diverse materials, but these are $350,000 printers).

Already in 2006 FLAAR became the de-facto international resource on UV-curable wide format inkjet printers. For 2007 we are proud to be the first choice for educational material on UV printers, and for 2008-2009 we are expanding our coverage primarily through feedback from end-users. We appreciate it when end-users identify to us the issues they face with their printers. Naturally we like to receive good news as well, but what is more realistic is a list of the issues and downsides of an ink chemistry and the mechanical insides of a printer.

ColorSpan 5440uv, 5445uv, 5460uv, 5465uv
ColorSpan 5445uv 4-color UV-curable
Here is Nicholas Hellmuth with the ColorSpan 5440uv printer.

How does the ColorSpan hybrid UV printer compare with other brands?

The entry-level is becoming a tough area to compete in because of all the Chinese, Taiwan, and Korean printers that are improving. Chinese printers are improving the fastest (at least those of Flora that are retrofitted by DEC or Raster Printers and especially Teckwin). Korean printers are already well advanced: the IP&I Cube 1606, Dilli, and Agfa have a solid reputation among cognosenti. The Raster Printers H700UV and DEC Legend 72HUV available from LexJet are also gaining acceptance. The Raster Printers T600uv (made in the US) was rated as one of the better UV printers at DRUPA. The Daytona T660 uv is now being exhibited via EFI in the VUTEk stand at major international trade shows. Plus the EFI Rastek H650 is now available: the first entry-level UV flatbed printer with a moving transport belt.

The GCC StellarJet 183uv was another hybrid printer that had issues its first two years. But the distributors, dealers, and end-users cooperated on suggesting improvements, and in mid-January FLAAR has undertaken a site-visit case study of this hybrid printer. Based on this visit to a printshop in Germany, we have been able to significantly update our evaluation of the GCC 183uv.

ColorSpan 5460uv printer reviews
ColorSpan 5460uv hybrid flatbed printer showing samples at GoA trade show 2007.

Concordance of new HP ColorSpan printer designations

ColorSpan 5440uv is now HP Designjet H35100
ColorSpan 5460uv is now HP Designjet H35500
ColorSpan 5445uv is now HP Designjet H45100
ColorSpan 5465uv is now HP Designjet H45500

HP Designjet H45500 printer reviews
The HP Designjet H45500 printer at Graph Expo 2008.

So far the issues being reported are primarily with the HP Designjet H45500 and the other of this series. With over 101 models of UV printers from over 45 manufacturers I have not heard as much about serious issues with the former ColorSpan 9840uv (the HP Scitex FB910 and there is now an HP Scitex FB950). So the primary issues, that by September 2008 are still not completely resolved, are with the entry level hybrid. Printer operators with experience in all aspects of the technology clearly state that problems continue. So this is not a FLAAR conclusion, this is the consistent statement of printer operators. But at least considerable effort, both by ColorSpan and HP, went into trying to rectify the issues. But all the comments I am referencing are based on the HP version of autumn 2008 through early 2009. Since some of the improvements are from November 2008 onward, and new firmware is even more recent, we need to find, and inspect, one of the new models, to interview the owners to see if they notice the improvements that HP has added to these models..

And, I do recognize, that if you have a manufacturing run of a hundred printers, hopefully some work better than the ones I hear about. So I hope in the future to receive better news because I know that the team at ColorSpan that designed the concept of a user-friendly entry-level price-conscious printer had good intentions. It is unfortunate that the internal plumbing, electronics, and middle nozzles of the Ricoh printheads did not function as envisioned.

Should you even consider buying a used ColorSpan 5440uv, 5460uv, 5445uv, or 5465uv?

The first question I would want to find out is what was the return rate of these printer when they were new. If printshops did not want to keep them when they were new and still under warranty, perhaps this is the best answer to your own question.

Printheads can be expensive, and a continuing problem of these printers were the faulty Ricoh printheads. For example, the printer can't be shipped with the printheads installed. And some hard nozzles can't be reclaimed. This is one of the first printers in recent history whose failure was to large degree a result of inadequate printheads. So even if the printer functions where you test it, what guarantee do you have that this same used printer will function in your printshop after it is bounced around during trucking and unloading. So be sure you have a way to pay only once the printer is fully functioning in your own printshop. Or, buy a new one with a realistic warranty.

If you are offered an original ColorSpan 5440uv or any related model, that has not been totally and completely reconditioned by HP and with HP certification, such an early version would not be recommended by very many people within the industry.

But a used version, manufactured during 2009, with all the new hardware and new firmware, this printer is significantly less problematic than the earlier versions.

So lets now go to the comments on the retrofitted, updated, and improved models: HP Designjet H45500 (and comparable model numbers, H35100, etc).

 

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Most recently updated June 18, 2009.

First posted Feb 12, 2007. Updated Feb 6, 2008, April 8, 2008, July 14, 2008, September 9, 2008, January 26, 2009, May 22, 2009.

 

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