Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Final Update...

This will most likely be the last post on this blog mainly due to the fact that I've sold this printer and no longer do vinyl printing.

I spent a lot of time and money getting this machine up and running, but also keeping it operational, as I'm sure anyone else who owns a machine like this knows well! In the end, I just didn't have enough print jobs or patience to keep this thing operating at it's peak, and between the difficulty in finding (reasonably priced) heads and keeping the ink from hardening up in the machine, I just decided it wasn't worth it and put it up for sale.

A local who ironically had read this blog about repairing one had picked it up from me, and I hope he's doing well with it, or that he at least got some use out of it, wherever it is.

With how these machines are getting up there in age and being that parts are getting more difficult to find, I imagine this blog will get less and less views, but for anyone who has questions about this machine, feel free to email me and I'll get back with you as soon as I can. I may not be able to answer all your questions, but I'll do my best.

If I had to do it all again, I'd shell out the extra $$ for a newer machine with some cheaper, or at least, more common, heads and a better-designed ink system (I believe I stated somewhere else here that this was Mutoh's first shot at a solvent printer) so that there's a lot less hassle with keeping it running.

Thanks for all of you who've read this blog, and let me know if I can help!

Monday, February 20, 2012

Current Status..

So I know it's been awhile since I posted here, and that's because I've been busy busy busy! The printer has been working great so far, and with the tweaks I've been doing here and there, it's really working well.

My current issues are:
  • Black nozzle deflections - These are pretty bad. I'm going to try a head soak to fix it.
  • Color profile - I have a GretagMacbeth i1 Spectrophotometer on the way so that I can build my own profile in Flexi. This should help immensely for the color issues I'm having.
I've had a bunch of trial-and-error type problems happen, and so I'm going to try and document as much of it as I can on the wiki that I've started, Mutoh Wiki. I will most likely change this URL at some point, when I get a domain for it, but for now it just redirects to my local server.

I've got a lot of info on there so far about calibration. This is a big thing since the manuals which are circulating around are not that good at explaining the calibrations. The one I have actually conflicts with itself on several occasions throughout.

Some happenings which are of relevance:

After getting everything aligned, I noticed that I was still having problems getting ink to stay in the Light Magenta damper. I decided that either the o-ring or the damper was causing issues, so I ordered a new damper off eBay (to see what those were like) and then installed the o-ring upside-down, to switch up the contacting surfaces in case they had become worn. This solved the issue, and I found that the big difference between the ones I bought from and the ebay models is that the ones from eBay seem to have larger threads or ones that were not cut as well as the ones from CMYKParts. They are harder to thread the brass nut onto, however, mine did work. I never used tools, but did have to go at it with my finger to make things fit right. Ink is now staying in the new damper and I'm able to use both my light colors properly.

The new silicone wiper is very easy to keep clean, just a quick swipe of a cloth over the wiper and it's clean. Helpful for keeping that gunk out of the print head; I clean it every time it uses the wiper. Really easy to do and gives me some peace of mind.

My black test prints have gone way downhill, and I'm not really sure about the source of the nozzle deflection on the black head. It seems to have adequate ink flow, and the test prints show all nozzles are present, just not printing straight. I'm curious if a head soak would fix the issue, so I'm getting some coffee filters in today to test this theory.

Our contour cutting has been going great as well! I have a crappy old Roland ColorCAMM PC-60 which does not have any sort of features for aligning registration marks for cutting. I could get a small 24" Graphtec for about $1200 locally which has that feature, but I'd rather save that money and spend it on something wider so that I can print out full sheets without wasting the space we are now.
For now, we've been printing our own registration marks on the corner of each thing to be cut, and then manually aligning them laterally on the cutter, using the blade as the reference point. Then, we just set the origin to that point, and can cut multiple rows of objects at once. It's not perfect, but it'll get us by until we can afford something better.
On a side note, if anyone has a 48" or wider cutter they'd be willing to sell for cheap.. I'm interested. Must have optical registration sensor.

My apologies for the lack of photos on this post. I'm planning on a whole full-photo write up for the calibration procedures on the wiki, which should make this stuff a LOT easier, so that you can see what the machine will actually spit out for each menu item, and then know exactly how to move the numbers in the calibration menu.

Oh, one other thing, and this is the type of stuff I'd like to include on the wiki.
I noticed last night while I was trying to find the source of a large amount of ink splatter on the inside wall of the printer, that the side of the right print head was absolutely covered in ink. I could not figure out why. I cleaned it all off and wiped up the ink on the wall, and then started checking around. i found that ink had begun to deposit itself near the spit cup, and that even though I'd aligned the flush points to the cup, I couldn't figure out why it wasn't working right. After a bit more playing around, I learned two things:
  1. The spit cup sponge is not supposed to sit far down inside and be gripped by the plastic protrusions on the inside walls. Those are meant to hold the sponge up above the bottom of the cup, to get it closer to the nozzle so that the splashes of ink are contained within the sponge, instead of splashing back against the head.
  2. The calibration names are not conducive to their adjustments, at least, they aren't what some people may think. Left flushpoint and Right flushpoint are not left and right bounds of the flush point, they are left and right head flush points. Meaning, you adjust the flush point for each head individually. This info will be added to the wiki.
After doing this and cleaning up the area around the spit cup, and running off a bunch of pictures, they are coming out great now. Also, the area near the cup is clean, and the head seems to be staying dry as well, though I will keep an eye on this part to see if there is something else I need to fix.

I'll try and get some photos up of the output and the fixes I've done so far shortly. Most likely will get them taken during the work we do today.

Saturday, February 4, 2012


Alright, so I finally got the machine working. My friend was over helping, and we got a lot done, so there's not going to be many in-progress pictures here.

I fixed the spit cup being broken by using a piece of metal from a computer case, bending it at a 90-degree angle, and mounting it against the plastic piece behind the spit cup, and the spit cup to it, using 3M VHB Foam tape. Really sticky stuff, and I made sure to clean the heck out of all surfaces with 91% alcohol before applying the tape, to make sure it would adhere well. It's been holding just fine so far!

I should add that a large reason that the insides of the machine were coated with ink, that the control panel cable was damaged and the spit cup holder was broken was due to a simple calibration error. The spit cup's position is determined by two limits, specified in the diagnostic menu under "FlushPoint".
You simply hold a piece of paper over the spit cup (or halfway over it, so you can compare the marks easier), have it run a test, and then adjust the left/right limits accordingly. A 3-minute fix would have prevented a lot of work, and it was clear that's where the issue was, as the lip of the cup was wet, indicating ink was not spraying in the right location.

Getting back to reassembly. To start with, we began by getting the rear ink holders reassembled and set back into place. Next, we flushed the lines once more, as in the previous article, since they'd been sitting around for a week or so with solvent in them. Naturally, that was going to break more ink loose, and it did. We just did a quick flush until the line ran clear, then pulled the tank out of the cartridge holder and used the syringe at the head to pull the cleaning fluid out of the line. That way, the initial fill of ink wouldn't be diluted.

With all the ink lines cleaned out and empty, we began the process of installing the print heads. The cables are arranged in a certain way, which are usually clear if you have removed them. The cable going to the right-hand head (when viewing the print head from the front of the printer) is installed first, routed UNDER the head height adjustment bar, then carefully inserted into the slots (both on the top board and on the side of the head. The bends in the cables should help make it clear which way the cables should be inserted into the head and top board. The right-hand head goes into the slot in the top board closer to the front of the printer. The left is installed after the right, cable routed over the top of the other cable, and plugged into the upper slot on the top board. The heads should be inserted very carefully as to not scratch the head surface on the metal carriage.
After seating the head into the slot, install the spring with tweezers, and fasten the washer and screw into the head to keep it in place. You will need to loosen this later during calibration, so no need to crank on it.

Next, we began installing the inks. We opened each cartridge's outer bag and installed it into the slots one at a time. After installing the ink tank, we then installed the brass nut, and the o-ring onto the corresponding hard line (it's a lot easier if you cut off the zip-tie holding the metal lines down to the head), and slid the damper onto the line. Then, lower the brass nut down onto the damper, and carefully (to make sure you don't cross-thread the damper) tighten down the nut onto the damper. We then took the empty syringe, inserted the adapter (just an angle-cut rigid plastic line on ours) into the bottom of the damper (carefully as to not unseat the o-ring), until it made good contact. Then we gently pulled on the syringe to began sucking the ink into the line. After about 10 seconds of suction, and seeing the ink flow through the line, it will begin flowing into the damper and through into the syringe. Pulling the hose quickly out of the damper after the ink begins to flow seemed to help the ink fill the damper.

Then, plug the damper gently into the corresponding peg on the head, while seating the front groove of the damper into the slot on the head carriage.

After filling all inks and installing the dampers in this way (we needed to tilt the light magenta damper backwards to help get it to fill properly, then tilt it back down and install it), the next step is to do a manual fill through the pump. The reason is that since the peristaltic pump does not have any fluid in it, and they are horrible at pumping air, they will not be able to achieve the suction required to pull ink through the head.
What we did is using the same adapter, unplug the rigid line going to the ink tank from each of the hoses, and attach one of them to the syringe. Then, after sliding the head all the way over to the home position, making sure that the rubber had a good seal, we pulled on the syringe. The after a few short seconds, the ink began to come through the line into the syringe, which is plenty. Then, we disconnected the line from the syringe and reconnected it to the drain line. After repeating for the other line, we were ready to power the system up.

The cable routing is a bit of a challenge, and I'll address it later, since I still need to redo the routing.

Now that the lines and heads have been filled, you can go through the initialization procedure and fill the heads, and then work through the calibration.

The hard part of calibration is adjusting the heads in the carriage. The two big things that need to be adjusted are the rotation of the head, and the shift forward-back relative to the other head. These will take a bunch of time and make you frustrated.

Here's a top-down view of the heads so you can see the adjustments. The two round adjusters in the front are to adjust the rotation of the head behind it, and the small adjuster on the side is to adjust the right print head's (viewed from the front) front-to-back movement.

To do these adjustments, you need to loosen the screw holding the head in, adjust it, and then tighten it back up. The frustrating part is once you adjust the rotation, then try to adjust the front-to-back, inevitably, you will mess up the rotation again. it takes time, printing, and patience to get this right. After messing with it for an hour (for the second time) it's mostly aligned, though the left head still has a slight rotation to it.

The loupe helps tremendously, you can see each dot and where it's placed. Helps a lot for the bi-directional printing.

I've also started a Wiki called Mutoh Info. It's hopefully going to be some sort of repository for all the Mutoh information that shows up on the forums and other places, somewhere for information on how to work on these things and how to troubleshoot as well. At the very least, I'll dump everything I know there, and it'll be a little easier than looking through these blogs.

More to come soon! I'm going to get some more pictures up and hopefully we will have this thing doing some nice prints soon!

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Some Reassembly

So firstly I need to apologize for the lack of photos here. When you have a friend over spending their time on helping you out, the last thing you wanna do is stop to take really detailed photos of everything because, well, it's their time too. So, I went through afterwards and tried to do my best to take good pictures of what we did.

So, to start where I left off on the other post, we reassembled the ink pump and capping station onto the frame. It's really easy, and it truly is the reverse of disassembly, everything just pops back into place and screws together.

My friend cleaned out the head area and really got it sparkling! You can see just how it came out!

Here's a closer picture of the pump/capping station, mounted up and attached to the frame.

Something else important is how the ink lines work with this replacement pump. The original lines had about 3 different types of hose and multiple (more than 3) connectors along the way. This new pump lets me simplify a lot. Mainly because the drain hoses coming from the unit are really long!

We cleaned out the thin tubing running to the ink tank and then I attached the hoses right into the silicone tubing, no connectors needed. These then feed directly into the waste ink tank. Here's how the hoses on my machine are currently routed. (I may need to change this, but not sure.)

Here's a shot of how my external lines are run. I may need to modify the large drain line, but the others should be alright. I know the holders are slotted to let you slip the line in and out, but they just destroy the hard plastic. If your lines are hard plastic, just pull them out of the waste tank and through the holes.
The spit cup has been cleaned out, and the important part: the drain line has been cleaned out as well. My friend spent a good 15 minutes squeezing huge long globs of solid ink out of the line. It looks like the large ink spill occurred due to an overflowing spit cup. There was at *least* 8 inches of solid ink in the line when we cleaned it. It's now clear, and hopefully will be routed in a fashion that promotes drainage. (once we figure out a way to attach it. The cup is still broken)
So, I went to install my new bulk cartridge into the printer, and found that it didn't go in! Well, I compared it to the cartridges that came with it, and found that the two little nibs on the top of the cartridge were to blame.

To properly install the cartridge into a Falcon 1, you have to cut off the nib shown on the left. The nib to the right stays.

After this, it went in fine.
The technique I used to clean the lines was the easiest that would (hopefully) get the job done. It involved filling my bulk ink tank with the cleaning solution that I made up, and then using the syringe I bought to draw the solvent through the lines, hopefully pulling all the old/dried/precipitated ink out of the lines and into my syringe, which I would then empty into the jar you see in the upper right.
In order to do this, I left the tip on the syringe hose, and slid it up onto the metal pipe, then pulled steadily and slowly on the syringe, to draw the solvent into the line. After about 20 seconds of vacuum on the line, solvent would pour through. It would take a couple syringefulls to get the solvent running clear.

You can see the lines on top are showing signs of being cleaned by the solvent.

It seems that some of the solvent drains back into the tank when the lines are disconnected from the syringe, or when there is not a constant vacuum pulling the ink into the lines. I'm curious if this will be the case when I attempt to print, or if the ink pump will take care of this. I'm not sure how much of a difference there is. Perhaps the dampers will help by providing a small reservoir of ink near the head, or a check valve.

I wanted to show a little more about some of the electronics inside the black box at the bottom. They look intimidating, but they really aren't that bad. Here we have the ink pump connector for the wires from the ink pump stepper motor. They go into the slot marked "INK PUMP" and it uses the same type of connector I showed previously on the control panel, the pull/push ZIF connector. Be gentle with it. The blue band on the wire and the small white arrow near the bottom of the connector indicate pin 1. Align these two when you are inserting the cable.

Here is the heater control connector, the large socket at the top. It is not a ZIF, so you will need to push the cable in as you did on the other side of the heater controller (shown in a previous post). Be careful, and make sure you match the silver side of the cable with the side containing the pins (also showed how to tell in a previous post).
The large black components with "CRYDOM" on them are solid state relays, which allow the unit to turn the 110VAC heater strips on and off to keep the temps up.
This is the socket for the control board. It is also a non-ZIF socket, so you'll need to carefully push the cable into the holder. It's the opposite direction from the heater cable, so make sure you pay attention to which side the pins are on!

Looks like someone at the factory forgot to pull the sticker off of the beeper after they washed the flux off!

Here's the head as it is currently. The O-rings and nuts have been removed, and the lines cleaned. I have let solvent rest in the lines to try and get it to break down more of the solidified ink, Magenta was the hardest to clean of all of them. It had grown quite thick and required a long time with constant suction to finally pull the solvent through. It's cleaned now though, and with the slow-drying properties of the solvent, leaving it in the lines should be good, even if it drains back.

I'm pretty forgetful, and in my excitement and rush to get this thing back together, I forgot about inks. Now, while the printer came with some, and they're somewhat full, they are over three years old. I'm not going to take the chance of messing up all the brand new stuff in here with some old ink, so I need to get some new ink. This was somewhat of a disappointment, as I had hoped I would get to start calibration and testing today, but alas, I'll need to wait for a bit so I can afford a new set of inks. Hopefully I'll pick them up the end of this month.

My plans are to run a bit more cleaning solution through each of the lines before installing the new inks, to clear anything else freed in the lines during the week-long soak. Then, I'll install the dampers and heads, and begin pulling inks through them. I'm investigating using only 4-color printing to save a bit, as I'll be buying the genuine inks.  Lots of questions about it on the forums, but no real 'how-to' style answers. I'll figure this one out and get something definitive put up about it.

For now, things are gonna go quiet for around a week while I relax and make money to pay for the rest of this.

Feel free to comment if you find this helpful or would like more info! I love feedback!

Monday, January 23, 2012

CMYKParts order

Well, the order just showed up, so here's my unboxing, to show everyone what you're getting when you buy the refurb kit.

Here's the box! (French on the box, it ships from Quebec)

Here's what's inside. Well-packaged, packed in peanuts, all the delicate parts wrapped in bubblewrap.

After getting rid of all the peanuts, the goods.

And finally, here's the parts themselves (of the refurb kit) after unpacking. I opened one of the heads, and they are packed in a pretty cool container, suspending the head in the middle of the box.
Head rank numbers are both printed on the box with a label, as well as written on the sides of the head in sharpie.
Here's a close-up of the new capping station. There are some differences here, mainly the larger rubber gasket around each pad, and the metal grate inside to prevent swollen pads from pressing against the nozzles and siphoning all the ink from the tanks. (A most terrible occurrence I've heard from the signs101 forums)

A comparison with the old capping station. Notice the old pads do not have any sort of grate to keep the sponges down, and the rubber on the new ones looks much better.

Here's the two pumps compared. Notice my old pump is missing the metal bracket holding the hoses in place. I'm not sure if that was originally there or it's a new feature added in later pumps.
Also, the ink lines supplied with the new pump do not have connectors halfway through them, so there's better path for the ink to flow.
The head itself. This looks shiny and new!

The backside of the head. It has identical markings to the DX2s I pulled out of the printer, so I won't post any comparison pictures here.

Just to add, here's the bulk ink container. I got this mainly so that I can feed solvent through the system, and it seems like it's constructed pretty well. It's solid, looks like it won't leak (hopefully) and it has some nice features on it. The piercing area is rubber, and the door at the top even has a little ring to pop it off for filling!


Overall I have confidence with this kit. All the parts are new and clean, which is very nice after dealing with everything being covered in copious amounts of ink on the printer.

Also, if anyone is wondering how I've been taking these photos...

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Capping station and pump

This post is a how-to on replacing the capping station and pump. It's just a draft post for now, as I just did this and don't have it put back together yet, but I thought I'd post it up just so curious people can see what's up. This post will be edited tomorrow when the supplies come in.

I'm shrinking the images smaller on my posts to keep the scrolling down, as Blogger insists on having narrow post widths. As usual, click on any of them to get much larger shots.

I also picked up a cheap loupe ($14) from a local art store, for looking at the printouts to analyze dot placement. This is important for good head alignment, so I'll let you all know how it goes.

First, this is the capping station and pump assembly. Note the pump line routing, and how it connects to the station. This is important.

Notice that the tubes connecting to the capping station are curved to enter into the pump in a certain way. That's how we can tell which lines will be going to the capping station. The lines don't cross, they will be going to the pump on the same side of the capping station as they are on.

Here's another diagram where I've written in the way the lines run. (Capping Station is abbreviated) It's kind of complicated, but basically, both lines enter the pumps in the same way, and both exit the pumps. Both drain lines exit out of the back of the pump. The hose basically runs in a "U" inside the pump, with rollers using peristaltic action to pump the ink through the lines. While the pumps could run either direction, having one of them hooked up backwards would cause one nozzle to not be pumped out, making ink spill or keeping the nozzle from being properly cleaned.
The little bit I circled in green is a cut in the drain line. Ink was prolly pouring out here, so this is most likely the culprit for one of my ink leaks.

Remove the screw holding the capping station into the holder.

This will release the spring further and allow the capping station to be lifted out by the screw side. If you are only replacing the capping station, it may be wise to mark the hoses, but if you are replacing the pump as well, that won't help.

Disconnect the hoses from the now-freed capping station. Mark them if you aren't replacing the pump, if you are, make note of how the hoses are routed. Here's removing one...

And the other.

The capping station is now freed, and can be removed from the assembly.

Now that we have removed the capping station, we need to remove the pump. Here is a picture of the assembly with the capping station removed, for reference.

Start removing the pump by unscrewing the screw at the base of the bracket holding the pump to the main assembly.

To remove the gears holding the pump in place, you also need to remove the two screws on the outside of the pump housing to allow the gear plate to come off.

The gear plate is removed. The small gears are attached, the long shafts are freed.

Now that the long drive shaft has been removed, we can remove the pump.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Quick Cleaning

Well, I was bored, and having just mixed up that solvent, I decided to give it a whirl and try cleaning up the electronics box cover. That thing has a huge mess of ink on it. Well, it did. Here's some pix:

This is the 'before' pic. A little cleanup I did on the side for the previous demo pictures, but otherwise, just how it was. The ink blotches there are actually caked ink.. it's been dripping down there for some time. Looks like since the last service was botched.

My method for cleaning it is something I should mention, since I was trying to NOT use 800 paper towels. I basically dabbed a liberal amount of the solvent onto the ink blob, and let it soak in to soften/dissolve the ink. I then used the paper towel to scrape off as much of the bulk ink as I could, and repeated. It only took a couple passes on each large blob. Afterwards, I went over it with a solvent-dampened clean one, and that finished things off.

The 'after' shot. This is after I got all that gunk off. The ink seems to have done something to the metal coating, as I was not able to affect the blotches there. The little warning sticker was doing okay at first, but the overlaminate gave in to the solvent, as it had already been badly damaged by the ink. Only the backing (minus the printing) is there.

All in all, it was a great test. The solvent did a wonderful job of cleaning up the ink from rough metal even, and I'm looking forward to using it for cleaning the lines and whatnot as well.