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Author Topic: Do printers 'lose' their color profile with time?  (Read 4714 times)
rdegaris
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« on: July 12, 2009, 10:32:04 PM »
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Hi all,

I'm not a terribly prolific printer of my images and my Canon Pro9500 has been idle for a few months.  When last I used it I did create a printer profile using a Spyder 3 device and Spyder software and using a 225 patch target and an extended grays target.  I printed from Photoshop CS3, with the targets untagged and with color management turned off.  Incidentally, I was creating a profile for Canon Photo Paper Plus Semi Gloss paper.

Anyway, the profiling process went smoothly and my subsequent prints looked exactly how I expected them to look and entirely consistent with the view from Lightroom / Photoshop soft proof.  Roll the clock forward to now, several months later, and my prints look like crap with a distinctive read cast.  I checked and double checked the settings; I made sure printer color management was off, that I was using the correct media settings... and still a red cast.

I have just re-printed the 225-patch and extended grays targets and they *do* look noticeably different from the ones I printed almost a year ago.  I'm going to let them 'settle' over night before I take color measurements of the patches.  In the mean time does anyone have a good idea what could be happening here; am I supposed to periodically re-profile my printer; is it something to do with not using the printer often enough; or perhaps there's something obvious I goofed up on?

Many thanks, in advance, for your help.

Best,
Richard
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Richowens
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« Reply #1 on: July 12, 2009, 11:10:49 PM »
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Richard,

 Just a thought, but when was the last time you agitated the printer cartridges. Perhaps pigment settling in cartridges.

Rich
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Scott Martin
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« Reply #2 on: July 13, 2009, 12:15:11 AM »
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Yes all printers, even Epsons, change with time and usage. The mantra is "profile once and calibrate often". Printers like the 9500 don't support calibration so you'll have to re-profile at the interval that you determine as necessary.
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Clearair
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« Reply #3 on: July 13, 2009, 02:59:48 AM »
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Quote from: Onsight
Yes all printers, even Epsons, change with time and usage. The mantra is "profile once and calibrate often". Printers like the 9500 don't support calibration so you'll have to re-profile at the interval that you determine as necessary.


Have we though of the simple expedient of a nozzle check? My 9500 has only done this when there is a blocked colour and if idle for months this is the first place to look.
This printer shakes the inks as a routine maintenance.
Yes, this printer does not self calibrate back to "factory standard" and may drift in time. I think this may be more evident with the use the printer gets as opposed to time sat idle? But this is an opinion. So the profiles will drift as the printer drifts.
One of the reasons I bought a Canon iPF6100 is that it will self calibrate, unlike many others making my profiles more standard use items that I don't have to fiddle with on a printer I use a lot.
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digitaldog
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« Reply #4 on: July 13, 2009, 07:43:23 AM »
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Quote from: Onsight
Yes all printers, even Epsons, change with time and usage. The mantra is "profile once and calibrate often". Printers like the 9500 don't support calibration so you'll have to re-profile at the interval that you determine as necessary.

Just the opposite of my experiences trending modern Epson printers. I find they are scary consistent not only over time but from the same model over vast areas of landscape. The Exhibition Fiber profiles Pixel Genius made for Epson, (up until the 90 series) seems to prove this point. Each site used however did undertake proper maintenance of the printers including auto head alignment etc, all inks were within expiration dates and so on.
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Andrew Rodney
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Mark D Segal
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« Reply #5 on: July 13, 2009, 08:24:16 AM »
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Quote from: Onsight
Yes all printers, even Epsons, change with time and usage. The mantra is "profile once and calibrate often". Printers like the 9500 don't support calibration so you'll have to re-profile at the interval that you determine as necessary.

I've owned four Epson professional printers over the past 10 years and this so-called "mantra" has never been necessary.

I don't know the Canon 9500, but from what the O/P describes it sounds like a clogging problem. Pigment printers cannot be left idle for several months and the user expect no problems on first re-start. The profile, needless to say, does not go stale from lack of use but it becomes useless if the initial conditions in which it was made are substantially changed. The printer probably needs to be returned to the same physical state in which it was when the profile was made, and the profile should coninue to perform as it did.
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Mark D Segal (formerly MarkDS)
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rdegaris
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« Reply #6 on: July 13, 2009, 08:37:13 AM »
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Quote from: Clearair
Have we though of the simple expedient of a nozzle check? My 9500 has only done this when there is a blocked colour and if idle for months this is the first place to look.


Thank you all so much for your thoughts, it has been enormously helpful.

Clearair, I believe you have hit the proverbial nail; a nozzle check *did* in fact reveal that the green ink is getting clogged, which makes perfect sense when I look at the prints again.  I performed the nozzle cleaning maintenance routine twice this morning, before leaving for work - no joy.  So this evening I will perform the deep cleaning routine - I wonder how much ink that will consume!?  Oh well, that'll teach me to use the printer more often!  I'll let you know how it goes.

Thanks again, everyone.
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Scott Martin
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« Reply #7 on: July 13, 2009, 08:50:07 AM »
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Quote from: digitaldog
Just the opposite of my experiences trending modern Epson printers. I find they are scary consistent not only over time but from the same model over vast areas of landscape.
They are extremely consistent unit-to-unit when new but under heavy use the heads upon up and put out more ink and shadow detail starts to get lost. Most lower volume users don't see this and can use the same profile for the life of the printer. So the manta isn't known to many common end users.

I just re-profiled a 9800 Friday that needed this. Surely you've seen and trended this on some of your high volume clients that keep their printers cranking every day. I see it on all my high volume clients. Fortunately the modern HP and Canon large format printers can easily recalibrate themselves to maintain consistency.
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Mark D Segal
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« Reply #8 on: July 13, 2009, 09:08:03 AM »
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Quote from: Onsight
They are extremely consistent unit-to-unit when new but under heavy use the heads upon up and put out more ink and shadow detail starts to get lost. Most lower volume users don't see this and can use the same profile for the life of the printer. So the manta isn't known to many common end users.

I just re-profiled a 9800 Friday that needed this. Surely you've seen and trended this on some of your high volume clients that keep their printers cranking every day. I see it on all my high volume clients. Fortunately the modern HP and Canon large format printers can easily recalibrate themselves to maintain consistency.

I've made thousands of prints with my Epson 3800 over the past year and this simply doesn't happen. I do a nozzle check every day, and on the unusual occasions when it shows a clog, I let the machine clean itself whereupon it is back to nomal. There has been no deterioration of shadow detail and the prints remain as faithful to the softproofs as they were from day-one.
« Last Edit: July 13, 2009, 09:20:14 AM by MarkDS » Logged

Mark D Segal (formerly MarkDS)
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« Reply #9 on: July 13, 2009, 09:14:23 AM »
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The heads don't "open up" through heavy use - that's just not how the peizo works.  It is far more consistent than thermal techniques in that regard.

Certainly wear and tear will eventually have some impact, but most high volume users simply linearise on a regular basis, without the need to reprofile.

As it happens, the newer Epson printers (K3 and later) can be calibrated at the driver and the firmware level (though the latter is only by a service technician), in addition to normal linearisation techniques.  That's why the Epsons are so dominant in the proofing market - they just don't drift.
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digitaldog
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« Reply #10 on: July 13, 2009, 09:26:19 AM »
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Quote from: Onsight
Surely you've seen and trended this on some of your high volume clients that keep their printers cranking every day. I see it on all my high volume clients. Fortunately the modern HP and Canon large format printers can easily recalibrate themselves to maintain consistency.

Ah, no. But your definition of high volume and others may differ. I suspect Nash Editions would fall under the umbrella of high volume and as far as I know, they are not experiencing what you report.
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Andrew Rodney
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« Reply #11 on: July 13, 2009, 09:27:31 AM »
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Quote from: Farmer
The heads don't "open up" through heavy use - that's just not how the peizo works.  It is far more consistent than thermal techniques in that regard.

Absolutely. Not to start an ink jet war, its pretty clear to me that peizo has some significant technological advantages over thermal.
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Andrew Rodney
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Mark D Segal
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« Reply #12 on: July 13, 2009, 10:19:12 AM »
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The only inkjet war that matters is what's happening in the market amongst well-informed professional and high-end non-professional purchasers of these printers. Moving beyond the anecdotal, and of course OT for this thread, it would be interesting if possible to access information about what has been happening to market share between the big three manufacturers servicing this niche over the past several years.
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Mark D Segal (formerly MarkDS)
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Jack Flesher
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« Reply #13 on: July 13, 2009, 12:35:25 PM »
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Quote from: Onsight
I just re-profiled a 9800 Friday that needed this. Surely you've seen and trended this on some of your high volume clients that keep their printers cranking every day. I see it on all my high volume clients. Fortunately the modern HP and Canon large format printers can easily recalibrate themselves to maintain consistency.

Have to agree that Epsons are *VERY* stable as respects profiles, even across models and even spanning several years --  unless you start buying bulk third-party inks  

As re Canon and HP, they absolutely DO exhibit profile drift as heads wear or clog and are swapped to one of the back-up nozzles in the head -- so it is almost imperative you have the auto profile feature if using one of them.  IOW Canon and HP printers have to have that "feature" to remain consistent, while Epsons simply don't need it for normal users.

Cheers,
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Scott Martin
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« Reply #14 on: July 13, 2009, 09:35:14 PM »
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Quote from: MarkDS
I've made thousands of prints with my Epson 3800 over the past year and this simply doesn't happen.
Not for lower volume users - and that's most people. Most home users buy an Epson, profile it and are able to use that profile for the life of the printer. Thousands of prints total really isn't that many. You're not making 100-500 prints a day like a lab or fine art reproduction shop.

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The heads don't "open up" through heavy use - that's just not how the peizo works. It is far more consistent than thermal techniques in that regard.
No, the piezo heads do in fact open up - it just take lots of use to see this happen. I've seen this again and again over the years. For many high volume shops it requires re-profiling all their papers more than once per year, if there isn't a linearization option.

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Certainly wear and tear will eventually have some impact, but most high volume users simply linearise on a regular basis, without the need to reprofile..
Exactly. Linearization is a form of calibration, so: Profile once, calibrate (linearize) often. It's *really* nice when the printer can perform the re-linearization itself using on board sensors. I'm just trying to give credit to HP and Canon for doing that first. It really makes a difference.

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I suspect Nash Editions would fall under the umbrella of high volume and as far as I know, they are not experiencing what you report.
While I don't know what their volume is like, I suspect they are more towards quality then quantity. And they probably switch to the lastest generation printer every time they come out. I have clients with 10 44" printers that are kept running all day long - sometimes during multiple 8 hours shifts for 4-5 years on end. That's high volume!

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As re Canon and HP, they absolutely DO exhibit profile drift as heads wear or clog and are swapped to one of the back-up nozzles in the head -- so it is almost imperative you have the auto profile feature if using one of them. IOW Canon and HP printers have to have that "feature" to remain consistent, while Epsons simply don't need it for normal users.
But without the same auto linearization feature in the Epson's, some high volume users are finding HP and Canon's to be *more* consistent for their high volume needs. Sure the heads are changing, but the linearization is constantly compensating for the changes. Just like a silver halide machine that's relinearized every 4 hours to compensate for thermal and chemistry differences. Gotta be fair and give them (HP and Canon) credit for that. Epson admitted and responded to this need with the x900 spectro option, which is pretty out of reach for a lot of people.

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Not to start an ink jet war, its pretty clear to me that peizo has some significant technological advantages over thermal.
I certainly don't have a bias or preference for one or the other. To be fair they both have advantages and disadvantages. Thermal heads have the advantage of speed, cost and low noise, which, when coupled with regular linearization can actually lead to greater consistency over their lifespan in comparison to piezo heads that go unchecked without re-linearization. Piezo heads have more accurate dot placement, greater longevity, smaller dot size, etc. So they both have advantages and thus appeal to different market segments. It's just not fair to say that one is better than another - we have to look at the whole printing system.

Let me be clear and say that I'm not a fan of any one brand over another. I own all three brands and recommend all there brands to clients with different needs. I just think we need to be fair and give credit where credit is due.
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Farmer
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« Reply #15 on: July 13, 2009, 10:52:59 PM »
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Quote from: Onsight
No, the piezo heads do in fact open up - it just take lots of use to see this happen. I've seen this again and again over the years. For many high volume shops it requires re-profiling all their papers more than once per year, if there isn't a linearization option.

No, they really don't.  The Thin Film and the crystals do not physically become larger or more open as a result of wear and tear.  Each head is characterised at the factory and a specific data set is input to the printer that associates with that head to ensure that the electrical interaction with the crystals provides the correct amount of ink fire (with genuine inks).  If the head is changed, the data set is changed.  Over time, wear and tear will impact this, but linearisation or driver or firmware (or both) level calibration has been possible since the K3 models.

This is very definitely not the heads "opening up".

As to lots of use - I have clients who end of life machines in 6-12 months.  They can't be used any more than that.

Quote from: Onsight
Exactly. Linearization is a form of calibration, so: Profile once, calibrate (linearize) often. It's *really* nice when the printer can perform the re-linearization itself using on board sensors. I'm just trying to give credit to HP and Canon for doing that first. It really makes a difference.

Yes, Linearisation is a form of calibration, but it is not reprofiling.  HP and Canon did do it first, because they had to (and kudos to them for doing it, no doubt).  It's a pity that HP doesn't use an ISO standard in the backing colour but I expect that may change.  I haven't heard any first hand reports on how well they cope varying between media with OB and those without, but I presume it's quite functional.

Quote from: Onsight
While I don't know what their volume is like, I suspect they are more towards quality then quantity. And they probably switch to the lastest generation printer every time they come out. I have clients with 10 44" printers that are kept running all day long - sometimes during multiple 8 hours shifts for 4-5 years on end. That's high volume!

None of the printers (from any manufacturer) can run 16 hours a day, 5 days a week, for 4-5 years without massively exceeding their expected end-of-life levels.  Anyone who is doing that much work, should easily be factoring in replacement units (possibly for free, based on an ink burn contract) into the cost of business - with so much volume, it's tiny.

That said, all of the big three make printers that will work beyond their rated life and mostly just need counters reset and some decent maintenance to keep them clean and functioning.  But I really just want to clarify that it's not a case of "opening up" as you describe it in the heads.  That's just not what happens.

Quote from: Onsight
which, when coupled with regular linearization can actually lead to greater consistency over their lifespan in comparison to piezo heads that go unchecked without re-linearization.

No one who needs colour accuracy fails to linearise their machines on a regular basis.  Most proofers are doing daily checks at a minimum, some each print run and some every job, to validate the colour accuracy of the proofs being created.  Photographers are fast learning to check regularly.  There's no one with any real experience who lets their printers go unchecked and anyone using a RIP and a spectro already has all the equipment needed to do this and frankly, better than the onboard solution for HP or Canon and in many cases than the built in Epson.  Sure, it's manual, not automated, and that's clearly the reason Epson added their spectro option for those proof makers who want to automate it or get print by print validation for things like FOGRA.

For proofers, consistency has to be perfect, every time.  If it's not, it can cost them a fortune.  Epson owns the proofing market, and there's a reason for it.

Quote from: Onsight
So they both have advantages and thus appeal to different market segments. It's just not fair to say that one is better than another - we have to look at the whole printing system.

I totally agree with this.  This is a photography site, but photo is smaller than the other market segments when it comes to print volumes and printers in use and so forth, so sometimes we don't see the big picture (no pun intended).  I think your last sentence about the whole printing system is the key summary.

I really only joined into this thread to comment on your description of peizo heads opening up.  They just don't do that, it's not an accurate description and if someone has told you that they've explained it to you poorly.  You're right, of course, that over time they wear but the degree and rate are both very small within the expected life of the printer and both are easily compensated during normal linearisation (which for those who care about colour accuracy is as common place as calibrating monitors).
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Scott Martin
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« Reply #16 on: July 13, 2009, 11:19:46 PM »
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Quote from: Farmer
This is very definitely not the heads "opening up".
OK, how would you prefer we refer to the phenomena where these heads put down significantly more ink after considerable use? "Opening Up" is a term I hear used among RIP manufactures but I'm open to anything better/more accurate.
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« Reply #17 on: July 14, 2009, 12:36:16 AM »
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Quote from: Onsight
OK, how would you prefer we refer to the phenomena where these heads put down significantly more ink after considerable use? "Opening Up" is a term I hear used among RIP manufactures but I'm open to anything better/more accurate.

I'd love to have some hard data on what constitutes "significantly more ink".

Obviously over time there is some wear on the peizo "pump", so tolerances considered normal/acceptable over the life of the machine may be more obvious when ink limiting with a RIP.  They don't wear in a way that makes them larger or more open, but it's possible that more or less ink might be fired than originally designed if the units are not linearised because of changes in ther performance characteristics of the peizo compared with the loaded data set.

I don't know what to call it beyond "wear and tear".  From your description above I can see where the "open" term is coming from, though.
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Scott Martin
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« Reply #18 on: July 14, 2009, 08:25:41 AM »
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Quote from: Farmer
I'd love to have some hard data on what constitutes "significantly more ink".
During step 1: ink limiting with a RIP I've seen printers that cause ink to run down the page using the same paper whereas a year prior didn't. And when setting ink limits on a bunch of printers side-by-side one can see the older printers putting down more ink then the newer ones.

Possibly the best way of demonstrating this is to convert an evaluation image to a printer's old profile. Then assign a newer profile to it. Doing so will visually show you exactly how the printer has changed between profiling sessions. Email me at scott@on-sight.com and I'll reply with a couple profiles you try this and see for yourself.
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