Printers and Decals - ALPS Out Of Production Still The Only Option?

Group,
Anyone have an update on the status of decal printing on home user printers? Specifically for printing gold, silver, white letters, etc.
Previously, the only option was some out of production ALPS printers, is that still the case?
I've got some projects to work on that I can't find from commercial decal suppliers - Southern RWY heavyweight and streamlined passenger cars, Maine Central heavyweight passenger cars (Microscale does streamlined), "Fantasy" Western Maryland streamlined passenger cars with yellow speed letter scheme on black window band, and a couple of my own "private" railroads.
Also, has anyone approached local printer shops with decal jobs. We got several here in the community. As there is commercial decal paper available, I thought this might be a source. Although within reason with regards to job size, etc.
I note the several custom decal printers that advertise in Model Railroader and Railroad Model Craftsman. Duh, perhaps I just answered my own question :-) But I would like to hear others (if any) with custom decal services. And I need help in getting artwork converted to the decals.
Thanks!
Robert
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Laser color printers are quite common now but it seems those powers are not available. I have heard there is white power but lots of internet hunting has turned up nothing so it just may be a tail.
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Robert B spake thus:

Yep. However, there are tons of printers (and printing supplies) available on that little unknown Web-based auction site. Probably worth looking into if you want to print your own decals.
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Given the widespread prevalence of computers in today's world, I'm surprised that no other company has stepped in to fill the void left by ALPS when they stopped MD-series printer production in 2000. It must have been a terribly small niche market.
Certainly there are other dye-sublimation (is that the term?) printers in production now - what are their limitations (relative to the ALPS printers) for printing decals?
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Be interesting to see if photo printers could print decals. This might be another route to think about.
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The consumer-grade photo printers are generally just high-res / high quality inkjet printers. The problem with *all* inkjet printers is that the ink is water soluable and this water-based ink won't stick to standard untreated decal paper. Yes, there are special decal papers to which water-based ink will stick to, but it is necessary to seal on the ink or it will wash off during the decal application process (ie when the decal is soaked in water).
The other problem is that almost all printers assume that white is supplied by the medium (paper), and so are not set up to print 'white'. They are also not set up to print other odd 'colors' (like metalic colors, etc.) I *guess* CD printers might print white ink (???) since blank CD-Rs are not white. This probably applies to most dye-sublimation printers. The other problem is heat -- decal paper does not do well under extreme heat (it wants to melt or burn), so high tempature laser printers are a problem.

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Robert Heller -- 978-544-6933
Deepwoods Software -- Linux Installation and Administration
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wrote:

Didn't Epson experiment with a printer that used some kind of new inks that were not water soluible? I'm thinking that they used to have displays of printed materials in water. And the ink had a special name... something brite. I had asked them if they would ever consider a special opaque white ink for them. Maybe if enough people suggested that, something might happen.
As to the ability to layer ink................ I don't think that's going to happen. But a printer that did a decent job on oqaque white would be a huge step in the right direction.
dlm
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Lets set the record straight on ALPS MD Dye-Sub and thermal printing.
Alps MD (MicroDry) series printers (and all the rebadged printers based on MD technology ) use thermal printing thechnology. They utilize a MicroDry (Alps patented process) using wax/resin inks. This is standard thermal process where the melted ink transfers from its ribbon carrier onto the print media. It gets "melted" onto the paper. You can actually see the extra thickness of the ink and you can even scratch it off the paper. That is *NOT* a Dye-Sub process.
This MicroDry technology combined with capability of ink layering and special colored inks (like white and metalllics) make it highly useful for small run decal printing. While the printer is still capable of printing on standard paper (which it was designed for in the first place).
Certain models are also capable of printing using Dye-Sub (also type of thermal) process. Only models 2300, 1300 and 5000P have Dye-Sub capabilities. Except for also being a thermal process, this process is totally different than MicroDry. It uses special "ink" ribbon cartridges and it requires a special (Dye-Sub) print media. The process vaporises the ink/dye which then gets sublimated inot the specially coated print media. Dye-Sub process is totally useless for making decals.
Most of the confusion stems from the fact that majority of people dealing with Alps MD printers use the "Dye-Sub", "MicroDry" and "thermal printing" interchangably, like they all mean the same thing. But as you can see, they are different.
I hope that this information alleviates all the confusion about Alps MD printer technology. As you can see, the current slew of Dye-Sub photograph printers out there in the market is most likely useless for making decals.
As far as support goes, Alps is shortly going to fully drop their support for their MD series printers. They haven't been sold for many years, so they've reached their end of supported life. But since there are many newer (and current) rebadged MD printers or printers using the MD technology, their support will continue for some time. But that means that current Alps MD users will have to start looking for substitutes and try using ink cartridges for those other printers. That usually means more expensive ink. Also, if the Alps MD printer breaks, ther will no longer be an easy way to get it refurbished. And all these printers have finite head life. they will eventually burn out. And unlike ink-jets, the head in those printer is permanently installed. On most consuber ink-jets the print cartridge is the head. It gets replaced as you change the ink cartridge.
As far as why other companies haven't invested in this sort of printer, they have. There are lots of thermal transfer printers out there in the market. However most are made for industrial and specialized user which makes them not easily adopable for producing decals. They are usually priced well out of reach for hobbyists or small decal manufacturers. Also lack of availability or white and metallic ribbons is another contributing factor. Still another is that prnter drivers for many industrial thremal printers aren't set up for multi-pass printing (a vital feature for making decals).
Here are some examples of currently available thermal printers:
http://www.powis.com/products/printers/Foilfast_P21.php (this looks just like MD 5000)
http://www.kpgraphics.com/usc/products/packaging/products/first_check_p.html (another MD 5000 clone)
http://www.zebra.com/ (most hard drive mfgrs. use one of those thermal printers to print the product specs. labels on the hard drives. Also used for barcode labels printng.)
http://www.fargo.com/local.cfm (IIRC, those are also thermal printers).
Several companies producing vinyl sign cutters/printers use thermal transfer technology for making vinyl signs. One example is Roland DG. http://www.rolanddg.com/ (IIRC ColorCAMM, PC-60, PC-600, & PC-12 were models based on Alps MD engine. Bith out of production).
http://www.zeronine.com/rcartinfo.html (make cartridges for Roland printers - still nothing for Alps MD)
So, as you see, thermal transfer technology is alive and well - just not in the form usable for hobbyists or small shops. Peteski
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Peter W. wrote:

I've always called it a wax deposition printer.
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It's turtles, all the way down

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That's the term for my two-year-old when I catch him writing with a crayon on my walls!
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On Thu, 25 Jan 2007 21:09:27 -0600, I said, "Pick a card, any card"

Be careful, Mark. Some of that may not be crayon, mate. -- Ray
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On Fri, 26 Jan 2007 13:30:25 +0900, Ray Haddad wrote:

Ray, did you ever hear the French term, "faire le cent-et-onze"? Something to do with wiping three fingers on a wall after a dump en plein aire . . .
--
Steve

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Mark Mathu spake thus:

Sure; I've got one sitting right next to me now, a Tektronix monster (Phaser 850). Problem is, it's a CYMK-only printer. I don't think you can substitute ink colors, as it would totally contaminate the ink system (this beast takes a full 1/2 hour just to warm up and melt the ink).
Yes, dye-sub is the correct term; sublimation, as the dye changes directly from a gas to a solid, hence the term "Phaser".
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This was discussed several times on the ALPS group. I seem to recall that someone who supposedly knew someone who knew someone else said that ALPS needed to sell many printers per month to make the project worthwhile. Those of us who have had them have been lucky as I'm aware of at least twice that the support deadline passed and supplies are still available for them. They are a lot of fun, but realistically, how many people still use decals today, let alone even think of printing their own?
dlm
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I'm wondering if anyone ever tried printing around white decal paper? I mean, let's say that you needed white lettering on a black car. So, you lay out the decal and print the black area and leave the white area blank. Then, trim the black as close as is reasonably possible then use that. I've never tried it, but it might work. But a real probelm would be trhing to match odd colors... like oxide red, tuscan, reefer orange, etc.
dlm
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And of course the black *ink* probably won't match the black *paint* on the car either.

--
Robert Heller -- 978-544-6933
Deepwoods Software -- Linux Installation and Administration
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A little weathering should disquise that?
Paul^H^H^H^H Steve the Other -- The lotto must be rigged, I should have won by now. Modular furniture is cruel and unusual.
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On Fri, 26 Jan 2007 14:40:59 -0500, Dan Merkel wrote:

Probably for obvious reasons - too fussy and tedious.
What about silkscreen? Anyone know any aricles with good info on that, how well it does on small lettering (car data, etc.)?
--
Steve

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On Fri, 26 Jan 2007 14:00:18 -0800, I said, "Pick a card, any card"

Silk screening works if the surfaces are not even a tiny bit bumpy but those pesky rivets will be hard to work around. There is a printing process that uses a soft rubber ball to squish a print onto things like golf balls and other bumpy things. The commercial process is described here: http://www.coherent.com/Downloads/EOaug06%20pp01,17,18.pdf
To do it at home on a small scale, you need a printer that will deliver ink to a flat surface like a piece of glass. Not so hard if you think about it. Those Epson R230 printers will print on a CD and one of the CISS kits with dye sublimation ink thinned to keep it wet would allow you to use a soft rubber ball to transfer an image. Print it in a reverse or mirrored image on the glass, smash the ball down on the image, lift it and apply the ball gently to the item being printed and you have just what you want. About the white bits, leave them as transparent so you can always do an underlay of white beforehand.
There used to be a business start up venture that had a nice press and a mount for such a printing ball which was more like half a ball mounted on a holder. Same principle but it made things more precise to have it in a sturdy press. Try getting hold of some large 8 cylinder engine valves and mounting stress balls cut in half on them with Shoe Goo. Seems to me that I used some tennis ball sized air filled rubber bounce balls that gave good results. At that time, I was silk screening the image on glass and transferring it to an outdoor railway for a friend of mine who wanted his wife's chocolate factory to be represented on his boxcars. I used water base paints to speed in cleaning up mistakes and then coated the images later with matt finish photo fixative spray. That's Testor's Dullcote in a big can. -- Ray
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Too fussy?! Silk screening is much more fussy and messy to deal with than Alps prinnters will ever be.
And I'm not sure if you mean "silk screening direcly onto a model" or "silk screening decals"? Doing it to a model is almost impossible due to the uneven surface. That is what Tampo printers are for. Silkscreenig proces for decals is wide spread throughout the large scale (quantity wise) decal manufacturers.
For small runs and hobbyists silk screening is impractical. Especailly if more than one color is involved. Aligning colors is so difficult that even some professional manufacturers used to print each color separately and have the modeler manually line up the colors by stacking decal layers on the model.
Of course companies like Microscale have very expensive silk screening equipment which allows for precision color alignment.
There are people who use inkjet printers and white decal paper who print "everything but white" on the decal. But as someoene else said. trying to match the decal color to the model's paint is usually quite difficult too.
Peteski
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