Epson 3880 Pizza Wheels 2012: Any Breakthroughs?

Started Jan 16, 2012 | Discussions thread
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JayMitch
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Epson 3880 Pizza Wheels 2012: Any Breakthroughs?
Jan 16, 2012

I've noticed the classic "pizza wheel" marks on prints on and off over time. Generally limited to areas of dark tone with little texture. But they've recently come to frustrate me more in some darker prints and a series with large areas of black. I've researched here and elsewhere and found suggestions like...

1) Increase drying time
2) Increase platen gap
3) Use front feed
4) Remove the roller wheels

http://forums.dpreview.com/forums/readflat.asp?forum=1003&message=31298944&q=pizza&qf=m

http://forums.dpreview.com/forums/readflat.asp?forum=1003&message=33704393&q=pizza&qf=m

http://forums.dpreview.com/forums/readflat.asp?forum=1003&message=33784432&q=pizza&qf=m

None of these work. On the same dark print (not underexposed - dark by design sports portraits) I see the marks on Epson Ex Fiber, Epson Premium Glossy, Epson Luster, Canson Infinity Baryta Photographique, and Canson Platine Fibre Rag (among others). It's not a paper issue, it's a machine issue.

Drying time on its face makes sense. Drier ink = harder ink = less susceptible to marks. I ran an 8 1/2" x 11" test yesterday on Exhibition Fiber with high speed off, 20 second dry time. Took over 10 minutes to complete... and had marks.

Platen gap is for head strikes (no issues), not pizza wheels. Those wheels press against the rubber feed rollers below them the same way regardless. Have tried Wider platen, and even cranked the paper thickness to its max 15. Result? Pizza marks and a fuzzy print.

The front feed. That it becomes a suggestion in order to bypass a fundamental flaw of the machine is frustrating on its own. Thanks to Eric for his insight, but while this does in fact bypass the rollers and eliminate any marks it comes with some important and deal-breaking caveats. First, aside from letter-sized prints my desk doesn't have the requisite space behind the printer to allow feeding anything longer. Second, with the front feed comes a larger minimum margin on the short/leading edges of the paper, up to 0.79" from 0.12". For this particular set of prints I was working with a 0.5" margin so the image was cropped. It would preclude printing a 12x18" image on a 13x19" sheet where 0.5" margins are needed all around. And, if I read correctly in the ops manual, the maximum width of the front feed is 16" and you are directed to use the top/rear feeds for wider papers. So, ignoring the other issues, there would still be no solution for 17x22" papers.

Out of desperation I took a crack at removing the rollers. After inspecting the mechanism for a few minutes I realized it would not be too difficult. There are three separate "wheel plate sections" that each need to be removed. They're held in place by little plastic anchors that poke up from the bottom, 3 or 4 per section. With a small screw driver or paperclip you can simply (and gently) push the anchors down so they clear the metal chassis. With all out of the way the plastic section holding the rollers slides out. This is most easily accomplished with the front feed popped out giving you better access.

So with the wheels out I popped in another sacrificial sheet of Ex Fiber 8 1/2" x 11", set up the print job and this time defaulted everything for the paper and lit 'er up at 2880dpi. Started off fine, but then at the end of the print with no support from the wheels to hold in place the paper skidded around, the head oversprayed, and that was game over for this plan. Had to clean up some errant ink and of course replace the wheels. Tricky but not a big deal. My original plan was to somehow place a spacer under the housing to reduce the pressure of the wheels on the paper (each wheel is softly spring loaded but there is obviously still to much pressure exerted). Havent' figured out how that might work - would take very little - so if someone comes up with a solution I'm all ears.

In my mind this is a fundamental design flaw of the 3880 (and 3800 before it). Those thin, metal wheels have sharp edged spikes to them. At what point during development did it make sense to roll hundreds of little pin points across a delicate surface? If these were solid plastic with a nice, rounded cross section - like little beads - that barely made contact with the page I can't imagine this would be an issue. I have to think the minimal surface area of the spiked wheels coming in contact with the print surface was the compelling design motif, but the results are not what should be expected by a pro-level fine art printer. To this end I bet somebody could make a buck or two developing replacement inserts that would have softer, smooth wheels in place of the cowboy spurs.

Does this make me regret my purchase? No. It truly does churn out beautiful prints. But I couldn't pass the red-faced test selling one with those marks on it, anymore than if there were a scratch. Because it's not visible depending on how you hold the print doesn't make it less of an issue.

Any other flashes of insight or workarounds here?

Flickr Page: http://www.flickr.com/photos/25556585@N02/

Blog: http://jaymitchblog.blogspot.com/

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