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Decal Printers

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Hi guys,

I am researching a decal printer for printing RC decals, anyone can recommend one? 

Someone recommended the Roland VersaStudio BN-20 which is way out of budget ...

Appreciated much and thanks!

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Hi Pininfarina,

I've owned several wide format printers and used many more. There are many things to consider, like how much you intend to print, will you be on-selling or is it just for yourself. If its just for yourself, unless you are seriously cashed up and want to print a lot, I'd stay away from a printer like this.

With these machines you need to take into account servicing the machine, things like consumables which is more than ink, plus these machines really need regular use, especially if it prints white. Print heads for eco-solvent printers can be really expensive, and so can servicing.  So they really only become worthwhile if you are doing at least several metres of printing a week. 

Some other thoughts:

As there are a lot of these machines around now, so you might want to consider a second hand one. My father's production machine is an ex-demo and he saved about half the price. Obviously check it out first, but his also came with a warranty.

You could also look at getting your prints done through a trade printer first, many sign shops do trade pricing if they know you are on-selling. Usually there is a minimum charge though. This can be a good way to start with no initial outlay. There are many different printers on the market, Roland, Mimarki, HP, etc and some use different inks like latex and eco-solvent. Using a trade printer/sign shop means you can relatively cheaply see how a printer performs.

Other thoughts:

What software are you making the artwork in? This can have a big impact on the final print.

If you wanted to ease into this, start with a vinyl cutter first. I did about 85% of my Audi Quattro body this way, including the Audi logo. Some cutters like Rolands have optical sensors, so if you get a print done at a sign shop, you can still cut it yourself. You've have a steep learning curve on the setups though.

If you are only doing bits and pieces, you could try a hobby screen printing kit. Downside is that it would be time consuming, photos would be harder, but not impossible depending on the setup. Upside is you'll have a much better range of colours to choose from.

Maybe check out scrapbook suppliers/retailers, I'm sure I've seen similar machines for that market. I know Roland make a smaller cutter thats a few hundred dollars (AUD) aimed at the scrapbooking market.

I hope thats useful and feel free to ask any questions


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Hi Yogi,

Thanks for your reply, I am thinking of getting the printer just for myself. I am hoping to get one which is easy to use and can do self-cuts. I just need a desktop version, not big and wide.

Great advice on getting a 2nd hand one.  I will look around more ... 

I am good with software,  I can use any tools - like Inkscape.

many thanks!

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Hi Pininfarnia,

good luck with your search. A few more thoughts.

In Australia at least there are a couple of online signage forums/industry groups. They regularly advertise second hand machines, so maybe you'd have similar in your country. Try and avoid buying a machine without seeing any test prints from it.

If you find a machine, make sure you can get material for it. Printable rolls usually come in 1370 mm wide rolls (at either 50 or 30 metres long). Vinyl colour rolls usually come in either 610 mm wide or 1220 mm wide, and is usually bought by the metre. I have seen smaller rolls, but not very often, so for a smaller machine you might have to get the material cut down.

When looking for vinyl, either printable or coloured, there are kinda of 3 different types - monomeric, polymeric and cast vinyl. The monomeric is the cheapest and will shrink over time a lot more than the others, quality will vary with brand and application. polyermic is better and the cast vinyls are typically used in car wraps etc and the longest lasting. Typically, the thinner the vinyl, the better. I tend to use either a high quality monomeric or a polymeric vinyl. Thinner vinyl is also good for cutting smaller lettering. About 4 to 5 mm high is the smallest letters I've cut.

Should you find a printer that can print white, make sure you really do your homework. They are immensely useful, as you can do really good prints onto clear by laying down a white layer first. Normal inks don't have the density to make solid colours on clear and really need the white backing to get the full colour. However my understanding is that white printing is still not as easy as normal colours and there can be issues. Things like print heads clogging from under use seem to be common.

On the subject of print heads, many printers use epson print heads, which can be expensive, so check suppliers. HP printheads are a lot cheaper, but are also designed to be replaced more often. Poor printheads cause bands in the print.

If you get a print and cut machine and it uses eco-max inks, you can get cheaper inks of eBay or even from some sign suppliers. We stopped using manufacturer  inks for our Roland as it was pretty expensive, and cut our ink cost in half. If we'd switched to a bulk inking system, we would have saved even more. Just check out what ink you get, as your colours when printing can vary a lot, and I've heard of some cheap inks blocking printheads.

Also if you end up doing print and cut, and you might find the edges of the print are curling after cutting. This means the ink hasn't dried properly. We use to leave prints up to 2 days before cutting sometimes, or dry it with a heat gun. This is why I like latex based inks, they are completely dry when they come out of the printer.

With software, as long as you can do also do vector artwork (you'll need that for cutting), can do both CMYK or RGB colour profiles, and will probably need to export as an eps file, you should be fine. Most outdoor printers come with its own ripping software, make sure you get this with the machine, as its unlikely you'll be able to download it later. Some cutters also come with cutting software, which can handy as they have features for cutting you don't find in normal art programs. I've not used inkscape (I use coreldraw and illustrator).

Good luck and don't forget to update us or post pics when you get one!

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