Recommended Usage for Large Format Printers

In a wearable tech world, you may well be familiar with the term ‘sitting disease’.  Sitting disease refers to the various health impacts of a sedentary lifestyle. Research says that sitting too long is bad for your health and can even shorten your life span. This is one reason fitbits, and other smart watches are so popular. They prompt us to keep moving and stay healthy.

The benefits of regular activity apply to other things in life, including large format digital printers. Yes, your printer will live longer if it has an active lifestyle.  Of course, you can’t pick your printer up and take it for a walk. But you can keep it from sitting idle. And it’s easier than walking around the building three times a day. There are recommended usage targets to keep your large format printer active and healthy.

PrismJET VJ54 Overview

All large format printers are better off when running, but the larger they are, the more likely they are to be engineered for use.  The PrismJET VJ54 is one such printer. The current model can crank out digital prints at speeds up to 565 square feet per hour. As the old Springsteen song says, Baby it was born to run. 

The heart of the VJ54 is an advanced micropiezo print head, a marvel of modern technology. It features a clever patented wave print algorithm that makes it easier to combine high speed and sellable quality by virtually eliminating banding. Wave print firmware also makes color management easier by dispatching many of the issues that plague other piezo and thermal ink jet printers. More on that here.

If the piezo print head is the heart of the VJ54, then the ink is its life blood. Ink circulates through the system and produces the stunning output and vivid, durable color PrismJET customers love. But, just as a sedentary lifestyle can lead to heart disease, an idle printer can experience ink flow issues that threaten its well-being.  One way to keep your PrismJET VJ54 in tip-top shape is to keep it vital fluids flowing. Keep it running. We’re not saying that if you don’t print five banners a day, your printer’s going to explode. But there are suggested usage levels that will support longevity.

Recommended Usage

Obviously, if you’re running a busy print shop and your VJ54 stays busy, you’re doing it right. All you need to do is maintain it and keep it clean. Proper maintenance and usage are important parts of what’s required to keep your printer in good operating condition. Leaving a large format printer sitting idle for long periods of time not only risks damaging the equipment, it voids the warranty. The on-site warranty protection that comes with the PrismJET VJ54 and most MUTOH-made printers requires regular use and maintenance.

So keeping your printer running is part of proper care. But if you’re a small startup, school, or industrial print department where customers aren’t beating down the door begging for banners, you need to take some steps to hit the recommended usage targets and keep your printer running. That brings up two questions. What should you print, and how often?

Recommended Usage: What to Print

As a good all-purpose test print, we recommend the SAI Color Tester sample print (Fig 1) that comes pre-loaded with each LXI RIP 12 or FlexiPRINT and Flexi Sign & PRINT license. It’s good for color calibration but it’s also a good sample to use when you want to exercise your printer’s ink delivery system. The standard nozzle check uses too little ink and is valuable only for ensuring that all the nozzles are clear. For stimulating ink flow, the SAI Color Tester is a good choice because it pulls ink from all channels. There is a color palette test pattern in most PrismJET or MUTOH printers that many people use for this purpose but it’s not ideal because it uses mostly CMY, with the black ink used only for reference text. You can find it on your hard drive in the Sign Warehouse/Vinyl Express LXI/Samples or SAI/SAI Production Suite/Samples folder on your hard drive, or click here to download and save it.

The SAI-Color_Tester sample file exercises all four channels. The insert shows its default location on your PC.

Recommended Usage: How often to Print

According to the experts at MUTOH who support a whole fleet of award-winning printers, the optimum usage level for a modern eco-solvent printer is one set of 220ml cartridges per month. That breaks down to roughly 55ml of ink per week. Frankly, that’s a lot of ink. Let’s consider that a ‘stretch’ goal. The aforementioned SAI Color tester file, printed in Graphics 2 mode, at its 22.9” native file size, only uses about 0.72ml of ink. So, to hit the 55ml target would take oh, about 76 sample prints. That’s not quite practical. We feel that if you can send one or two of these per day, that will generate sufficient ink flow.

Shake ’em Up

Speaking of ink flow, the element most people overlook is the ink inside the cartridges. If you use a printer with white or metallic ink, you’re familiar with this routine. But even CMYK printers do better if the ink inside the carts is agitated once in a while. All it takes is removing each cartridge and gently shaking it back and forth for a few seconds. Do this a few times a week and you’ve checked all the boxes

Your large format printer is an important investment. It makes sense to take good care of it. Walking a mile a day is a pain, but it’s much less painful than heart disease. Likewise, printing a sample file a day and shaking your cartridges once a week, may be a nuisance, but maintaining recommended usage is  much less expensive and aggravating than troubleshooting or servicing a damaged printer. Don’t let your printer suffer from ‘sitting disease’.  To get the best service and production from your printer, keep it active and keep its lifeblood flowing. And, if you have to get up and walk across the room, hallway or building to run a print job, that’s probably good for you too.