Epson has announced a new T-series of printheads that use its PrecisionCore thin film piezo technology and are aimed primarily at the wide format sign market. Epson’s T3200 printhead includes a heater for UV ink and is designed primarily for entry level wide format printers.
So far Epson has discussed two of these heads, the T3200, which uses four of its PrecisionCore chips, and the T1600, which uses two PrecisionCore chips. They use the same PrecisionCore chip as the S-3200, with the same piezo actuator, and therefore the same drop placement accuracy. They have a 7.5pl native drop size.
Both heads have the same form factor at 113.4 x 52 x 30.35 mm and offer the same print width of 67.2 mm. The T-3200 can be configured for either two channels at 600dpi each or four channels at 300dpi each, while the T-1600 can be set up with a single color at 600dpi or two colors at 300dpi each. The reason for offering the two versions is to give OEMs more flexibility in the way they configure their printers. For example, this could mean using a T-3200 for CMYK plus a T-1600 for light cyan and light magenta, which is cheaper than simply using two T-3200s and leaving two channels redundant.
These heads are designed to work with UV-curable inks, though there’s no reason why they couldn’t also be used with solvent ink. But the target market is UV printers, and for this reason they have a built-in heater that should allow them to work with the more viscous fluids such as those with higher pigment loading. Epson does not appear to have plans for a version for aqueous inks since there are very few water-based inks that would benefit from having a built in heater.
The use of the heater makes for a more cost-effective approach than the S-3200 heads, which have manifold level recirculation, allowing the inks to be heated in a header tank and then recirculated through the heads to keep the inks at a constant temperature. Paddy O’Hara, business development manager for Epson Europe, says that this approach has worked very well, but says that the T-series heads are aimed at the entry-level large format market and so building the heater into these heads, allows OEMs to avoid the cost and weight of the recirculation system while still being able to handle more viscous fluids.
O’Hara adds, “Having the heater in the head means you can have a more simple ink system and deliver more ink to the head and then just use the heater at the head.”
It’s worth noting that other vendors also take a similar approach so this new design is as much about allowing Epson to remain competitive in the market.
The T1600 has the same form factor as the T3200 but only uses two PrecisionCore chips.
The main advantage of these heads is that they give Epson a more competitive alternative to the i3200, which also offers four channels and has been the go-to printheads for Epson and its OEM partners for several years now. The new T-series heads offer a much wider print swathe than the i3200’s 33.8mm and the combination of the T3200 and T1600 gives OEMs more flexibility, while the built-in heater will make it easier to handle UV inks. However, Epson will continue to sell the I-series as these are mostly designed to work with aqueous inks (with the exception of the I-3200HD which is designed for coding and marking applications).
The T-3200 and T-1600 heads should start shipping from September though the first heads will likely go to the Asian market where most of the entry-level large format OEMs are. That would mean that we could see some of the first printers early next year.
O’Hara adds, “However, the design is quite nice for narrow single pass applications. So for the European and US markets it will be quite good for compact multiple color arrays for things like security cards or loyalty cards. It’s a perfect fit for that width, for variable data, or adding variable color images.” He adds that it could also be used to add customization to some packaging applications though the interlocking S-3200 would be a better bet for anything with a wider print width that required stitching.
O’Hara estimates that the third party drive electronics should follow shortly because of the similarities with the S-series heads. Jonathan Wilson, sales director at Meteor Inkjet, adds, “Because we already have the I-series and S-series it’s not far off in development terms so by the beginning of Q4 we should start to announce availability of the drivers for the T-series heads.”
In the meantime, you can find more details on Epson’s printheads from epson.com and on the PrecisionCore technology here. It’s also worth noting that earlier this summer Epson launched its first head with full recirculation, the D-3000, which I’ve covered here.