Thursday, April 26, 2007

Does D-Roller really work?

Michael Frye posted this question recently on the Yahoo “digital-fineart” discussion group:

I just saw a good review of the D-Roller on Luminous Landscape, but I want to see if any of you have used it, and if so what you think of it. For those who don’t know, the D-Roller is designed to take paper curl out of prints. I tried making my own version a couple of years ago, but ended up thinking it was more trouble than it was worth. Although it did take out paper curl, it was only temporary - the paper would gradually re-curl. I gather that the D-Roller works better with rag papers, but since I’m using mostly Epson Premium Luster, I’d like to hear from someone who’s using something similar. Also, I found that with my home-made version it was very easy to dent the paper if you weren’t careful, and if there was any dust inside the roller it got embedded into the print. Any advice would be appreciated!

We have two D-Rollers (24” and 50” models) in our Bair Art Editions studio, and wouldn’t be without them!  Like Michael mentioned, they are most effective on rag or even wood pulp papers, like Epson’s Enhanced Matte.  They are less effective on photo papers that have an “plastic” RC or polyethylene barrier layer like the Epson Premium papers, but they are still useful even here.

Most of d-rolling (reverse rolling) is done after people do their printing, but some people use use the D-Roller to uncurl sections of roll stock so they can feed longer sheets into their printers for panoramic prints. This is helpful if you have an inkjet printer like the Epson Stylus Photo 3800 that doesn’t accept roll paper, but can still print on stock up to 37 inches long.

I’ve also tried to make my own “d-roller” out of a 1.5” diameter PVC pipe, but it wasn’t as effective.  This patented product has just the
right “apron” (so as not to dent or leave a crease line on the paper) and anti-breaking strips on the sides to make it be more serviceable than my homemade contraption.

The longer you leave the paper rolled up in the D-Roller (1-60 sec.) the more curl you will take out of the sheet. Soft rag papers usually only take about 10 seconds, but smooth (more calendared) papers will take longer, because these fibers retain more or their curl memory. You can de-curl the paper too much and make it curl in the opposite direction, but this rarely lasts for very long—there is typically some latent memory in the paper, and it will often lay flat within a few minutes. In fact, with some of the more calendared papers, like Epson’s UltraSmooth and Enhanced Matte, I will often leaved them d-rolled for a few minutes—enough to make them curl the opposite direction when they are un-rolled, and they will relax to the flat position within minutes. If I don’t apply this extra d-rolling time, they come out looking flat at first, but start to take on some of their natural curl position within a few minutes.

While the D-Roller is very quick and effective, I have found that d-rolling a long production run of prints can be very labor intensive. Whenever I have a large order, and some extra time, I will just reverse-roll the whole printing job on an empty 3-inch roll paper core tube, wrap some scrap paper around the roll, tape it securely so it doesn’t unwind and leave it for several hours or overnight. Reverse-rolling this way is not as quick (as the smaller diameter D-Roller) in breaking the paper’s curl memory, but it is usually just as effective over this longer time period. (Some of the large-format printers have automatic take-up rollers that offer reverse-roll winding. Prices for these accessories start at about $1,000.)

For most jobs of one to ten prints, the D-Roller is just the ticket. For more information, you can go to the D-Roller Web site, or to one of their major online dealers, like Inkjetart.

Posted by Royce Bair on 04/26 at 06:31 AM
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