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There are many ways to produce unique designs for t-shirts, apparel, and banners including screen printing, embroidery, and media transfers. A recent innovation in the garment printing business is the introduction of white media transfer printers such as the UniNet iColor 550 and Oki Data C711WT. We recently spoke to Basat Khalifa from DuraFast Label Company to learn about these two media transfer printers and find out which of the two is the better value.
Q: What is a white media transfer printer?
A: A white media transfer printer prints designs, such as a design for a t-shirt or apron, in reverse onto a heat transfer sheet. That sheet is then placed onto the garment and pressed onto it using a heat press. The heat bonds the toners onto the fabric.
Q: Like an iron-on?
A: In very simplistic terms, yes. However, to produce full colors that look good on light and dark surfaces alike, you need a white “overprint” which becomes the bottom layer of the graphic once applied. This white layer enables the colors to “pop” — even if the fabric is a dark color. Without the white layer, colors would get lost or appear very faint on a dark surface.
Q: How do you get the white layer with a printer?
A: With traditional color printers, white is an absence of color, which is fine if you were printing on white media, but undesirable when using other colors. The Oki Data C711WT white media transfer printers come with white toner cartridges containing a white toner. The toner in the UniNet iColor 550’s, Absolute White Toner, is the brightest, most dense, and most opaque toner you’ll find.
Q: I see these printers are comparably priced. Are they basically the same or do they have differences?
A: Yes, the UniNet iColor 550 costs $3695 (USD) and the Oki Data C711WT is $3995 (USD). The UniNet iColor 550 brings a lot more to the table, and it’s $300 cheaper. For starters, it comes with Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, Black, and White (CMYKW) toner cartridges. The black and white cartridges can be swapped out depending on how you want to use the printer. For example, if you need to print color documents, put the black toner cartridge in it and use the iColor 550 as a traditional color laser printer. When you’re done, put the white toner cartridge back in and use it to print color media transfers with white. The Oki C711WT lacks black toner, so this is not possible.
Another big difference has to do with the ProRip software that comes with the UniNet iColor 550 as it intelligently adjusts the amount of white toner used. You can’t adjust this with the Oki C711WT. In other words, the white toner overprint feature is either on or off in the Oki C711WT. When on, it covers the graphic at 300 percent. ProRIP allows you to use less white toner, thereby reducing toner costs and resulting in softer, more durable garments.
Q: What about print quality?
A: Both offer a high resolution, with the Oki C711WT topping out at 1200 x 600 dpi and the UniNet iColor 550 offering even more at 1200 x 1200 dpi.
Q: For those interested in specs, can you tell us a little more about the hardware powering these two white media transfer printers?
A: Sure, and there are some pretty significant differences here as well. Let’s start with the processors. The Oki C711WT has a 533ghz processor whereas the UniNet iColor 550 has a 1.46ghz — three times faster. As far as RAM goes, the Oki C711WT comes with 256MB RAM, upgradable to 512MB. The iColor 550 has eight times more memory — a full 2 gigabytes! And if you do opt for the upgraded RAM on the Oki, the price of the Oki, which is already higher than the UniNet iColor 550 to start with, will get even higher – and you’re still missing out on all the other great features.
Q: What might those features be?
A: Not only can you use the UniNet iColor 550 for white media transfers and traditional laser prints, it has an “white underprint” function that allows you to print full color labels, brochures, flyers, and other materials on clear or dark media with a white underprint. For example, if you wanted to print a colorful design on black card stock, clear labels, or even clear window cling material, the white underprint provides the white background for vibrant colors that show up beautifully. This feature is not available on the Oki C711WT. In fact, you’d be hard pressed to find it on any white media printer less than $20,000 outside of the UniNet iColor product line. You can even print banners in sizes up to 49.6” long with the iColor 550.
Q: It sounds like the iColor is more versatile for sure.
A: Yes, and that’s out of the box. A variety of options make it even more versatile. For example, you can add wireless printing or get specialty toners (such as fluorescent, sublimation, clear, or security) for it. There are no other toners beyond cyan, magenta, and yellow for the Oki C711WT. In fact, the only option for the Oki C711WT is the upgraded memory.
Q: Basat, you often speak of how different printers have different cost considerations beyond their purchase prices. Is this the case with the iColor 550 versus the Oki C711WT?
A: I’m glad you asked. Yes, in this case, the iColor 550 is also the more economical choice in the long run, saving money in several ways. First, the toner cartridges are housed in an all-in-one cartridge/drum unit whereas the Oki uses separate cartridges and drums, so there are a lot more consumables to purchase with the Oki. Moreover, the iColor 550 white cartridges yield 7,000 pages each whereas the Oki C711WT’s cartridges just yield 6,000 pages each. Finally, the lifespan of the fuser and transfer belt is much longer (90,000 pages versus 60,000 pages) in the UniNet iColor 550.
Q: Which machine is better for the new user?
A: The iColor 550 is the best choice for new users because it offers the easiest “out of the box” experience for users who are new to transfer printing. From the hardware setup with single toner/drum cartridges to the software installation, it’s geared toward beginners. The 550 includes a great “quick start” guide that gets users up and running FAST.
Q: Where can our readers learn more about the UniNet iColor 550 and white media transfers?
A: They can learn more about the Oki C711WT at Oki Data’s website here and the iColor 550 at UniNet’s detailed iColor 550 page located here and then head over DuraFast Label Company to purchase the UniNet iColor 550 white media transfer printer or the Oki Data C711WT along with supplies and different media. We’ll be happy to answer any questions they may have as well as send printed samples.Activate Social Media: