PMA Spring 2004 Show
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COOL/UNUSUAL: "Slab" printer takes media to 4.7 *inches* thick!
By Dave Etchells, The Imaging Resource
(Tuesday, February 17, 2004 - 18:46 EST)

The show's over, but not our coverage: I came across this gadget at the PMA show last week - What caught my eye was a display of ceramic tiles with photos printed on them. Apparently based on Epson print heads, the "Busjet" can apparently handle material as thick as 4.7 inches. (!)

Some inkjet printers these days can handle fairly thick media, typically up to about 1-1.5 mm posterboard. But what if you want to print on something *really* thick? If you need to print high-quality photos on slabs of wood, ceramic tiles, or even small gift boxes, the Busjet printer by Sprin US, Inc. could be the solution you've been looking for.




The Busjet appears to be built on an Epson mechanism and print head, as it uses Epson pigment-based inks, and boasts a maximum resolution of 2880 dpi, a common Epson spec. (This is interesting, as the Busjet is the first instance I've heard of, of Epson licensingg their printing technology to a third party.)




The principle characteristic of the Busjet is that it has a completely straight-through print mechanism, with a bed that can be raised and lowered a substantial amount. Its overall construction reminds me of the wood planer in my workshop; and it can handle substrates as thick as 4.7 inches. (!) Even more surprising, it can print on extremely irregular surfaces as well, with as much as a couple of millimeters of thickness variation.




It appears that a key part of the Busjet printing process is preparation of the substrate - Before printing, you spray a liquid coating on the substrate and let it dry. This insures proper ink adhesion and wetting characteristics, and seems to work surprisingly well, given the wide range of substrates I saw displayed in the booth. The photo above shows some of the output examples that were on display, including ceramic tile (at lower left), wood (several pieces shown in the photo), and even rippled glass (standing upper right).


This print-on-anything capability doesn't come cheap though - The Busjet's quoted price is $12,500 US. You apparently also can't expect the 100-year archival life you'll get when using Epson inks in an Epson printer on Epson media. Staff in the Busjet booth said that normal fade life in an indoor environment would be somewhere in the range of 3-6 years. (Too bad, it'd be pretty slick if you could get true archival life on ceramic tiles, for use as building materials in custom kitchens, bathrooms, etc.)


Overall though, if you need to print photo-quality images on an amazing range of substrates, the Busjet looks like the only game in town.


Manufacturer Sprin USA, Inc. told me that they don't have their website fully complete yet, but there's at least some information there, at www.sprinusa.com. You can reach them by phone at 323-255-5790.

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