Solvent Related News

FLAAR Reports’s Solvent Glossary

Solvent printed sample. FLAAR Photo Archive.

A glossary is always a good supportive material especially in the world of large format printing. This glossary deals exclusively with materials, inks and components that use solvent printers. It is not only important to know the meaning of each term, but also to understand its functionality and application. FLAAR Reports has always been an institution dedicated to education, over the years we have been able to collect information from our visits to trade shows, factories, customer visits and evaluations of the best equipment on the market.

As a complement of this glossary we have added photography and illustrations pertinent to the terms; terms from the most general to the specific with examples seen in different trade shows as well as types of inks, materials and their different applications.

Applications for solvent ink:

• Flexface billboards vs. pressure sensitive billboards
• Soft sided truck material vs. hard sided trucks
• Transit shelter (usually translucent)
• Photo imaging vs. high quality photographic (distinction unclear)
• Short run POP vs. Long run POP (ramifications not specified)

Solvent ink would be appropriate for any applications on this list that are outside or otherwise in the sun, such as on windows.


RT-3205D eco solvent printer exhibited at APPPEXPO 2017. (Refretonic booth)


FLAAR Reports Solvent Glossary:
Wide-format Solvent Printing Terms


Arlon: is a large well-known source for pressure sensitive vinyl graphics films.

Capping: putting a cap on a printhead to keep the ink from drying out and thereby blocking the orifice. Capping is usually done at a service station. Solvent ink printers prefer to be kept running constantly but many models can be capped for over the weekend. Mild-solvent printers tend to also include a capping station. Eco-solvent printers do not have as much problem with the ink drying out at the nozzle plate. So the stronger the ink, the more likely it is to clog the nozzles.

Coated material: is any substrate, which has been pre-coated with an inkjet receptor coating. Although water-based ink requires these coatings solvent ink is supposedly, in theory, not to need coating. The coating of the materials is very very costly. But the first generation of eco-solvent inks (2001-2003) did not adhere well to raw vinyl or other materials.

Decap a printhead: take the cap off or move the printhead carriage off the capping area, which may, or may not be, the same as the service. Decapping can be manual or automatic.

Draft mode: is the fastest that a wide-format printer can print and still produce a recognizable image. Generally draft mode = unusable output. The problem is that the manufacturers tout the draft mode as the actual printing speed. Then elsewhere in the spec sheet the manufacturer talks about the high dpi and fabulous quality the machine can produce. BUT, the manufacturer studiously neglects to tell you that you will never get the draft mode production speed together with the full dpi. So draft mode speed is, in most printer advertisements, a good example of bait and switch. See also production mode and quality mode.

Eco-solvent plus: is the hurried replacement in 2003 for the first generation of eco-solvent inks (2001-2003). The first generation used by Roland and Mutoh got a quick reputation for being incapable of providing anywhere near the level of capabilities that the ads so loudly claimed. Eco-solvent ink was not judged as acceptable compared with what the ads claimed until the third generation. This and the fourth generation inks are okay, but most ad claims are still a bit too much. But the printers and ink are fine for what they are.

Epson piezo printheads: were designed for using with water-based inks. The solvents in solvent based inks may either dissolve or corrode early models of these printheads, or dissolve or corrode connections in the ink line which will bring dissolved or corrosion remnants as minute debris to clog the heads.

Flatbed: as compared to a roll-to-roll printer. A flatbed printer is usually a flat table for printing thick or rigid materials that do not handle well wound up on a roll. So if you want to print on a sheet of aluminum, or a piece of marble or wood, you can’t wind that around a roll or reel.

Glycol ether: a toxic solvent used in some inks. If you wish to lose your appetite, check out this toxic timeline, You can perhaps learn more from the Lyondell website, as they make glycol ether for inkjet inks.

Ink delivery system: in the case of solvent ink printers the solvent cleansing is part of the ink delivery system.

Jet recovery: is not always mentioned in spec sheets. Anything having to do with jets, blocked jets, or buddy jets, depends on the print head brand and model, and how the printer software handles controlling the individual jets. This software is called the firmware.

Lite-solvent: There is no official definition of lite-solvent or a distinction between lite-solvent and mild-solvent. There is no official body that has defined eco-solvent ink either.

Mild-solvent: sort of means less solvent (less cyclohexanone) than full strength solvent ink. I consider lite- or light-solvent essentially the same concept as mild-solvent. I prefer to use the term mild-solvent for all of this class.

Piezo, piezo-electric printhead: a kind of printhead technology used by Brother, Epson, Hitachi, Seiko, Spectra, and Xaar. In essence a piezo printhead uses an electrical impulse to flex the piezo-ceramic actuator, which, on command by the electrical impulse, changes shape and thereby pushes the ink out of a reservoir through a nozzle to form each inkjet drop.

Production mode: variously defined. May be fastest mode, in which case output is probably junk which picky clients would not accept. But on some printers production mode is the bare minimum that is acceptable by clients who want low price over high quality. For Oce, draft or billboard is the fastest mode; production is middle; high quality is their best mode. It is usually the number of passes, which makes the difference. Draft may be 2-pass, mid-range may be 4-pass, better quality may be 6-pass.

RIP: Raster Image Processor, a kind of software that is used to run inkjet printers and other devices. We have a complete glossary on RIPs, so please see that chapter.

Roll to roll: vs. sheet-fed flatbed. Roll to roll (or reel to reel) means paper, substrate, material, or media which is wound around a cardboard core and delivered as a roll of material. Your printer has to have a mechanism to hold these rolls. In distinction a flatbed printer is a flat table to print on rigid and often thick materials that cannot be wound around a reel. Many printers are hybrids or otherwise take both rolls of media and flat rigid thick materials as well.

Signage: generalized word to lump together all kinds of signs. A representative list of diverse kinds of signage is presented in the Appendix to this PDF.

Top coating: means different things to different industries. Normally it implies lamination, whether by liquid spray or varnish or glazing. The other meaning is an inkjet receptor coating, since this is usually the top coating layer in inkjet media. May also be spelled topcoating, especially when it means an inkjet receptor layer.

True solvent: that pseudo-solvent ink has been foisted on the public, the printer manufacturers that still use traditional solvent ink have to be sure they designate theirs as true solvent.


ULTRA 9100-3302S eco solvent printer exhibited at APPPEXPO 2017. (Wit-Color booth)

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