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Ricoh Ri 1000

With a growing desire to bring textile work in-house, Ricoh introduced its Ri 1000 direct-to-garment printer. Brian Sims unfolds the covers of the mid-range DTG machine

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The Ricoh Ri 1000 was launched at Fespa in Munich this year

Into the fold with direct-to-garment print 

FESPA saw the release of a number of new printers, large, fast and expensive and capable of producing vast amounts of printed copy of every description. The show also was the coming out of other, less mainstream products, but no less impressive in what they can do.

One eye-catching printer was the Ri 1000 from Ricoh what they call a direct-to-garment (DTG) mid-range device that fits between the Ri 100 entry-model and the top of the range Ri 6000 completing a stable of DTG printers capable of a wide range of products.

The Ri 1000 is a mid-range model that sits between the Ri 6000 at the top, and the Ri 100

The new printer has been designed to add flexibility coupled with speed and quality. Obviously at its heart is the technology Ricoh has developed over numerous years and it is the unique variable-drop ink technology delivering up to a resolution of 1,200 x 1,200 dpi. This is achieved through a series of piezo inkjet heads that uses Ricoh’s unique Dynamic Print Head Positioning Technology. It is this innovative head array that delivers this industry required resolution.

With this technology, the four print heads can print vibrant colours with smooth graduations, the ability to lay down fine lines or text and where needed, deep solids.

With this technology, the four print heads can print vibrant colours with smooth graduations, the ability to lay down fine lines or text and where needed, deep solids

The Ri 1000 uses water-based pigmented white ink as a base layer and the standard CMYK ink set to apply the colour and detail needed on the garment. To ensure the white ink does not suffer from deposition, there is a built-in agitation system meaning the pigments stay in suspension. The inks are OEKO-TEX certified and have the ECO PASSPORT, which means it is suitable and safe for direct skin contact products.

OEKO-TEX is a test and certification system that is used to ensure products which are used when direct skin contact is needed, are safe and will not result in a negative reaction. There are a number of sites worldwide including Japan and Europe with a number of offices throughout the other continents.

In 18 independent and accredited facilities inks are rigorously tested and checked to ensure any ink that selected and passes the testing can be relied on to be safe. Adding this standard to a product can give the end user confidence.

A splash of ink

The process of obtaining an ECO PASSPORT is completed in three stages. Firstly, the components that make up the inks are listed and checked by OEKO-TEX against a list of harmful substances as listed by REACH. REACH stands for Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals which is the European regulation for the protection of human health and the environment by chemicals.

The second stage is the analytical testing in a laboratory of the substances submitted for certification and the reaction and sustainability of them with the substrates they are being used on, textiles, leather and other materials used for direct contact products.

Finally, the third stage is the inspection and audit of the working conditions and environmental management of the company seeking approval and wishing to gain the ECO PASSPORT. On completion of these three stages, a company can put the OEKO-TEX ECO PASSPORT icon on any of their products.

To ensure the print quality is maintained to the highest possible standards, the Ri 1000 has an automatic height sensor built in to make sure the heads are kept at the optimal height from the substrate which in turn maintains the quality of image. Switching between different thickness of substrate is simple and accomplished by a button on the touchscreen.

To ensure the print quality is maintained to the highest possible standards, the Ri 1000 has an automatic height sensor built in

The production of the product via the Ri 1000 is very straight forward, three basic steps.

Step one is to design the product needed, which can be easily completed on the software for the printer, adding images or sizing to suit the workspace. Adapt the design with the colour of the garment being printed and adjust the colours required by the use of simple software sliders.

Once you are happy with the image, you can send the prepared file to the printer directly, via USB or Ethernet for the second step, the printing. First the white base layer goes down on the first pass of the process.

Once complete, the second CMYK layer is printed which all takes as little as 28 seconds for an image 254 x 203mm. To check progress of the job, the Ri 1000 has an overhead viewer that allows you to check on the production of the job in real time.

Apply heat

Finally, you press the garment for one and a half minutes at 165°C to set the image into the garment making it stable and fixed.

When applying heat to the garment, it takes one and a half minutes to complete, at 165°C

As for the substrates themselves, Ricoh has designed the Ri 1000 to cope with a range of textiles up to 30mm thick, ranging from light to heavy in weight and dark to light in contrast.

To add to the efficiency of the printer, it has been designed with three platens what can be changed in seconds as they are magnetic. Click one off, and click the next directly back on; each platen having a frame to secure the substrate.

The Ri 1000 has a large seven inch interactive touchscreen that will allow you to set and operate the printer.

Whilst you can check the condition of the printer in the same panel, the maintenance schedules are all taken care of by the machine itself as it checks the condition of heads and other elements on the fly and completes the maintenance tasks as and when they are needed with minimal operator intervention.

Should a human be required to complete a maintenance task, smart alerts come up on the touchscreen explaining what needs to be done and why.

FESPA had some very interesting products on display, as you can see from the offering from Ricoh, they were not always the largest. 

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