I want to start a small sublimation business. Unfortunately, funds are a bit low. $2.5k-$3k is all I can afford to spend for initial equipment and merchandise. The 3880 caught my eyes because of it 17 inch wide printing and a $900 cheaper than the 4880(which I've heard has the same printing quality).
But before I make a final decision I'd like to ask a few questions. I see a lot of info on the 4880, but not so much on the 3880.
1) What is your experience with the printer when it comes to sublimation. I understand not using it may cause clogging, but I do intend on using it every day, or at least running print cycles when not using it.
Then you should be OK. Epson you need to either print frequently, or manually do a nozzle check or a small CMYK file every 3 days or so, or get Harveys Head Cleaner and that can do that for you automatically as long as you keep the printer and PC on. A Ricoh does the trickle ink trick,so as long as the printer is plugged in and on then it keeps a bit of ink flow at timed intervals to keep the heads clear.
2-1) It has quite a few slots for ink. So I was wondering what do you recommend (I've heard good things about Cobra inks). I've heard people use 2 sets of standard CYMK ink. Do sub ink makers provide extra non-standard CYMK colors (if so, does it improve quality?)?
I use Cobra, I don't have the 3880 but they should have the 8 color set as they do for the other 8 color printers, the K3 inks are universal among Epson 8 color printers. I didn't see the profile for that model so you should have to call them first, they have their own ICC equipment and they have carts for the 3880 and the other Epsons are all supported with sublimation ICC profiles.
You shouldn't have to pay an arm and a leg just to get inks with a sublimation profile and support.
2-2) While I've heard people with the 4880 can actually use 2 sets of inks to make a hybrid, can the same be done with the 3880? I would love to also be able to print posters with it. If it can, would it be worth it? Would a standard set of CYMK ink be good enough for posters? If quality suffers noticeably on both sides due to hybridizing, I might prefer to keep it dedicated for sublimation.
I haven't seen hybrid support for the 3880, but for the 4880 Multi-Rip you can use it or contact them if they cover or plan to cover the 3880.
MultiRIP: RIP for dtg printers, screen printing and hybrid printers
4 colors vs. 8 colors. On some substrates typically high gloss there is a noticed difference, but that is not to say you cannot have very high quality with 4 colors. If you are pushing the envelope and need the absolute best ink gamut then more colors can be show better smoother gradients and smoother flesh tones.
I have a 4880 with pigments and on hardcopy specialty photo paper there is a difference comparing to other papers, not so match on less glossy paper or matte papers. So the benefit on hard surface sublimation items will be more noticeable on glossy hard goods. A trained eye can see subtle differences in matte hard good items. Just depends on who you sell to, for example photographers and artists.
2-3) I'm sure prices differ based on what inks you get. But could you ballpark the cost of getting full set of inks?
You cannot get 3880 inks from Sawgrass, if you plan to use the 3880 suggest Cobra. Conde and others have SG carts for the 4880 as does Cobra.
SubliJet IQ Sublimation Inks for the Epson 4880 - 110ml - DyeTrans.com
I recall at one Conde had refill 4880 and was offering bulk sublimation inks, I didn't see it on the website but I though they mention using the Sublime SG inks which are cheaper than Sublijet (SG) inks. But you would have to call them
Figure $155 x 8 (125 ml x 8) for SG inks on the 4880 for Sublijet. Cobra gonna run you 1/5 or so from that price but you would need to buy a set of 8 refillable carts.
On the 3880 doubt you can get Hybrid without an appropriate RIP. Having said that you might look into costing out 2 printers, one for your posters and one for sublimation. You also need to determine if your sublimation items will need up to 17 inches wide or not.
Ricohs only go to 11 x 17 or 13 x 19 if you get the optional tray for an upcharge. Besides the $1500 cost of the larger Ricohs if you are printing at that size you will get hammered on the inks. As I mentioned you shouldn't have to pay an arm and a leg just to get inks with a sublimation profile and support.
I apologize for asking so many question. And I appreciate any answers or input. Thanks for your time.