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Author Topic: American Inkjet Systems Symphonic Ultramax II system - what's the catch?  (Read 5093 times)
shadowblade
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« on: July 16, 2013, 11:28:19 AM »
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I saw a few prints made on this system (the 12-colour Symphony version using a Roland printer) the other day, when a friend brought them around, and was totally wowed by them. Prints made on uncoated Arches watercolour paper had better saturation and similar sharpness compared to Epson prints made on Hahnemuhle Photo Rag, while the prints made on Platine Rag and Photo Rag Pearl looked like nothing I've ever seen come out of an inkjet printer before. In comparison, the Canon Lucia and Epson Ultrachrome HDR prints she brought in looked almost dull and lifeless.

Image-quality wise, this seems almost like a colour equivalent of Piezography inks, and the black-and-white prints were no slouch either. But why does hardly anyone use them? They're available for Epson as well as HP printers, too. Is there a catch somewhere - do they fade within three weeks or something? Any idea what the permanence of the inks is like?
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Ernst Dinkla
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« Reply #1 on: July 16, 2013, 02:35:03 PM »
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>Is there a catch somewhere?<

No link to independent test results to support the text on their pages?
The use of the word "Nano" at the top of the page?
The wrong calculation result of Canon + HP ink price per square foot at the bottom of the page?

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Met vriendelijke groet, Ernst

http://www.pigment-print.com/spectralplots/spectrumviz_1.htm
July 2013, 500+ inkjet media white spectral plots.
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shadowblade
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« Reply #2 on: July 16, 2013, 05:58:05 PM »
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>Is there a catch somewhere?<

No link to independent test results to support the text on their pages?
The use of the word "Nano" at the top of the page?
The wrong calculation result of Canon + HP ink price per square foot at the bottom of the page?

--
Met vriendelijke groet, Ernst

http://www.pigment-print.com/spectralplots/spectrumviz_1.htm
July 2013, 500+ inkjet media white spectral plots.

I'm not sure. There are certainly no independent test results to support the text - but, then again, I can't find independent test results anywhere for Epson or Roland solvent inks either (just non-independent, in-house tests conducted by the manufacturers), and only two one-off, individual tests for ConeColor inks (on Aardenburg). I guess the more popular printers and inks (i.e. Epson, HP and Canon aqueous pigment inks) are tested more, because they're more popular (unlike Mimaki)/affordable (unlike Roland Solvent)/OEM (unlike ConeColor)...

I can't find 'Nano' at the top of the (current) page, nor any reference to ink prices on the current page. Are you looking at the old page?

It seems like the testimonials are great too - obviously, a company will only include the good testimonials, but there are some high-profile people in the imaging world in there (presidents of imaging companies, pioneering imaging scientists and professional printers), and what's written there can also be verified on the websites and statements of the people purported to have written them, so they're not just making them up.

What about the D'Vinci system? (for what it's worth, D'Vinci's original developer, Robert Eversole, president of Ergosoft, also of ColorGPS fame, has some very positive things to say about Symphony).

I want to be able to like this system - the prints are nothing short of stunning - but need to find some concrete figures before dropping a bundle on them!
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MHMG
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« Reply #3 on: July 16, 2013, 07:39:07 PM »
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I want to be able to like this system - the prints are nothing short of stunning - but need to find some concrete figures before dropping a bundle on them!

First thing you need to do is identify exactly what inks were used to make the prints that you saw. This company applies the marketing name "Symphonic ink" to everything from fluorescent dyes to 6, 8, and 12 color pigment sets, and if you pay close attention to the company literature, there are also two yellow pigment variants (an older "yellow" still available to customers, and a newer "golden yellow" which suggests the classic trade off in colorfulness for lightfade resistance). Yet the website appears unable to fulfill orders, and much of the website functionality sends one to dead links. To be as charitable as possible, this situation is the hallmark of a small company trying very hard to punch well above its weight class.  You will most likely need to get someone on the phone if you want to order some inks from this company, and you will need to make certain exactly what ink set (dye or pigment, and what variation) it is that you are ordering.

I'm a big believer in small independent companies creating niche markets for great products that the OEM's ignore in their quest for greater market share. However, one needs to pay very close attention to the marketing claims. As Ernst has already said, this company's website mentions print longevity and wide color gamut numerous times but offers no test data, not from any independent lab nor even produced in house. It''s not hard to make vibrant inkjet prints that will match or exceed initial OEM ink color and tone fidelity. It's much harder to combine wide color gamut, day-to-day printer ink flow reliability, and ink light/gas/heat/moisture fade resistance into the total package one is buying when moving to third party inks. Buyer beware would be my suggestion here.

That said, if you do purchase, receive, and install on your printer any "Symphonic" ink set and volunteer to submit a sample or two for testing, that's what the AaI&A digital print research program is all about. I'm rooting for the little guys all the time because otherwise the big guys get too complacent.

cheers,
Mark
http://www.aardenburg-imaging.com
« Last Edit: July 16, 2013, 07:51:57 PM by MHMG » Logged
shadowblade
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« Reply #4 on: July 16, 2013, 08:41:28 PM »
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First thing you need to do is identify exactly what inks were used to make the prints that you saw. This company applies the marketing name "Symphonic ink" to everything from fluorescent dyes to 6, 8, and 12 color pigment sets, and if you pay close attention to the company literature, there are also two yellow pigment variants (an older "yellow" still available to customers, and a newer "golden yellow" which suggests the classic trade off in colorfulness for lightfade resistance). Yet the website appears unable to fulfill orders, and much of the website functionality sends one to dead links. To be as charitable as possible, this situation is the hallmark of a small company trying very hard to punch well above its weight class.  You will most likely need to get someone on the phone if you want to order some inks from this company, and you will need to make certain exactly what ink set (dye or pigment, and what variation) it is that you are ordering.

I was talking about the 'Symphony' printer and its associated set of inks, which is a modified 2x6-colour Roland printer, for twelve different inks in total.

The orders link appears to be fully functional: http://www.americaninkjetsystems2.com/store1/ultramaxii_prices_roland_symphony12.html

There's an old, 'dead' site as well as new one, so the links on the old site may well be dead.

Quote
I'm a big believer in small independent companies creating niche markets for great products that the OEM's ignore in their quest for greater market share. However, one needs to pay very close attention to the marketing claims. As Ernst has already said, this company's website mentions print longevity and wide color gamut numerous times but offers no test data, not from any independent lab nor even produced in house.

Hence my search for data - or, if such data doesn't exist, at least a few test prints from which to derive data.

After all, Cone's managed to make arguably the best black and grey inks on the market (the competitor being MIS - another small company - rather than the big players). He can't be the only one...

Quote
That said, if you do purchase, receive, and install on your printer any "Symphonic" ink set and volunteer to submit a sample or two for testing, that's what the AaI&A digital print research program is all about. I'm rooting for the little guys all the time because otherwise the big guys get too complacent.

I'm actually looking for someone who uses these inks - I'd be willing to pay to have test charts printed on a variety of papers, in order to submit them for testing. I'm very interested in these results!
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MHMG
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« Reply #5 on: July 16, 2013, 09:13:41 PM »
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After all, Cone's managed to make arguably the best black and grey inks on the market (the competitor being MIS - another small company - rather than the big players). He can't be the only one...


That Cone's Sepia set (now called Carbon K7) is "arguably the best" with regard to print permanence, is matched and perhaps exceeded due to closer neutrality in hue by the MIS Eboni "full carbon" ink set, but neither are close to neutral in hue, so they must both be regarded as a specialized ink set for images that lend themselves to warmer tone monochromatic hues. The more neutral Cone shades fall far short of OEM light fastness performance, so it's important to be clear about what Cone ink sets one is referring to.

While I"m not trying  to disrespect the Cone or MIS contributions to the printmaking community, it's important to understand that the accomplishment of a warm full carbon ink set doesn't require huge R&D dollars, just a willingness to serve a smaller niche market.

http://www.inkjetfly.com is another small company that, IMHO, has gone both Cone and MIS one better. Based on a small but significant sample size including paired-comparisons with Epson OEM ink on same batch of media in independent AaI&A light fade testing, Inkjetfly has produced a full color pigment set that truly does give Epson a run for it's money on both initial color gamut and light fade resistance with respect to Epson Ultrachrome K3 pigmented ink technology. So, proof positive that small companies can compete, but one also has to have factual test results typically not provided by these small companies in order to verify that they have indeed accomplished what they claim.

kind regards,
Mark
« Last Edit: July 16, 2013, 09:23:16 PM by MHMG » Logged
MHMG
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« Reply #6 on: July 16, 2013, 09:35:16 PM »
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I was talking about the 'Symphony' printer and its associated set of inks, which is a modified 2x6-colour Roland printer, for twelve different inks in total.

The orders link appears to be fully functional: http://www.americaninkjetsystems2.com/store1/ultramaxii_prices_roland_symphony12.html

There's an old, 'dead' site as well as new one, so the links on the old site may well be dead.


Neither your originally provided link nor a Google search got me there, but again, this challenge to find the right html page is reflective of a small company website presence, so thanks for this new link. Following the new link, my primary question would be is "Yellow 12" which can be added to one's checkout cart the old yellow or the new "golden yellow" discussed on other pages of this company's various website pages?
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shadowblade
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« Reply #7 on: July 16, 2013, 09:37:38 PM »
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Hence my interest in finding someone who prints using these inks, in order to commission some prints for longevity testing.

If the manufacturer doesn't have any publicly-available test data and there are no existing independent tests, then obviously the only way to get the results is to either perform the tests yourself, or commission someone else to do it. A small price to pay, particularly if you discover a gem of an ink/inkset that has previously been missed, simply because no-one (including the manufacturer) bothered to test it!
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MHMG
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« Reply #8 on: July 16, 2013, 10:20:13 PM »
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Hence my interest in finding someone who prints using these inks, in order to commission some prints for longevity testing.

If the manufacturer doesn't have any publicly-available test data and there are no existing independent tests, then obviously the only way to get the results is to either perform the tests yourself, or commission someone else to do it. A small price to pay, particularly if you discover a gem of an ink/inkset that has previously been missed, simply because no-one (including the manufacturer) bothered to test it!

It's not a small price to pay for a vendor seeking fee-for-service independent validation of a market-worthy claim if the results don't go as well as hoped for. A company can seek out any independent testing lab. Pay the test fee. If results don't meet the marketing objective... money and time wasted. Often little upside with much downside to this approach which is a big reason why so many ink and media companies offer so little information on print longevity.

On the other hand, it is indeed a relatively small price to pay if an end user is already using the inks/media, submits a sample or two to AaI&A, and relies on donations from other AaI&A members to fund the testing. The big downside to the AaI&A crowd-sourced funding model is that testing timelines really do depend on donations, and as we've already discussed in other forum threads, donations are few and far between as a viable way to fund this type of research. Nevertheless, as financially constrained as this community-supported testing model is, it has so far managed to hold its own, IMHO, with respect to published results derived from industry-sponsored "certified testing" programs, or grant-underwritten museums and archives studies of a similar nature.

cheers,
Mark
http://www.aardenburg-imaging.com
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shadowblade
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« Reply #9 on: July 16, 2013, 10:36:41 PM »
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It's not a small price to pay for a vendor seeking fee-for-service independent validation of a market-worthy claim if the results don't go as well as hoped for. A company can seek out any independent testing lab. Pay the test fee. If results don't meet the marketing objective... money and time wasted. Often little upside with much downside to this approach which is a big reason why so many ink and media companies offer so little information on print longevity.

That's what I'm insinuating. Companies have little interest in this, because Epson's claims of '200-year longevity' (whether supported by evidence or not) is enough to sell plenty of printers and ink to less-discerning customers. A substantiated claim of 500 years isn't going to gain them too many customers much over an unsubstantiated claim of 200 years made by a major manufacturer. If the result turns out to be 50 years, though, their ink will be thrown onto the general '3rd-party junk ink' scrapheap.

On the other hand, for an individual photographer or artist, or a group of them, it *is* indeed a small price to pay to test out these inks, to find the good ones to use to enhance their own work. After all, there would be nothing worse than to find out, forty years down the track when JPEG and TIFF files are no longer readable, that the inks and papers you were using are starting to fade, crack, peel or otherwise fall apart. It would be in the interest of museums to do this too, but I guess they're relying on individual artists to do this.
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Ernst Dinkla
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« Reply #10 on: July 17, 2013, 03:19:58 AM »
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That Cone's Sepia set (now called Carbon K7) is "arguably the best" with regard to print permanence, is matched and perhaps exceeded due to closer neutrality in hue by the MIS Eboni "full carbon" ink set, but neither are close to neutral in hue, so they must both be regarded as a specialized ink set for images that lend themselves to warmer tone monochromatic hues. The more neutral Cone shades fall far short of OEM light fastness performance, so it's important to be clear about what Cone ink sets one is referring to.

While I"m not trying  to disrespect the Cone or MIS contributions to the printmaking community, it's important to understand that the accomplishment of a warm full carbon ink set doesn't require huge R&D dollars, just a willingness to serve a smaller niche market.

http://www.inkjetfly.com is another small company that, IMHO, has gone both Cone and MIS one better. Based on a small but significant sample size including paired-comparisons with Epson OEM ink on same batch of media in independent AaI&A light fade testing, Inkjetfly has produced a full color pigment set that truly does give Epson a run for it's money on both initial color gamut and light fade resistance with respect to Epson Ultrachrome K3 pigmented ink technology. So, proof positive that small companies can compete, but one also has to have factual test results typically not provided by these small companies in order to verify that they have indeed accomplished what they claim.

kind regards,
Mark


Mark,

What is the warmest pure carbon MK and PK available that stands time? Cone or one of the OEM blacks? I think it would be nice to have a custom B&W printer that is loaded with Eboni MK, the HP PK and its dilutions for neutral + a warm pure carbon range. That and a selection of cool, neutral + warm papers would be enough I think to cover the color toning in B&W that I prefer and it should have the desired longevity. I was thinking of the older HP black pigments as used in the Designjets before the Z3100 appeared. Not sure about their color though.

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Met vriendelijke groet, Ernst

http://www.pigment-print.com/spectralplots/spectrumviz_1.htm
July 2013, 500+ inkjet media white spectral plots.

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shadowblade
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« Reply #11 on: July 17, 2013, 07:22:38 AM »
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Neither your originally provided link nor a Google search got me there, but again, this challenge to find the right html page is reflective of a small company website presence, so thanks for this new link. Following the new link, my primary question would be is "Yellow 12" which can be added to one's checkout cart the old yellow or the new "golden yellow" discussed on other pages of this company's various website pages?


Actually, that was the first link I provided... certainly seems stupid of them to leave an old version of the website up and running, but not maintained, though.

Quote
http://www.inkjetfly.com is another small company that, IMHO, has gone both Cone and MIS one better. Based on a small but significant sample size including paired-comparisons with Epson OEM ink on same batch of media in independent AaI&A light fade testing, Inkjetfly has produced a full color pigment set that truly does give Epson a run for it's money on both initial color gamut and light fade resistance with respect to Epson Ultrachrome K3 pigmented ink technology. So, proof positive that small companies can compete, but one also has to have factual test results typically not provided by these small companies in order to verify that they have indeed accomplished what they claim.

I'd have to dispute that. Well, not quite 'dispute', but just to look at it from another angle. Cone and MIS have both provided a product that outperforms any OEM ink in both tonality and longevity, albeit in a fairly narrow field (greyscale printing). In contrast Inkjetfly hasn't given us anything that we don't already get from OEM inks - the gamut is not better than that of OEM inks, while the ink's permanence merely matches that of the least lightfast brand of OEM inks (Epson). If it's quality that I'm after, rather than cost savings (and the bulk of operating costs tend to be paper, labour and depreciation of equipment value anyway, not the cost of ink), I'd have no compelling reason to buy Inkjetfly inks over OEM inks. The same cannot be said of Cone or MIS - if I wanted a dedicated, high-quality black-and-white printer, they'd be the *only* way to go.
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abeofRD
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« Reply #12 on: July 18, 2013, 11:26:56 AM »
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HI,
I had an interest in these inks a while back, I posted a question here but hadn't gotten a answer since noon here uses it, I am thinking of contacting the people who are using/still using these inks sets, on the Testimonial page there is a few to contact there, or maybe one of you had already done.

Good day all
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shadowblade
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« Reply #13 on: July 18, 2013, 05:40:51 PM »
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HI,
I had an interest in these inks a while back, I posted a question here but hadn't gotten a answer since noon here uses it, I am thinking of contacting the people who are using/still using these inks sets, on the Testimonial page there is a few to contact there, or maybe one of you had already done.

Good day all

I emailed them last night. Let's see if they answer...
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NikoJorj
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« Reply #14 on: July 19, 2013, 06:05:02 AM »
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Companies have little interest in this, because Epson's claims of '200-year longevity' (whether supported by evidence or not) is enough to sell plenty of printers and ink to less-discerning customers. A substantiated claim of 500 years isn't going to gain them too many customers much over an unsubstantiated claim of 200 years made by a major manufacturer.
Indeed, alas!
To my knowledge, InkJetFly did not advertised the results they got with AI&A testing - another explaination could be that they were simply not aware of it, having neither funded nor asked anything in it.

A good occasion to thank once again Mark's efforts, that are indeed precisely aimed at our community of amateur and professionnal fine art printers.
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Nicolas from Grenoble
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shadowblade
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« Reply #15 on: July 20, 2013, 10:55:00 PM »
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Just an update - I've gotten in contact with a few people who wrote testimonials, as well as one or two others who use his product, either as the full Roland- or Mimaki-based Symphonic system, or 11- or 9-ink Epson-based systems. I've also never found anything bad about the products.

Apparently, Scott Saltman, the man behind the system, is a very good inkjet printer who, as well as printing using his own custom inks for better gamut than Epson, also takes apart, fixes and modifies inkjet printers to print on all sorts of media in all sorts of ways.

Now, I'm just trying to commission someone to print some test charts on a few different papers, to submit to Aardenburg for permanence testing. It would be very nice if it turned out to be a great printing system that we had all missed, due to poor/no marketing and a substandard website. Certainly, from the prints I saw, it's not a typical poor-quality third-party ink that produces dull colours that fade in 3 weeks - there was one report saying that it outlasted solvent inks in a sunny, UV-exposed but environment-protected spot.
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Doccolor
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« Reply #16 on: July 26, 2013, 10:13:08 AM »
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This is Scott from American Inkjet Systems, AIS.

Thanks for your comments. Here are some of my comments and information you need to know.

If we have not been responsive to anyone, I apologize.  We expanded our operation by moving to larger quarters earlier this year. At the same time, we redesigned our website, a major task in itself considering all the topics we cover other than ink. During the move, we added more printers to our collection for testing.  After 7 months, we are 90% finished. During this time we developed another 8 Primary Color Ink Set for some major textile companies. This project has met with great success. I mention this, because a multichannel printer has so much potential that is not being taken advantage of, i.e. the Roland dual 6 color that became the Symphony 12. Elements of our new textile technology will be applied to our new 7 Primary Ink Set for the 9900 and for the Symphony 12 both designed for Photo/Fine Art.

What you should be aware of getting involved with the Roland Symphony 12 is greater cost and a good deal of learning. You need to find an older printer, like a Soljet or FJ 540 and or a 72 inch FJ printer and apply older firmware. While Roland will be of little help, we do have other users that will help you as well as having us for support. One good piece of news is that Xrite improved multichannel color management.

I created the Symphony 12 ink set over 8 years ago to push the envelope.  This is not just a business for us, it is our passion. 

You basically see ink companies offering slight variations of the same 4 color system with light inks, trying to match the original manufacturer. Epson entered the arena with the 9900 utilizing Orange and Green, which by the way, are the same Orange and Green produced for Roland over 10 years ago. Roland rejected it for light colors having stated that their reds were not much better than they were getting without those colors. This makes the system a 6 Color system as it was 10 years ago. 

Most other ink companies large and small, follow the original manufacturer’s ink setup and ink colors. There are two reasons for this:
         1.   They do not have to get involved with printing technology, profiling and while companies that do offer profiles, only have to offer RGB profiles. This approach offers these companies the least effort and the least expense to enter the ink arena.
        2.   The second reason is that they have little imagination, no understanding of multichannel ink balancing, Rip Software, and Color Management. This technology necessitates sophisticated understanding and a significant investment.

Here is a simplified understanding of ink Light Resistance. Pigment inks are rated by the industry from 1 to 8, eight being the longest life. Carbon Black with a high density offers the longest life, while quality blues, reds and other dark colors offer between 7+ and 8. Yellows are the weak link and vary from 5 to 7. Diluted inks made from dark inks will diminish their resistance to light greatly.  If you are printing the same image with several different rips as well as the Epson driver utilizing the same ink, you can end up with different results in overall fade resistance. You can read more about light resistance on our blog page.

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shadowblade
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« Reply #17 on: July 26, 2013, 12:29:00 PM »
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Is the Symphony 12 with the new technology going to replace the current one? When is it likely to be available, and how does it improve on the old one (longevity or gamut-wise)?

Which Soljet models are supported? Just the Pro II models (including the EX and V versions), or the Pro III as well? What about the printer/cutter versions?
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Doccolor
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« Reply #18 on: July 26, 2013, 06:46:09 PM »
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Hi,
We are not closing down the Symphony 12, but it is only natural for a company that constantly pushes the envelope to make improvements and share them. I just want to make you aware that the cost of setting up an Epson printer is far less than a Roland and that being said Ed Loeding purchased a 72 inch printer, the rip, a bulk ink system, and complete Color Management Package from Xrite and sells his artwork successfully. His testimonial on our website is more a compliment to his endeavor to learn a higher technology than the fact that he is complimenting AIS.

I hope this information helps you. I also hope you get a chance to read some of the information on our site, including checking out our Gamut Gallery. Whatever you decide to do I wish you great printing.

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shadowblade
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« Reply #19 on: July 27, 2013, 08:44:55 AM »
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Hi,
We are not closing down the Symphony 12, but it is only natural for a company that constantly pushes the envelope to make improvements and share them. I just want to make you aware that the cost of setting up an Epson printer is far less than a Roland and that being said Ed Loeding purchased a 72 inch printer, the rip, a bulk ink system, and complete Color Management Package from Xrite and sells his artwork successfully. His testimonial on our website is more a compliment to his endeavor to learn a higher technology than the fact that he is complimenting AIS.

I hope this information helps you. I also hope you get a chance to read some of the information on our site, including checking out our Gamut Gallery. Whatever you decide to do I wish you great printing.



Thanks - that sounds good.

I've narrowed it down to a few machines available in the area - a SC-540EX (printer/cutter model with the heating unit), a SC-545EX (the Pro II V version) and an SJ-540EX (non-cutter model with the heating unit). Will any, or all of these work for the conversion? I just don't want to end up buying a printer that can't be converted...
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