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Encad’s VinylJet 36 Direct-to-Vinyl Printer

A revolutionary system that doesn’t use solvent-based inks

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Unless you’re a skilled painter, you’re probably interested in producing full-color banners and signs like the "big" shop down the street. Thus, if you decide to take the plunge, you should first investigate the various digital options.

In the early 1990s, you had two choices: a direct-to-vinyl or wide-format inkjet printer. Faced with too few options, like many signshops, you probably waited.

During the mid- to late 1990s, UV-resistant inks came onto the scene, boasting one- to two-year outdoor durability. However, upon investigation, you discovered numerous hidden costs, including the need for a laminator, and decided, once again, to wait.

Then, manufacturers began introducing eco-friendly solvent inks and printers. You researched them and learned they produce output with a two- to three-year outdoor durability without lamination. They require special top-coated media; however, the media is similar to the vinyls you use in your cutter. Although this isn’t the printer of your dreams, you consider taking the digital plunge anyway.

Today, numerous, affordable solvent-based inkjets are available. However, what if you’re seeking an inkjet system that prints directly onto standard uncoated media?

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Encad’s VinylJet 36 printer, which images directly onto standard cast and calendered vinyl, is truly revolutionary. And, it doesn’t use solvent-based ink; instead, it encapsulates waterbased aqueous ink.

Specifications, features and speed

We reviewed this printer at the International Sign Assn. Sign Expo 2003 in Las Vegas. At first glance, the VinylJet 36 resembles a standard Encad NovaJet series digital printer that’s been painted white. However, upon closer examination, you’ll discover the printer’s extension under the platen and an odd control interface below the control panel.

The thermal-inkjet printer incorporates easily changeable inkjet cartridges, offers 600 dpi and images in four colors. It handles media up to 36 in. wide and provides a 34.8-in. printable area. Further, it accommodates standard vinyl widths of 18, 20 and 30 in.

Alone, the printer weighs 127 lbs; combined with the stand, the machine weighs 140 lbs., making it easy for two people to install. When attached to the stand, the machine has dimensions of 44 in. high x 71 in. wide x 28 in. deep — a nice, manageable size.

The system’s temperature range is 59

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