Coming out of a discussion on the dfa Yahoo list I put out a very rough list of features for what I saw as the ideal inkjet printer for digital artists. So I have decided to flesh that rough idea out here.
The ideal inkjet printer for artists might look like this:
- Flatbed printer construction where the material to print on lies flat and unmoving and the printheads move above it on an X-Y arrangement;
- Paper or material to print on sits on a vacuum bed to stop it from moving;
- Head or bed height adjustable over a range of, say, two inches to accommodate stretched canvas, timber panels and other 3D objects;
- Automatic head height setting;
- Available in A3+, A2+, A1+ and A0 sizes;
- Built-in color profile generation;
- Eight to ten printheads to support a range of possible ink combinations;
- Bulk ink feed from minimum 250ml bottles;
- Ink is real artists pigment in suspension. A variety of ink mediums or forms could work here, from gouache to acrylic, ink to diluted watercolor, or something unique;
- Range of available pigments from a typical artists range, some using expensive pigments, others economical, so artist can choose;
- Software allows you to configure which pigments you are using from which heads, how many heads will be active for a print, etc;
- Artist should be able to create profile sets of pigment combinations and â€˜paperâ€™ and have easy choice between;
- Printheads are user replaceable;
- Printhead resolution of at least 1200dpi;
Five-year warrantee with a reasonable head warrantee period.
The above is quite possible to build. I remember and used X-Y plotters for producing circuit diagrams in my university researcher days that had some of the above characteristics, made by Roland, that were not hugely expensive. The fact that many labs around the world are using modified inkjet printers using piezo heads (Epson) to print all sorts of materials from conductive ink to bacteria shows that getting them to work with read artists pigments should not be too hard.
The above design would allow for all sorts of possible uses, some of which are:
- Using one head to precoat the substrate with something like inkaid to make many substrates inkjet compatible. This might require removing it from the printer to dry if you need to do something else in the meantime, but that would be fine;
- Freedom from CMYK. Artists could load up their personal selection of spot colors to do their work, including white and metallics. You might not be able to print â€˜full colorâ€™ with many of these ink combinations but that is fine if that is what you want to do;
Printing of 3D objects. Large flatbed printers currently can print to some degree on 3D surfaces and there is no reason that could not be achieved here.
Given that it used to make flatbed X-Y plotters and already makes its own inkjet printers using Epson heads, perhaps Roland is the ideal company to make a device like this.
And, of course, an enterprising experimenter could build this themselves.