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The Truth About GelJets

From the Printware Blog on Wednesday 16th October 2013 in Printing Technology

Back in February 2012, we published an article entitled Ricoh GelJet Printers to Replace GelSprinter Range. Despite the fact that it is now over 18 months old, it continues to be one of our more popular blog articles, along with the excellent Understanding Liquid Gel Technology. Although GelJets aren’t our biggest product line by any means, there are clearly plenty of you out there wanting to learn more about them, so we thought it was worth revisiting the subject.

What is GelJet Technology?

GelJet technology combines some of the best features of inkjet and laser technology to deliver a system which has the advantages of both, with few of the drawbacks. 

Traditional inkjet printers use either water-soluble dye based ink or water-insoluble pigment ink. Dye-based ink is quick drying but tends to bleed on contact with the paper and is prone to smudging and fading. Pigment ink, on the other hand, is resistant to smudging and fading but takes a long time to dry.

GelJet printers use a soya-based gel which is four times more viscous than ink and dries on contact, leaving pigment particles bonded to the paper fibre. This results in high quality images and clear, crisp text which is water, smudge and highlighter resistant.

GelJet v Laser

GelJet printheads are designed to last a lifetime and, with no fusers, drums or photoconductor units to replace, running costs are low. For example, the Ricoh SG 3110DN costs 1.17p per page, printing at 5% coverage, compared with the OKI C301dn, which costs 4.14p per page.

Since liquid gel doesn’t require high temperatures to bond it to the paper, GelJet printers use far less energy than laser printers. A Ricoh GelJet 3110DN emits, on average, 8.1kg of CO2 per compared with a typical laser printer, which will produce 39.2kg. With just the one consumable item to replace, GelJets also produce a great deal less waste than laser printers.

As always, though, laser printers win in the durability stakes. The Ricoh SG 3110DN has a duty cycle of 10,000 pages, against the Lexmark CS310dn’s 60,000 pages, making the laser printer the better choice for high volume printing.

GelJet v Inkjet

GelJet printers also have several advantages over inkjets, including the ability to print on a variety of media. The performance of an inkjet printer and the maximum yield of its cartridges are heavily influenced by the type of paper used. GelJets, however, will deliver consistent results on everything from cheap copier paper to glossy coated paper.

The use of an electrostatic belt transfer system, rather than paper rollers, makes GelJets far less prone to paper jams than inkjet printers. This means less fiddling around trying to retrieve chewed-up sheets of paper from your printer’s insides.

If you’re printing images to sell or display, though, a decent inkjet printer is still your best bet. While a GelJet may outperform a lower-end inkjet, serious photographers or artists will be better off with something like the Canon PIXMA PRO-1.

The Printers

Price and specification for the GelJet printers is on a par with inkjet printers, with the SG 3110DN around £15 cheaper than the Epson WorkForce Pro WP-4015DN. The Ricoh has a lower print resolution, no front USB port and lacks AirPrint or Google Cloud Print support but, at 29 pages per minute, is considerably faster than its rival.

For an extra £10 you can buy the SG 3100SNw, which includes a copier and scanner, duplex ADF and Wi-Fi connectivity. Again, specification is comparable to similarly priced inkjet printer but with the added benefit of increased versatility and reliability.

Following in Epson’s footsteps, Ricoh has released a mono GelJet printer, the SG K3100DN and there’s even an A3 version, the SG 7100DN.

Final Thoughts

If you’re looking for an inexpensive, eco-friendly printer with low running costs, the GelJet printers are a great option. The ability to produce high quality output on a range of media makes them incredibly versatile, which is particularly valuable if your budget or space is limited.

GelJet printers aren’t well-suited to producing gallery-quality images or high-volume output but, for most applications, they’re an ideal addition to any small to medium-sized office. 


by Anthony Morgan

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