Why is swellable being abandoned?

Started Feb 22, 2008 | Discussions
techie51us Regular Member • Posts: 128
Why is swellable being abandoned?

Both Kodak (Ultima) and Epson (ColorLife) once produced swellable papers with excellent resistance to ozone fading (see, for example, http://www.wilhelm-research.com/ist/WIR_IST_Paper_2004_11_MB_HW.pdf ). Both papers appear to be out of production with no swellable replacement in either company's product line. As far as I can tell, that leaves only Ilford (Classic) and HP (Premium Plus Glossy) as the only swellable products still on the market.

Questions:

1) Is that correct? Are those the only two swellable products left on the market? Any others?

2) Why was the technology abandoned by both Epson and Kodak?

panoramic Regular Member • Posts: 131
Re: Why is swellable being abandoned?

BF Inkjet Makes some canvas for dye or swellable. The reason they are discontinueing making them is because they primarily work with dye inks which are being phased out because of the low archival properties. Pigment inks keep getting better and better, coming closer and closer to the gamut of dye, but without the low archival properties.

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Kory Gunnasen
Digital Fine Art Printing Lab Manager
Booksmart Studio
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OP techie51us Regular Member • Posts: 128
Re: Why is swellable being abandoned?

panoramic wrote:

BF Inkjet Makes some canvas for dye or swellable.

I looked at BF Injet Media's page. Is is really swellable technology? The fact that their papers support both pigment and dye ink makes it appear to be something else.

The reason they

are discontinueing making them is because they primarily work with
dye inks which are being phased out because of the low archival
properties. Pigment inks keep getting better and better, coming
closer and closer to the gamut of dye, but without the low archival
properties.

Could be the explanation. But Kodak abandoned its product rather abruptly, after an expensive marketing campaign and with a lot of inventory left over, and with no explanation (at least that I can find). And printer manufacturers such as Canon have continued to invest in new dye printers and dye inks. So I think that there is more to to the story of what happened to swellable technology.

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Kory Gunnasen
Digital Fine Art Printing Lab Manager
Booksmart Studio
http://www.booksmartstudio.com
http://www.korygunnarsen.com

Dominic.Chan Veteran Member • Posts: 6,168
Re: Why is swellable being abandoned?

techie51us wrote:

And printer manufacturers such as Canon have continued to
invest in new dye printers and dye inks.

Swellable papers do have the drawback of longer-drying and totally non-water resistant.

Both Epson and Canon have come up with dye inks that last much longer than previous dye inks, at least based on the Wilhelm Display Permanance Rating which seems to focus primarily on lightfastness (and downplays the gas fading).

Eric Chan Senior Member • Posts: 2,800
Re: Why is swellable being abandoned?

I don't think there's much demand for these.

Mark McCormick Senior Member • Posts: 1,448
Re: Why is swellable being abandoned?

There are a number of reasons related to humidity-fastness, water-resistance, and long "drying" times, but from my perspective, the ultimate show stopper with long term commericial viability of swellable papers is a very problematic issue in photo albums and in picture frames that don't have mat spacers to keep the print separated from the glazing. When swellable inkjet papers are placed in plastic pages (very commonly used by family scrapbook makers), the prints on swellable papers frequently "ferrotype". Ferrotyping is a term from the traditional darkroom days where glossy prints were dried on polished chrome surfaces to give them an ultra high gloss finish. When the swellable paper surface reforms against the smooth plastic or glass it acquires ultra glossy spots at places in close contact with glass or plastic. The blotchy appearance in the album is not a very desireable outcome to a print that may only be a few months old! To combat the problem, swellable papers often get anti-blocking particles added image surface, but these particles feel different to many people accustomed to holding traditional photo prints, and the particles reduce the ability to produce the normal glossy finish that many people like. Compromises, compromises!

A more technical explanation of the ferrotyping phenomenon is as follows: The glass transition (Tg) temperature of traditional hardened gelatin emulsions varies with humidity. At typical room temperature (approximately 21deg.C or 70 deg. F), a relative humidity of about 75% will allow the gelatin to cross the glass transition and go from a hard dry polymer back to its gel state. If you've ever seen an old photo stuck to the glass in its picture frame, you are seeing a print that got humid, ferrotyped, and then dried back down, glued to its cover glass. 75% RH is a reasonable threshold that doesn't get crossed too often in most modern homes. However, swellable inkjet coatings are essentially in a near Tg state all the time at normal room temperature, even when the humidity is significantly lower such as not exceeding 60%. Traditional photographic films and print papers benefited from a grace period in the developing tank before they had to switch from solid to gel! Not so with inkjet papers. Inkjet papers are required to soak up the ink as fast as it hits the surface. Combined with the residual glycol from the ink, the Tg sensitivity gets even worse for the finished inkjet print on swellable paper. Swellable papers thus remain in a chronic state of being at or above Tg.

Due to the Tg issue I personally concluded a few years ago that it was only a matter of time before we'd see swellable products start to be replaced by other solutions to ozone fading such as pigmented ink systems or matched dye/media combinations like Epson Claria ink/Ep premium glossy photo.

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Mark McCormick
http:www.aardenburg-imaging.com

Vibrio Veteran Member • Posts: 4,004
lford classic papers

are swellable
--
It's spelt Lens or Lenses for more than one

carauction Veteran Member • Posts: 6,657
Re: lford classic papers

so are HP's line before the advanced.

I bought a nice drying rack for my HP Premium Plus, Glossy and Satin. I use a very low heater, a small fan on very low setting, and a four sided wooden type dog house to house the drying rack. I generally keep the prints drying for about 5 days. Works beautifully...no gassing in albums anymore.

Mike

ojohn Senior Member • Posts: 1,137
Re: Why is swellable being abandoned?

Fuji Premium Plus is the same paper as HP Premium Plus, except for the backprint logo.

stlsportscom Regular Member • Posts: 201
Re: Why is swellable being abandoned?

Mark McCormick wrote:

I personally concluded a few years ago that it
was only a matter of time before we'd see swellable products start to
be replaced by other solutions to ozone fading such as pigmented ink
systems or matched dye/media combinations like Epson Claria ink/Ep
premium glossy photo.

Mark, is there hard evidence that Claria + Epson Premium Glossy Photo...are resistant to ozone?

Thanks for a wonderfully informed post.

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Mark McCormick Senior Member • Posts: 1,448
Re: Why is swellable being abandoned?

stlsportscom wrote:

Mark, is there hard evidence that Claria + Epson Premium Glossy
Photo...are resistant to ozone?

Some of the basis for my comments on improvements come from unpublished work, and private communication with colleagues. I don't have any hard figures to share with you at this time. I offered the Epson Claria/Premium Glossy combination as an example of a matched dye ink and microporous paper set where real strides have been made to improve both light fastness and ozone resistance. Given the "instant dry" properties, vivid color, much improved light fastness, no bronzing or differential gloss, and likely improvements to ozone (e.g., incorporating more effective anti-oxidents, etc) I suspect that Epson believes dye/micorporous systems are a better overall solution for the majority of its non-professional customers than are dye/swellable paper systems. I also see other vendors as well offering up new alternatives (e.g., Hp's Advanced photo paper with Vivera dye inks). So I think the writing is on the wall for swellable papers, but I could be wrong.

If you are really concerned about longevity (and I think many people are) then pigmented inks are the way to go at this time. That said, I don't rule dye systems out by any means, just swellable inkjet papers, particularly in the amateur photography market. As I alluded to in my earlier post, traditional photo paper is a hugely successful commercial example of a "swellable" paper product by virtue of its gelatin emulsion. Its just that it has more lattitude than swellable inkjet papers in moderate to elevated humidity environments before it gets into trouble because it doesn't have to soak up liquid as rapidly as inkjet papers.

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Lennart Delin Regular Member • Posts: 136
Dye ink requires swellable paper!

There are a lot of tests showing which ink/combinations have the best longevity, but I have seen very few tests showing what happens with dye ink on non-swellable paper, so I did a simple test by putting some prints from my HP8750 outdoor in the sun without any protection other than rain shelter, for four weeks. I think this test really shows the importance of using swellable paper. HP premium plus is swellable, the others not.

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Regards
Lennart

Mark McCormick Senior Member • Posts: 1,448
Re: Dye ink requires swellable paper!

Lennart Delin wrote:

There are a lot of tests showing which ink/combinations have the best
longevity, but I have seen very few tests showing what happens with
dye ink on non-swellable paper, so I did a simple test by putting
some prints from my HP8750 outdoor in the sun without any protection
other than rain shelter, for four weeks. I think this test really
shows the importance of using swellable paper. HP premium plus is
swellable, the others not.

Nice Experiment! I own an HP8750 as well, and it was essentially marketed as an advanced photo printer with excellent light fastness and ozone resistance, but the caveat was indeed you had to use the matched OEM ink set and OEM swellable paper to achieve the longevity claims. Hp advanced photo paper (an improved microporous paper formulation) came later, and for this and other reasons was not marketed as a longevity solution for the Hp8750, though it certainly produces nice initial image quality on this printer. Your test easily confirms the light fastness and ozone resistance benefits of swellable paper (the very reason for the existance of swellable papers in the marketplace). I do see some orange/red shift in your test prints that may very well be gas fading in addition to the light fading. However, if these two factors were the only issues for the typical consumer, microporous papers would be the technology I'd be saying its days are numbered. Yet, microporous papers offers better overall handling characterisitics for many consumers including, "instant dry" feel, superior resistance to spilled drinks and kids' sticky fingers when magneted to the family refrigerator, resistance to sticking and ferrotyping in the family photo album, etc. Your test results would have been very different had the prints gotten wet, for example. Moreover, as much as I love the prints I've made with my 8750 and Hp swellable papers, I find it annoying to wait for several days before I dare frame them or give them to other family members due to their exceedingly long "drying" time. Bottom line is that there is no free lunch.

Clearly, print life is a statistical game just like longevity is for humans. One person may be more prone to heart disease in his/her family environment while another person may be more prone to cancer in a different environmental setting. Our quantity and quality of life and that of the objects such as photos that we cherish, thus depends on many factors. Pigmented ink printers in general produce much more long-lived prints on a much wider variety of substrates, but even these prints aren't bulletproof. Workarounds for people who dislike bronzing and gloss differential, for example, often involve post treatments that the average consumer simply doesn't want to deal with (hence we are seeing new engineered solutions such as gloss optimizers). We haven't seen the universal solution to total print durability and Image quality yet, but I do see fascinating product designs appearing every year that continue to take a stab at the perfect balance for cost, speed, and print quality (i.e., initial quality and longevity).

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Mark McCormick

Lennart Delin Regular Member • Posts: 136
Re: Dye ink requires swellable paper!

The HP9180 had just come out when I bought the HP8750 and there were numerous reports of all sorts of problems with the HP9180. The main reason for buying the HP8750 was however that I was fed up with the clogging of my old Epson 890, which always required a few cleaning cycles before printing. No clogging was my main target! I have had the HP8750 for more than a year now and never had a clog despite printing quite infrequently, sometimes several week between prints.

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Regards
Lennart

OP techie51us Regular Member • Posts: 128
Re: Why is swellable being abandoned?

Due to the Tg issue I personally concluded a few years ago that it
was only a matter of time before we'd see swellable products start to
be replaced by other solutions to ozone fading such as pigmented ink
systems or matched dye/media combinations like Epson Claria ink/Ep
premium glossy photo.

Mark:

Thanks for your insights and technical explanations. I have a question on matched dye/media combinations: to what degree is the inks and media actually engineered to work together, versus simply being tested together and henced backed by the manufacturer? For example, I have a Canon Pro9000 with Canon's CLI-8 "Chromalife100" inkset. Canon says that the combination of that inkset with their Pro PR-101 paper should resist light fading for 30 years, but is silent how well the ink performs with any other paper. PR-101 was on the market years before Chromalife100 inks, so it is hard for me to believe that the paper was engineered to match that inkset. Since I have not been very impressed with PR-101, I have been using other microporous papers such as Kodak Ultra and Kodak Pro, and have recently been tempted to start using Red River's Arctic Polar Gloss and Ultrapro Gloss. These papers appear to be more recent proudcts than PR-101 and hence, I assume, probably incorporate more modern technology. Also, Canon's technical literature attributes all of the permenance improvement in the Chromalife100 to changes in ink chemistry as opposed to paper chemistry. Further, Kodak and Red River say they have tested their papers with Canon inks, and found them compatible. So, am I sacrificing permenance by not using the "matched pair" paper that Canon recommends (and happens to make)?

Mark McCormick Senior Member • Posts: 1,448
Re: your Hp 8750

I've had great luck with all the Hp printers I've owned, the 8750 being the latest of them for me as well. Its a great printer, and I love its output. I hope I didn't sound too harsh about using swellable papers. If you know their strengths and limitations, you can deal with it. I use mainly the Hp premium plus Satin photo with my 8750 because it is has a very classic eggshell or "E" surface finish and will resist the ferrotyping issue in albums much better than the glossy version of the same paper. I truly believe that if you select a nice image, make a good print with the 8750, and document your materials you used, your prints will be important historical process examples in just a few years. The 8750 is a rather unique example of multi-colorant dye inkjet printers from this era of digital photography.

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Mark McCormick Senior Member • Posts: 1,448
Re: Why is swellable being abandoned?

techie51us wrote:

I have a
question on matched dye/media combinations: to what degree is the
inks and media actually engineered to work together, versus simply
being tested together and henced backed by the manufacturer?

Because I don't work for any of the major manufacturers in the inkjet industry, I can't answer with any specifics. But my own sense is that ink/paper compatibility is one very heavily researched topic by all the major companies; Hp, Canon, Epson, Kodak, etc. All of the majors take the longevity issue very seriously and are bringing significant financial and engineering resources to bear on both image quality and image permanence issues not to mention overall ease of use of their products. While they may contract with other companies to manufacture components for them and at times choose "off-the-shelf" formulations provided by subcontractors, there is serious compatibility testing. All the major OEM's have their own teams of chemists working on ink and paper chemistry. Thus, it is challenging for smaller third party ink MFGs to compete against the high stakes competition by the majors, but that said, I'm glad that third party MFGs are out there giving it a go.

For example, I have a Canon Pro9000 with Canon's CLI-8 "Chromalife100"
inkset.
...PR-101 was on the
market years before Chromalife100 inks, so it is hard for me to
believe that the paper was engineered to match that inkset.

Right, but the ink was formulated with that paper specifically in mind, hence it can definitely be considered a matched set. A third party vendor has to try to work with the engineering realities of trying to make a more "one size fits all" product. Compromises occur for both OEMs and third party vendors. Marketing claims often sidestep serious incompatibility issues. I once tested a paper that was being marketed as compatible with both dyes and pigments, and specifically listed my printer. My printer's OEM ink smudged and rubbed off this paper's surface while it was still going through the printer rollers. An OEM branded paper would never have made it out the door with that big a problem (one hopes!)

Since I
have not been very impressed with PR-101, I have been using other
microporous papers such as Kodak Ultra and Kodak Pro, and have
recently been tempted to start using Red River's Arctic Polar Gloss
and Ultrapro Gloss. These papers appear to be more recent proudcts
than PR-101 and hence, I assume, probably incorporate more modern
technology. Also, Canon's technical literature attributes all of the
permenance improvement in the Chromalife100 to changes in ink
chemistry as opposed to paper chemistry. Further, Kodak and Red
River say they have tested their papers with Canon inks, and found
them compatible. So, am I sacrificing permenance by not using the
"matched pair" paper that Canon recommends (and happens to make)?

Maybe, maybe not. There is really no way to tell without product specific testing. As a general observation, I have seen 20:1 light fade performance differences in dye based systems simply by choosing different papers. Ozone resistance has similar variablity. I've also routinely seen 3:1 light fade differences in pigmented ink systems simply by changing papers. Thus, while pigmented systems are more "substrate independent" than dye-based inkjets, they aren't immune. One has to do the experiment to get hard evidence of the total system response. And one ideally needs to evaluate the whole time-based aging curve, not just one preselected single endpoint criterion for "end of life" because fading is often non linear. Some systems start fading quickly but slow down. Some progress evenly from start to "finish", while still others fade slowly in the beginning but then speed up at a later point in time.

The major OEMs understandably test or commission independent labs to test only their specific product offerings and often only those product combinations they feel will do very well in test. That leaves the end-user with a game of print permanence roulette when going outside those tested boundaries. A case and point: I just finished measuring 20 test samples today that have reached 10 Megalux-hour exposure in accelearated light fading. Two of these samples were made by a contributing artist on the same printer, same third party pigmented inkset, but on two different microporous papers. One of the papers was an OEM paper for the printer, but the printer happened to be running third party pigment inks. One might guess that with printer and paper being OEM product, that the third party ink fading resistance would be better on the OEM paper than for the third paper made by yet another third party supplier. Not so. The third party paper is outperforming the OEM paper. Significant differences even at this early stage of testing. (Note: 10 Mlux-hour exposure equates to only 5 Wilhelm display life years). The contributing artist will then face choices. Which paper does he like better now that he nows which one is more stable on his print system in the early years of print life? And will the superior performance of the one paper over the other in the early years remain true in later years of print life. Onward now to 20 Mlux-hr exposure!

So, at the risk of sounding self-serving because my new company is beginning to embark on a course of member-participating light fastness studies, I can only suggest that you need to look for specific test data on the very printer/ink/paper combination you have chosen in order to be fully informed about the print quality retention over time. And I fully understand the current lameness of my advice given how many printer/ink/paper systems aren't getting tested. I'm trying to do something about that!

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enduser Senior Member • Posts: 1,061
Re: Why is swellable being abandoned?

Thanks again, Mark, for a very useful post. You usually bring out information that just doesn't seem to be discussed or available elsewhere.

I wonder if you can tell me, or point to where I might find, anything which relates sunlight exposure, Megalux hours, and years exposed under glass.

In other words, what, approximately, does three months of summer sun in a window equate to in years of normal room display under glass.

I realize a lot of variables are at play, but perhaps there is a methodology. Further, can I use a photographic light meter to make some sort of guess at megalux?

Thanks again.

Mark McCormick Senior Member • Posts: 1,448
Re: Why is swellable being abandoned?

enduser wrote:

I wonder if you can tell me, or point to where I might find, anything
which relates sunlight exposure, Megalux hours, and years exposed
under glass.

I will be putting more information about this on my website in coming months. In the meantime here's a little info:

1 Megalux = 1,000,000 Lux. Lux is a measure of radiation falling on a square meter of surface. The radiation has been filtered by a cosine corrected photopic filter system on the meter. This techno jargon means that the meter is proportionally selective to only the incident energy that is visilble to a human observer with "standard" color vision as defined by color science standards. A good meter designed to measure Lux is said to yield a photopic response. An important point to note is that other energy bands in natural daylight (or other light sources) that fall on your prints aren't measured by a luxmeter (e.g, Ultraviolet and Infrared energy).

Standard industry tests for light fastness extrapolate high light intensity tests to some assumption for a typcal room environment. Kodak tradititionally has used 120 lux for 12 hours per day while Wilhelm Imaging Research uses 450 Lux for 12 hours per day. It is also important to understand that real world conditions where you hang your prints on display go anywhere from nearly 0 lux for 24 hr (an interior room with no windows) to a very common 60-100 lux for several hours per day (rooms with standard windows) all the way up to approximately 10,000 lux for several hours per day (i.e., a sun porch or room with picture windows, skylights, etc). Light induced fading is approximately linear to incident energy, so you can see how large a swing one can have in real life print fading results.

Example: Say I measure 100 lux on average falling on my print for 10 hours. That is 100 x 10 = 1000 lux-hr exposure. Divide by 1 million and it is .001 Megalux- hours. If this exposure took place every day of the year for one year, then multiply by 365 and your print received 0.365 Megalux-hours exposure that year.

As a very simple rule of thumb for current industry test results: Mulitply a Megalux-hour value by 2 to get "Kodak years on display" values and divide by 2 to get "WIR years on display". In the above example, the print "saw 0.365 megalux hours in one year of display. That would only have been equivalent to consuming 0.1825 years or about 2 months of a "WIR years of display life" rating.

In other words, what, approximately, does three months of summer sun
in a window equate to in years of normal room display under glass.,

Sunlight entering a window directly striking a print on an interior wall will illuminate the print typically between 25,000 to 75,000 lux. Usually these peak intensities are only for an hour or two as the sunlight traverses across a home's window and reaches your print. However, you can now see why direct sunlight can be so devastating to artwork. And I haven't even discussed the UVA component of that energy here (lets save that for another day). See above. The range is HUGE! Bottom line is: avoid hanging an important print where sunlight can reach it directly.

I realize a lot of variables are at play, but perhaps there is a
methodology. Further, can I use a photographic light meter to make
some sort of guess at megalux?

Yes, google "camera as lux meter" Here's one explanation I found.

http://www.natmus.dk/cons/tp/lightmtr/luxmtr1.htm

Bear in mind, that camera meters typically aren't photopically filtered, yet they can still give you a fairly reasonable reading for incident Lux. And even photopically corrected Lux meters don't tell you about the ultraviolet, near IR, or IR energy striking your prints. Thus, some scientists are critical of tests that report illuminance rather than irradiance. That said, one has to know the spectral properties of the light source, otherwise reporting either way leads to uncertainty. I personally, look at both factors, understanding full well that the total spectral properties of UV rich light sources such as natural daylight can have typically another factor or 2-5 impact on the fading rates of prints, yet choices in picture framing glazing can eliminate this varialble entirely if so desired.

I hope my answer helps "shed some light" on lightfastness testing.

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OP techie51us Regular Member • Posts: 128
Re: Why is swellable being abandoned?

Mark McCormick wrote:

I hope my answer helps "shed some light" on lightfastness testing.

Mark:

It does indeed shed significant light. Thanks again for your insights!

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