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Understanding Liquid Gel Technology

From the Printware Blog on Monday 18th March 2013 in Printing Technology, Resources

GelJet technology, developed by Ricoh is a hybrid between laser and inkjet offering an optimal balance and maximisation of print speed and image quality at affordable cost in a business environment.

  • Dries instantly – 4 times as viscous as ink
  • Uses soya based gel instead of dye, no hazardous emissions
  • No smudging or blurring
  • No requirement for expensive, coated paper
  • Waterproof and sun-resistant
  • High speed simplex printing 28/30 ppm Colour and Mono
  • Fast duplex reaches 85% of simplex speed
  • New belt transfer system for reliable, fast paper transport
  • Variable media handling, upto 160 gsm from paper tray
  • Upto 255 gsm and banner length from optional bypass tray
  • Dual tank system for efficient printing, with no waste whatsoever
  • Printing can continue when cartridges are empty
  • Cartridges have a long yield for uninterrupted printing
  • Easy to maintain – only cartridges to change
  • Modulated dot size for precision quality

Ricoh GelJet Technology

Particularly for small and medium enterprises and smaller office workgroups, the upfront cost of colour laser printers is often too high. Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) prohibits the use of colour inkjets for cost sensitive customers due to frequent and expensive cartridge changes. With its revolutionary new GelJet technology, Ricoh is meeting this need in a completely different way.

By utilising Liquid Gel rather than traditional toner or ink, the GelJet range produces affordable waterproof and sunlight resistant prints. Key benefit of the Liquid Gel is that it dries instantly when hitting the paper. Due to this technology, high speed printing is ensured even in duplex mode. Speeds are up to 30 pages per minute for both colour and black and white.

Key innovation for high speed quality printing is the GelJet extra wide print head separate from the cartridges. With its 32.3 mm, the widest in its class, the printable area is greatly expanded. The power used to push the Liquid Gel through the print head is about 1 Mega Pascal, about 2.5 times as high as with conventional printers. Contrary to other devices, the GelJet print heads are designed for durability and anti-clogging. If the printer is not used for a longer period of time, the print heads will be automatically cleaned. For a high 1,200 dpi image resolution, each print head has 384 nozzles. Contrary to other systems however, GelJet allows for clear and solid images, even at high speed and/or low resolution. Due to Ricoh’s Modulated Dot (M-Dot) technology, the size of the drops is varied, maximising the performance of the fast drying GelJet Liquid Gel.
Using the special Level Colormode - the cost per page of colour prints is similar to black and white prints. This feature distinguishes texts from images and graphics. While texts are printed at normal thickness, up to 50% is saved on colours for images and graphics within the same document. As opposed to so-called 'Draft' modes currently in the market, the Level Colormode ensures perfectly crisp and sharp black texts at all times.
With these new models Ricoh underlines its TCO focus. Apart from the Level Colormode, the lifecycle and design of the cartridges are key for GelJet. It uses four separate cartridges, as well as small reservoirs at the print heads, ensuring a continuous supply of Liquid Gel. Moreover there are virtually no residues when notification is given that replacement is due. The print heads are separate from the cartridges and designed to last the lifetime of the printer. This has a favourable effect on consumable costs and therefore on the overall cost per page.

Other TCO saving measures include ability to use normal or recycled paper rather than special laser or inkjet paper, low power consumption, first print speed within six seconds, automatic duplex printing and counter function to be used in click charge.

The GelJet Belt Transfer System

The paper transfer technology of traditional devices uses roller feeding systems. Rollers at the front and the back of the print head should flatten the sheets. This system often results in an unclear print image at the edges, since the front and back edges of the sheet tend to hang loose. In addition, high speed feeding is not possible as the paper may ripple and feeding becomes unstable. The GelJet technology eliminates all of these disadvantages and makes use of a belt transfer system, commonly used in laser printers. The GelJet belt transfer system uses electrostatic power to enable high speed transfer and fast printing, while images are consistently sharp.

The belt transfer system also enables optimum duplex printing. With conventional roller feeding systems, the sheet is released while printing the edge. In case of duplex printing, the sheet cannot be released, as it has to be inverted. This causes a large unprintable area (20 - 30 mm from the edge) at the back of the paper. The GelJet system guarantees high quality, high speed printing on both sides of the paper, without such limitations.

As a further advantage, the belt transfer system allows the use of the wide print heads. This combination enables high feeding speeds and sharp image quality. With traditional roller feeding systems, wide print heads will not solve the issue of poor print quality at the edges of the sheet. Even with its extremely wide print head, the GelJet’s electrostatic belt transfer system preserves a high quality for the whole print area, including the edges.

GelJet Belt Transfer System Advantages

  • Fast printing
  • Consistent high quality across the whole print area, including the edges
  • Optimum duplex printing without limitations of conventional methods

Contact Us for more information about GelJet printers, or to request print samples.


by Andy Leighton

Feel free to leave a comment:

Friday 17th May 2013 - Marc Finkel

This is indeed a very nice post. Thanks for sharing this useful information. Definitely will help in Digital Impact Printing

Friday 17th May 2013 - Anthony Morgan, Printware

Thank you Marc, glad you enjoyed the article. I'll pass your comment along to our Technical Manager, Andy Leigton, who wrote it.

Friday 21st June 2013 - Blaire

Does this mean that I can use a liquid gel for both my inkjet and laser printer inks and toners? Is there no any disadvantages discovered so far yet? I'm afraid of putting them at risks. Buying a new one is not good for my pocket.

Friday 21st June 2013 - Anthony Morgan, Printware

Hi Blaire. Gel technology is a hybrid of inkjet and laser in that it combines some of the features of both. It is, however, a completely separate technology and gel cartridges are designed to be used in gel printers only. The main disadvantage of a gel printer compared with a laser is durability - for printing large volumes, a laser printer would be far more efficient.

Friday 20th September 2013 - Giles Lane

Is the Gel technology compatible with waterproof paper types such as Acqualaser or Zecom (both designed for laser printers and photocopiers)?

Monday 23rd September 2013 - Anthony Morgan, Printware

Thanks for your question, Giles. As liquid gel works by being absorbed into the paper, rather than fused to the surface like toner, it would not be compatible with waterproof paper.

Wednesday 9th October 2013 - Alex

If I created a letter head with the gel ink. Would I be able to over print the letter head on a laser printer?

Wednesday 9th October 2013 - Anthony Morgan, Printware

Hi Alex

This is the reply from Andy, who wrote the article:

"In theory yes, however it will depend on if the ink is completely dry when it leaves the printer. Even in a commercial printing of letterheads there is some allowance for drying time. If it can be left for a few days in a dry environment before use, it can only do good. I would be careful though, as it might not be supported by the manufacturer."

Sunday 3rd November 2013 - Peter

When I'm out of the house for 6 weeks and come back, is the gel then dried in the printer? Ink in Inkjet printers can dry and cause headache, what does the Geljet do? Can it just print as if nothing had happened? Does it need to clean itself and waste a lot of inkgel to be ready again? (Does it clean/"waste" some gel every time I power it on?) Would switch to a gel-printer in case the disadvantages of pure ink are gone (drying cartridges, ink-expensive cleaning procedures). Thanks!

Tuesday 5th November 2013 - Anthony Morgan, Printware

Hi Peter. Thanks for your question.
GelJet printers are specifically designed to eliminate these issues - the new gels are less prone to clogging and drying in the print head than those used by the old GelSprinters and, if the printer is not used for a longer period of time, the print heads will be automatically cleaned. The GelJet models also feature bi-directional ink pumps, which minimise gel wastage during cleaning.

Monday 2nd December 2013 - Cris

Hi, I'm very tempted by GelJet printers, but I had so many problems with inkjets that I'm afraid of wasting my money. First of all, the type of usage would be personal usage. At times, (every two/three years) I can be out of home for as long as six months. What would happen to the print head? I already know it would automatically clean, but this is not my question. Even my inkjet will automatically clean itself in such a case, but when I left it for six months there was no amount of cleaning that would unclog it (besides the high cost due to wasted ink). I had to buy a special cleaning solution and waste a lot of time to have it working again. Will it happen with a geljet printer? Also, what is the typical lifetime of a geljet printer (home usage)? Finally, what about waste-ink tanks? While looking for a Ricoh printer I saw it has a wate-ink tank (like inkjets) that should last about 27000 pages. What happens after that? Will I be able to replace the tank or will the printer become unusable (like a lot of inkjets)? Thank you in advance.

Tuesday 3rd December 2013 - Anthony Morgan, Printware

Hi Cris, thanks for your questions.
As mentioned above, GelJet printers are specifically designed to eliminate the problems of ink drying and clogging the print head, even after prolonged inactivity. I'd be very surprised if you ever needed to manually clean the print head.
The waste ink tank is user replaceable so, when it gets full, you can simply replace it and carry on printing.
There are many factors that can affect the lifetime of a printer so it's a difficult one to predict but if you were printing around 2,000 pages per month, you could reasonably expect the printer to last at least 2 or 3 years.

Wednesday 4th December 2013 - Cris

Anthony, this is great to hear! I am nearly convinced! What about typical inkjet problems like banding, head misalignment, etc?

Wednesday 4th December 2013 - Anthony Morgan, Printware

Hello again Chris
According to Ricoh, the GelJet's large print head and electrostatic belt system should eliminate the problem of head misalignment.
However, it seems that GelJets are not immune to banding and image quality is not as good as it is for inkjets.
For example, a GelJet printer would be fine for internal business documents but the quality may not be suitable for customer facing documents or photos.

Saturday 22nd March 2014 - john

I like the sound of what I have seen on here and other sites i have looked at but what about transparency printing do i use ink jet or laser type?

Wednesday 26th March 2014 - Anthony Morgan, Printware

Hi John, thanks for your question. You should be able to print on transparencies using a GelJet printer but, if you have a file that you'd like to send us, we can arrange to print some samples for you.

Monday 10th November 2014 - J. Rivera

Hi Anthony, how long a print of this kind last in direct sunlight, printed on vinyl (Stickers Kind). Thanks!

Tuesday 11th November 2014 - Anthony Morgan, Printware

Hi J Thanks for the question. We were unable to find any definite figures on how long a print would last in direct sunlight but there are many references in Ricoh's literature to the fact that it would last considerably longer than a traditional print. Sorry I couldn't be more exact but I hope this helps.

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