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First impressions of Encad VinylJet 36 printer at ISA tradeshow Print E-mail

The Encad VinylJet is an innovtive project that we hoped would return Encad to a leader in wide format inkjet printers. No other company has a product that breaks out of the traditional mold as this unusual Kodak-Encad printer.

reviews Kodak Encad VinylJet 36 direct to vinyl
Encad VinylJet 36 printer at ISA 2003 tradeshow

FLAAR editor Dr Nicholas Hellmuth attended the initial presentation of the Encad VinylJet at ISA '03 tradeshow. Encad was honest and forthright about the selection of media and precisely what companies had it available. We rate Kodak Encad as better in this respect than the other companies and their pseudo-solvent ink printers, where people felt duped because no one warned them about limited media choice.

The Encad VinylJet does not use any solvent, neither lite-solvent nor eco-solvent. So you won't stink up your entire environment with solvent ink smell.

The printer is a third the price of any solvent ink printer. Just realize that you can't do billboards with a 36 inch width, but you can sure get started in outdoor signage. Just be sure you calculate your long range prices: the initial equipment is very reasonable. But with true solvent ink selling at between $50 to $120 a full liter, compare the price of a full liter of the special ink required for the VinylJet. Also check the price of the media and see how it compares with the cheapo stuff that your competitors are using with cheapo after market solvent ink. Yes, they are paying off the higher price of a Vutek, Mutoh, Mimaki or other true solvent ink printer, but their operating costs may be much lower (due to lesser price of their inks and media.

reviews Kodak Encad VinylJet 36 direct to vinyl
Front view of Encad VinylJet 36 printer, making some test print at ISA 2003 tradeshow

Unfortunately the promises in the advertising claims did not meet up with the actual performance of the printer. After being featured at the Kodak booth for a year or so, the printer was silently withdrawn, and has disappeared (albeit not from the history of inkjet printers).

We regret that Encad did not succeed with this new printer. After all, Encad got the entire color wide format inkjet business going back in the 1990's. Besides, Encad provided FLAAR its first printer to evaluate. We kept it in our “museum” until we ran out of space, alongside a dozen newer printers from Epson, Mimaki, ColorSpan, and HP.

FLAAR is offering personalized consulting at each trade show. You can walk-the-floor with the Senior Editor of FLAAR and get his comments on any and all printers, inks, RIP software, color management, substrates, applications, etc.

So if you wish to learn about the difference between combo, hybrid, and dedicated UV printers, how latex ink compares, about textile printers, etc. contact FLAAR to obtain consulting.

You can also get consulting before ISA or FESPA anywhere in the world: Dubai, India, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, China, Korea, London and more.

For comparative information on true solvent ink printers (DGI, Mutoh, Mimaki, Infiniti, and other Korean, Taiwan, and Chinese), on lite solvent and eco-solvent (Roland SolJet, Mutoh Falcon Outdoor), get your hands on the FLAAR Series on solvent ink printers by Nicholas Hellmuth, available from www.wide-format-printers.net.

Success Stories” should be a public embarrassment

This Encad VinylJet printer had so many problems that it was finally withdrawn (with almost no public notice). It is almost unheard of for any manufacturer to actually drop an entire new printer line. This is a polite way of saying “this printer must have had so many issues that it was an embarrassment both to Encad and to Kodak, of such magnitude that they had to jettison it to avoid the ill-will of people who found out all the weak aspects and inabilities of this otherwise highly touted system.”

Yet why did all the trade show PR and all the trade magazine PR tout this printer so much? What about all the “Success Stories?” Considering that this printer had so many issues that the manufacturer had to eat a multi-million dollar loss by backing out, this suggests the technology and chemistry was seriously flawed.

It would be interesting to learn what are the differences between the ink and heaters used by the VinylJet and the ink and the heaters used by the new HP latex ink? HP launched it’s latex ink in March 2008; the printer that uses this HP latex ink will probably be launched at DRUPA 2008.

The other instances of such comparable failed printers are:

  • The infamous CrystalJet of the 1990’s. Kodak bought what remained!
  • The Kodak 5260, the most expensive wide-format printer failure of those years (2000-2002)
  • Several GretagImaging printers did not do very well during these same years. They did not fail, just that they were not adequate. Oce bought the entire GretagImaging company.
  • The Encad VinylJet took much longer to fail than most; it functioned, just not adequately. The Kodak 5260 did not function really at all (or not more than a few hours at a time).
  • The Oce Arizona 60uv was shown at trade shows for two years but never actually sold to a significant number of end-users due to a host of problems.
  • The HP Scitex XL2200 was announced in Barcelona 2006, but was not really shown until SGIA 07. It was very popular but the advanced MEMS technology printheads had issues both in manufacturing yield and in wearing out within a few months, so HP bought NUR and replaced the XL2200 with the NUR Expedio. Since many capable engineers and managers worked on this impressive HP Scitex project, we hope the X2 printhead and the Scitex technology of the XL2200 will reappear later in another form.
  • The fate of the Gerber ion is still a mystery; it is not sure whether it’s cationic UV really functions or not. Gerber swears it works; no other ink chemist anywhere in the US or Europe gives it much hope, nor does any industry analyst. But everyone told Columbus his boats would fall off the edge of a flat world, and people did not believe Henry Ford would succeed, or that the Wright Brothers could get an airplane to fly. So we hope the Gerber ion actually functions. We will know in two weeks (ISA), a week later (if they have one at FESPA Digital), and at DRUPA. However Gerber withdrew from Graphics of the Americas two weeks ago, not a good omen.

There are FLAAR Reports, or at least extensive notes, on all major printers from 2000 onward. We do not have notes on the CrystalJet since it disappeared so quickly and I was just beginning to evaluate printers in those years.

But the point is that most trade magazines issued Success Stories on these printers that failed, especially on the Encad VinylJet.

Other printers failed because they were simply not what end-users wanted.

All the final models of Oce Arizona solvent printers failed, but not because they were bad, simply because they were obsolete; by this time (2002-2004) everyone was buying cheaper Korean printers (Chinese printers were not yet as usable), or were buying Mimaki JV3 or Roland eco-solvent.

The Oce T220 solvent flatbed and the Oce T220 UV version flatbed were not commercially successful, although they were well built and actually functioned. They were simply too slow (Xaar printheads) and “over-designed” which means nicely done if you are a team of capable engineers but not really a practical printer for a busy printshop.

Now perhaps you can see why FLAAR issues reports, and why printshop owners value our reports. We do our best to provide information on the actual pros and cons of a printer. We really get excited over some ink chemistries and technologies, but when a printer has flaws, we mention these downsides in addition to the other aspects which are okay.

Encad VinylJet 36 printer reviews
Encad VinylJet 36 printer

 

This model is no longer available new, but you might find it as a used printer. Regardless of what brand and model, before buying any used printer, we recommend that you realize spare parts may be an issue for printers no longer manufactured. Plus, the main reason why a model is retired is because engineers have developed new (and hopefully better) printheads, ink delivery systems, substrate transport systems, etc. So what may have been an acceptable printer when it was fresh and new, may be not as viable today.

Plus undersand that there are so many old models that it is not realistic for us to update each and every web page going back so many years. So if you need personal assistance, to decide which used printer is worth the risk, you can hire Dr. Nicholas Hellmuth for a personalized consultancy. For more information, contact us at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

 

Most recently updated March 18, 2008.
First posted June 21, 2003. Updated Aug 9, 2005.

 
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As of June 2017, Dr Nicholas and FLAAR had 2,468 contacts in LinkedIn (and over half a million readers worldwide on the FLAAR network).

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