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Ixia version of Iris 3047 giclée printer at FLAAR teaches us the reality of this fabled but quirky printer Print E-mail

An Ixia giclée printer is a re-manufactured Iris 3047 giclée printer. The purpose of having this printer in the FLAAR facility is to help answer the question of what kinds of giclée prints might best be done with an Iris-Ixia, and what other kinds of giclée prints can be done acceptably well with a Mimaki, ColorSpan, HP, or Epson. We do not have a Roland in part due to its tendency in the past for banding defects. The newer Roland printers are improved, and the d’Vinci version Roland is a printer we are curious about (but do not yet have one).

The Ixia version of the Iris GPrint 3047 giclée printer used to be clearly the preferred fine art giclée printer.

Iris virtually invented the fine art giclée market until Roland and ColorSpan came out with more versatile printers from 2000 onward that could also produce fine art giclée prints. Nowadays Mutoh, Canon, Hewlett-Packard, Epson and Mimaki can achieve high-quality prints too. Still, when it comes time to sell your prints, it is easier to advertise them if in fact they have been printed on an Iris giclée printer. After all, would you rather be driven in a Rolls Royce or Bentley, or in a Datsun or Honda?

But, Jack Duganne, the artist who used an Iris printer for years, and who invented the word giclee in the 1990’s, we went to visit his giclee studio in late 2005. He uses an 8-color ColorSpan DisplayMaker, similar to the two ColorSpan printers used at FLAAR. He also uses an HP 130 and an HP 8750 for fine art photography. So Jack Duganne, as also many other artists and photographers, have learned that you can do professional output on the newer technology must better than a cranky old Iris legend.

Indeed even Scitex stopped using their own Iris; about six years ago Iris itself stopped manufacturing its Iris Gprint, their giclée printer version of the Iris 3047 proofer. It simply had too many technical quirks. About the same time the key service technicians and managers left en-masse to form their own company, Improved Technologies (now reformed under the name ITNH, Improved Technologies, New Hampshire ). There, in total freedom, they could redesign a giclée printer from the ground up. First step was to throw out all the features that made the Iris 3047 synonymous with between 33% wastage due to rainbow defects and a host of other well known (but never widely publicized) glitches. Second step was to rebuild the Iris giclée printer with newly designed features based on decades of repairing the older models.

Iris GPrint giclee fine art giclee printer
Iris Ixia fine art printer
Ixia version of Iris 3047 giclée printer being installed in FLAAR test lab at Bowling Green State University.

The result is the Ixia: a remanufactured Iris 3047. Same legendary print quality as the Iris giclée printer, but improved in some aspects of mechanical stability. Several of the more glaring idiosyncratic defects were overcome by careful redesign. However we learned that some other habits of Hertz technology continuous inkjet caused us to need many aspirin tablets. If you are seriously considering the Iris (or Ixia) printer, then you ought to obtain the FLAAR Report on the Iris/Ixia printer. It is ironic that this icon of giclee printers does not actually have many independent evaluations that itemize its pros and cons. If you are about to set up a giclee studio, even if you don’t decide in the end to buy an Iris/Ixia printer, you at least need to learn about this printer (because your clients will be asking why you don’t have an Iris… so you might learn why from this FLAAR Report).

Besides, the Iris, and Ixia, use dye inks. So it is not ethical to claim significant longevity for any Iris giclee print. Dye inks fade (pigmented inks do too, but not as fast). But if you like to tinker with old technology of a bygone era, the Ixia is ideal, because its quirks and finicky nature are legendary. We are deaccessioning ours, and if anyone wants to pay packing, shipping, and token amount to cover the value of its parts (which are probably worth more than it’s whole), we would be glad to consider your offer.

Options for printing giclée

The original Iris 3047 varied in price from $85,000 to $110,000… and that did not include the RIP. So you might like to learn about some options to produce fine art giclée prints for less. For example, by 2005 the Ixia cost only $45,000; and it is the same basic Iris 3047 printer that sold for twice to three times that much a few years ago. Or you could opt for the Mimaki, ColorSpan, Roland, or Epson. But realize, that if your clients demand an “Iris print” that only an Iris or Ixia has the Hertz continuous inkjet technology of the original Iris proofers.

The FLAAR team have been doing fine art photography for over three decades, indeed they have worked for years in art museums around the world. Dr Hellmuth was honored by the Japanese Ministry of Education with a fellowship as Visiting Professor to Japan 's National Museum of Ethnology ( Osaka ) to work out what digital imaging equipment was best for the slide archive of pre-Columbian art of this museum.

So now you can get the results of all Professor Hellmuth's research. FLAAR, a non-profit research institute. We have invested over one million dollars in studies of digital imaging hardware and software in the last few years. So you get lots of information but you do not have to pay a million dollars for it. However we do appreciate a modest fee to help repay at least some of our costs. In return we offer an entire Series of reports on fine art giclée for artists, museums, and photographers.

We have the Ixia version of the Iris, two 72” ColorSpan printers, several Epson printers, each of the models of HP DesignJet, two Mimaki printers, and so on. So essentially we can chose any printer we want to print his own giclée. Might be interesting to learn, what does FLAAR use when they print giclée? How many other people writing commentary about printers have 27 different ones in their evaluation facility?

Do you really need a $45,000 printer?

So now what to do? How can a giclée printing business be started if you don't want to mortgage yourself? FLAAR is nonprofit and we also want to do fine art giclée prints; naturally we don't want to pay $45,000 for any printer either. So we spend our time and dedicate our experience to working out what alternatives are available that provide photogenic quality at a more reasonable price. But despite having more than a dozen other printers, if you want an Iris print on your wall, you can’t get that with a Roland, Mutoh, or any other printer for that matter. If you want to drive a Rolls Royce, you won’t find that at your local Honda dealer. So finally we went ahead and acquired the Ixia version of the Iris. After all, no legitimate giclée print information source could be taken seriously unless they had a real Iris for comparison.

If you need guidance in large format fine art printers, just obtain the FLAAR Premium Report Series on Fine Art Giclée printers. We get tips, leads, inside information from virtually every printer company, from the leading RIP companies from magazine editors and naturally from all the trade shows we attend. We don't have time to put all these tips onto the web site, so we have prepared answers to all the standard Frequently Asked Questions that you would like to ask. That is why it's so helpful to contact FLAAR for information.

Now, late 2006 and going into 2007, you will be able to buy a printer for less than $11,000 that will beat the color gamut of a $110,000 Iris printer of 15 years ago. Plus the new technology has inks that last longer than the dye inks of the venerable Iris. You might check out the Canon iPF5000, iPF8000 or iPF9000, or HP Z2100 or Z3100.

We discuss the reality of having an Iris/Ixia printer in our FLAAR Reports series on giclee. Even if you are doing giclee as a home-business or retirement business, it is essential to learn about the original Iris printer, because this is the machine that started the multi-million dollar giclee industry that we all know today.

Iris G Print version of Iris 3047

This is the last model of the well known Iris giclée fine art printer. 300 dpi but with the Herz technology used by Iris the apparent resolution can be as high as 1800 dpi; can accept thick media up to .22 inch thick. Prints on sheets up to 34 x 46.3 inches. This is the printer that used to be used by the older fine art printers in America . Many of these companies have switched to Epson, HP, ColorSpan, or Roland.


Last updated December 4, 2006.
Previous updates: May 8, 2006 , December 8, 2003 , Sept. 5, 2003 . July 21, 2003 ; Jan. 31, 2003 , Nov. 15, 2002 , June 9, 2001

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