Monday, December 13, 2010

Anomalogical Observation No.1

Things to Watch for In You Give A Hoot

We give a hoot, that's why we're
passing these observations on to y'all.
This brief piece starts a new 'featurette' about things that go bump in the night. Being a night owl, that's when I work and I don't like things that bump then unless they are of a 'particular kind' (heh heh).

Anamological Observations will provide some insight into things that might otherwise make a giclée printer feel insecure. It's all part of becoming a wise old night owl.

This first piece is about our new Epson® 9900 giclée printer and let me say before going any further that we are quite happy with this fabulous new 10-color machine. Moreover, I am aware that any new system or device has a 'beta-test' phase, which is a kind of shakeout using real customers to find and fix bugs.

Usually, at Vashon Island Imaging ( we wait before buying anything totally new because we don't like being guinea pigs. For us there's only a fine line between shakeout and shakedown.

This time was different for a variety of reasons, which have nothing to do with anything other than our need to be able to switch between gloss and matte black more efficiently than we could with our 9880 model... which we now can with the 9900. But I digress...

The 9900 is doing a great job but two things have happened which I will term anomalies at this point. (Epson®, clue in.)

The first has to do with the machine. The other day it just went away. Oh, it was there in all its massiveness... but wouldn't respond to anything. Even the on-off switch did nothing. That was spooky.

Being an old dog my first instinct in these situations is to turn everything off and then back on after waiting 10 - 15 seconds. So I unplugged the 9900 and then plugged it back in... And it fired right up with nary a touch of any buttons at all.

So there's that.

The next one has been going on for a few days. It's the ink meter. The one for light black (T5967) reminds me of John Wayne's gun.

The Duke's gun never runs out of ammo.
He can shoot forever without reloading.

About a week ago the ink meters threw up a big yellow exclamation point warning that the light black ink cartridge was at 11% (we use the new 350 ml size, although this was -- still is -- the 150 ml cart that the machine came with).

Making note of the light-black ink levels decent, I also logged media cosumption. I calculated that it was using the light-black ink at 1% per foot of 44-inch-wide media (with heavy coverage).

As it got down to 2% I dutifully fetched a new cart off the shelf and prepared to do my first ink change on the new 10-color printer. My attention got focused at the 1-% mark and I even read the instruction book at that point.

I started printing small stuff because I hate changing carts in the middle of a big one. Even though Epson®'s got it down now -- you can change any color in the middle of a print without seeing any flaws in the print -- there is still room for human error ...or even anomalies.

With the 9880 we had an anomaly one time changing the yellow ink cartridge in the middle of a 44-inch by 12-foot print. The picture became a triptych that day, instead of a continuous panorama, when the yellow ink somehow pumped dry despite the new cart.

So there's that, too. Anyway...

The 9900 kept printing more and more small stuff. Finally, I had to print a big one. Boy, was I on my toes... but it got printed with no probs, and the ink meter kept reading a solid 1% throughout. Hmmmmph, I said to myself, and did another... and another....

As I write this blog the ink meter has been exclaiming 1% while 20-feet of 24-inch-wide media (heavy coverage) has printed perfectly... and the machine is still going strong.

Now, a couple of other colors are showing ink-level warnings. Yellow is at 7%, cyan is at 11% and matte black is at 12%... so we'll soon see whether this is a light-black anomaly or a more colorful one.

Stay tuned... there may be a Guiness Book of World Records thing happening here.

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