Okay, what’s happening in China?
Epson SureColor Pro printers are happening. Chinese customers are able to use refillable cartridges filled with their preferred brand of ink. Lucky! I’m so envious!
Consumer protection laws have expanded in recent years in China as it intentionally moves from an export economy to one fueled by its rapidly growing and spending middle-class. China is emulating consumer protection and anti-competition laws that the US created but no longer enforces. By enforcing these laws, China is encouraging more innovation and choice and a healthy competition that fosters continued development of new technologies. Choice is vital to growing a spending economy.
ConeColor and Piezography inks are happening in China. We have distributors for both ConeColor and Piezography. Our inks are being exported from USA to China where it is then sold to photographers, fine artists, and professional printing labs.
The market in China for art and photographic prints has exploded.
China-based fine art labs producing fine art prints must continually add new printers in order to meet the demands of collectors and hotels who buy large quantities of photo and fine art imagery, and corporations with needs to decorate new headquarters and office buildings. The market in China is driven by rising expectation and the need for better performance. ConeColor and Piezography inks fit perfectly into this environment. Our inks are used by professional printers seeking reliable color alternatives to Epson inks and a higher performing ink than locally sourced products.
China is experiencing the growth now that the USA did in the 80s/90s – because of similar factors. The middle class in China is strong and expanding and desirous of collecting fine art and photography. The hotels in China are concerned with both the image they portray and the images they use to portray their identities. A new prosumer group is forming based on small format printers with photographers in limited space wishing to produce their own prints. Where the USA shares most of its images online, China is discovering the beauty of the print – and our inks are helping to fuel this print renaissance. It’s very exciting to be a part of it and to witness it.
When we were in Beijing, we visited one of the best fine art printing labs in the arts district. Their staff numbered in the 100’s and worked on floor after floor filled with production equipment. I saw departments using large format printers from all of the same OEMs selling printers into the USA. I also encountered unique departments like the one focused solely on “washi” papers printed utilizing inkjet technology. I was asked not to take pictures of some of the print mounting operations which they considered proprietary.
We were there to introduce ConeColor Ultra HD™ matte black ink.
ConeColor Ultra HD is the darkest matte black ink in the world. No one has anything like it! ConeColor Ultra HD is too expensive to formulate and manufacture on a large scale and sell at a profitable price. I do not believe that Epson or Canon or HP or anyone will catch up to this new black ink. Vermont PhotoInkjet has again raised the bar to a much higher level with an extraordinarily darker dMax than any OEM or third party supplier.
Black ink has always been an important component of calligraphy which is one of the highest forms of expression in China. Having the darkest possible black is very desirable in Chinese fine art reproduction. The Beijing studio that we visited had purchased several Epson SureColor 9000 printers believing, that according to Epson, they had the darkest dMax. That notion changed in less than an hour.
Upgrading non-USA version large format Epson SureColor printers from the Epson HD MK to our new Ultra HD MK is as easy as inserting a refillable cartridge and making new ICC profiles. The gain in dMax is readily apparent. The new ICCs required because of the gain in dMax increase both the dynamic range and shadow color gamut.
The guys in the photo above compared our new Ultra HD MK ink to the black ink in all of the latest printers from Canon, Epson, HP, Roland, Mutoh, and Mimaki. They have them all. They were duly impressed and through translation explained that they would immediately purchase large quantities of our new Ultra HD Matte Black ink. In the photo above, the production manager in the middle has just been told that we are not there to sell him this ink, but only to find out whether the market is interested in this ink. He told us, this ink would allow his production to satisfy his most difficult to please artists and photographers. As of this writing, our ink is now being distributed in China.
In case you are curious, you can raise the dMax of an Epson X900 or X880 printer using OEM inks from 1.64 to 1.84 by just replacing the OEM matte black with ConeColor Ultra HD Matte Black. That’s a 12% gain in dMax! But, it also means that you can get 1.64 (like you used to on expensive grades of paper) on much less expensive grades of paper if you have been choosing paper grade by its dMax. And if you are thinking of upgrading to a SureColor P printer for its dMax, they can only achieve 1.72 on expensive grades paper. This is why we say “Upgrade your inks rather than your printer!” Read more here.
Incidentally, or to change the subject slightly, Vermont PhotoInkjet is providing a slightly different formulation of the Ultra HD matte black and ConeColor inks to a printer OEM that serves the fine art market in China. Our ink is branded by the OEM and that OEM competes with Canon, Epson and HP for the China photography and fine art market. They are using formulations we designed specifically for their printheads so that they can continue providing warranties for their printers. It is also a sign of our maturing ink development and formulation which we moved directly to our Vermont location a few years ago, and that we continue to invest in, and which we produce responsibly and without impact to the environment!
So, in China the SureColor P-800, P-6000, P-7000, P-8000, or P-9000 are called SureColor P-808, P-6080, P-7080, P-8080, and P-9080. These are the same exact printers as the USA models without the internal mechanism that forces the owner to use only Epson branded cartridges. In China owners of these printers are free to choose their own consumables. Unlike their American counterparts they are also able to use flush and clean cartridges to repair them.
Before you go “hey wait a minute….” I can report to you that installing Chinese version firmware and printer drivers will not remove the lock-out mechanism in a USA SureColor printer. I can already report to you that replacing the chip controller board with an aftermarket chip controller board is not effective in USA printers. I can report to you that EU and Asia version motherboards are unavailable to anyone without a legitimate EU or Asia printer serial number. Therefore getting one is much more difficult than getting an EU or Asia version printer. Those can be imported easily enough.
New InkjetMall products for the China photography and fine art market:
Vermont PhotoInkjet is actively developing new products for Chinese photographers and fine artists. We are developing something special for China for the Epson SureColor P-7080 and P-9080 printers that will rival the ink system I invented to print the Ashes and Snow projects of the early 2000’s. 11 ink positions, and our own printer driver, will allow us to do even greater things than what we’ve done in the past with Roland printers. Vermont PhotoInkjet was the ink supplier to the $25,000+ Roland D’Vinci wide format printers that featured 12 different inks and simultaneous ConeColor and Piezography solutions. Whatever we develop for the China version large format SureColor printers will also work on USA Epson 4900, 7900 and 9900 printers. It will also work on the USA version SureColor P-5000, P-7000 and P-9000 printers when the anti-3rd party cartridge problem is fully solved.
What I find fascinating is that China is rapidly becoming the center of our development. We have been at the forefront of every inkjet breakthrough in the US since the early 1990s. In fact, we introduced pigment inks and light blacks into Epson printers before Epson did. Prior to this, we were IRIS Graphics Development Partner for Fine Arts. We were responsible for 50 of the first fine art “giclee” studios, and we developed one of the first archival ink sets ever produced. And of course, we invented the first black & white inkjet systems. While I am deeply saddened by the turn of events that have progressively closed off USA inkjet printers from innovation and experimentation – I am hopeful that whatever we fuel in China will find its way back to the USA. It’s just not the direction of travel of innovation that I imagined. Yet, it is also an opportunity to reinvent everything all over again, again.
The new Epson printer drivers we are producing for the China SureColor printers will also work on USA versions. And we are developing drivers also for legacy Epson printers. We intend to drive these printers at twice the resolution that Epson does. So, lots of cool things to come for USA InkjetMall customers – even as its fueled by happenings in China. We intend to continue inspiring you to continue using our inks in your printers! In terms of us walking the extra mile for you, we’ve actually walked, driven, flown, rode on buses, trains, taxis and subways an extra 7,122 miles to do this!
I still promise to report on the Piezography Experience Center in Shanghai. I will soon. Also within just a few weeks, we should have ConeColor Pro and Piezography setup and running on our imported China version Epson SureColor P-808 printers using the new Cone drivers. Lots of exciting stuff happening and I will keep you informed.