Printing on mugs, t-shirts, mousepads, aluminium-business cards and many more cool stuff with sublimation ink is currently very famous in the digital printing industry for small format prints. People can print their images very simple, fast and cost-effective from up to one piece. E.g. these prints affect positive reactions and feelings to the person who gets a printed product as a present. For the sublimation printing it is neccessary to use a piezo inkjet printer so far provided almost only by Epson. The reason to use piezo technologie is that the sublimation process reacts by using heat presses to sublimate the ink into the product. Needless to say that the sublimation ink is a special ink and is a non genuine Epson ink. Therefore it is almost not possible to use a HP printer with bubble-jet technologie because they heat up the ink in the printhead.
There was no other competitor on the sublimation market yet and Epson did not considered it neccessary to work with sublimation suppliers and wholesalers together. There was no partnership. Sublimation distributors just buyed the hardware from Epson but did not use the original Epson inks. Of course their business policy is to sell also consumables like papers and inks but for the sublimation market this policy does not fit with their needs at all. Additionaly Epson secured their cartridges and printers with chips to protect them against non genuine inks even for a business market that can not be compared with end consumers. This made the situation more complicated for the sublimation market .
Now there could be a fast and hard change for Epson on the sublimation market if they dont change their business policy in this small but highly interesting part of digital printing. Ricoh began to step into the market – currently without any resistance. Since a few weeks there is a partnership between the sublimation market and Ricoh: The printer modells GX5050 (A4 size) and GX7000 (A3 size). Is this a new born for sublimation printing?! Someone developed a new sublimation ink called SubliGel R – not to mix it up with SubliJet.
This ink is developed especially for these two printer modells: Cartridge system; 65 ml each cartridge; already chip-hacked for sublimation needs – a lot more simple than bulk ink systems with pre-adapted cartridges on the actual A4 and A3 Epson printers wich is sometimes a time-consuming and annoying trip during the installation and frequent use. Epson did not support the sublimation guys in any way the last years. The bulk ink systems were build from third parties.
Currently their is no dangerours quantity of Ricoh sublimation printers on the market for Epson. Anyway this market is only a few million bugs big. So why should Epson change their policy in this business and start the competition Ricoh versus Epson? It is business policy and also at that time of economy in the whole world an important issue to save their markets! Who wants to loose a market against a competitor without trying to fight back even if they had this market without any efforts in the last few years? Nobody!
If the Ricoh printers are as good as the most american distributors expect, Ricoh will take over the whole sublimation market very fast and simple – if Epson does not react. Just today there was a newsletter from Conde one of the biggest sublimation distributors in the US. With there message to change the Epson to a Ricoh printer they step forward in a new age of sublimation printing. Hopefully the sublimation market can expect a competition between Ricoh and Epson now.
The only chance for Epson is to change their business policy for several types of printer modells for the sublimation market. E.g. the Business Inkjet B300 and B500 are predestinated for use with sublimation inks. 110ml cartridges, really fast printing and reliable printhead technologie. But this is not my decision. Now its up to Epson its future.