Product Review: Roland DG TrueVIS SG-540 and SG-300

LFR product review Roland TrueVIS SG

The all new TrueVIS SG Print & Cut series from Roland DG is available in 30" and 54" widths, priced respectively at £6,999 (€8,900) and £9,499 (€11,900). Marc Burnett of LFR has had a closer look.

Hot on the heels of the TrueVIS VG launched at FESPA, Roland DG has just announced its all-new TrueVIS SG Print & Cut series – with the latter serving as one of the most important product launches in Roland DG history. How so? Read on...

According to InfoTrends, Roland DG is the leading seller of wide-format printers for the production of durable graphics, and – according to Steve Urmano of Infotrends - they “have been for many years prior”.

The InfoTrends 2015 report takes into consideration all wide-format inkjets 30-inches wide and larger, priced under $50,000 USD, including solvent and latex ink technologies.

Further still, the affordability of Roland DG products, together with a well-earned reputation for outstanding customer training, support and service, means that Roland DG is the ‘go to’ manufacturer for the business start-up or the signmaker making the move from cutting of self-adhesive vinyl lettering up to full colour print production.

Any new printer from Roland DG targeted at this customer demographic has very, very big boots to fill.

So without further ado, let’s look at what this printer does, how it does it, and how well it meets the criteria to continue the Roland DG Print & Cut legacy.

First things first: sizes and price.

The TrueVIS SG is available in 762mm (30") and 1371mm (54") widths, respectively priced at £6,999 and £9,499.

The 30” TrueVIS SG-300, with its smaller footprint and reduced real-estate demands, is ideal for copy shops and other businesses looking to produce signs, die-cut decals and stickers, original promotional goods, and even printed apparel such as T-shirts and similar garments.

It’s worth noting that a huge number of business start-ups began with the SG’s predecessors, the VersaCAMM SPi, SPv or SP models, working from a spare room or garage – a trend that can certainly continue with this smaller unit.

The larger 54” wide TrueVIS SG-540 printer is ideal for a more expansive range of products including indoor and outdoor display and point-of-sale, vehicle graphics, and larger full colour signage. It’s also faster than the 30” model and – given the big increase in size and production versatility, set against the comparatively minimal increase in price -the SG-540 is the more attractive of the 2 models (unless you have the aforementioned space restrictions to consider).

Roland TrueVIS SG 540

Speed. Greasy fast speed.

Compared to its VersaCAMM SPi predecessor that’s the first thing you notice after clicking the print button for the first time. In high quality mode it is almost a full 3 times faster than the VersaCAMM SPi model.
This speed difference isn’t quite so dramatic in the lower quality print modes, but still presents a significant increase.

When printing in high quality, in the same time it took the older VersaCAMM SP-540i to produce 1.8m of print, the TrueVIS SG-540 can produce 5 metres of high quality print.

In lower quality settings you can achieve a maximum print speed of saleable quality at 9.4 metres an hour. However, for the intended target customer for this printer, I’d suggest leaving it at highest quality and remain content that you can produce output at a fast enough speed to service your customer base with print of the highest achievable quality.

OK, let’s talk about that quality.

First off, I’m not easily impressed. I’ve been looking at print coming out of inkjet printers since the Encad Novajet II made its first appearance and began the wide-format inkjet print revolution in 1993. That’s over twenty years I’ve had to hone my ‘seen it all before’ cynicism.

Straight off the bat, the colours are brighter and punchier – although that could be an ink benefit rather than a printer benefit. Be it new ink or new printer, for the production of graphics intended to catch the eye and make a visual impact, the new TrueVIS delivers admirably.

What is certainly a printer feature is the SG-540’s ability to print big expanses of solid colour without any sign of banding or patchiness – the solids were solid enough that I could have been looking at a vinyl created from a sheet of coloured PVC rather than a white vinyl that had been printed. It was very impressive.

Next up, a photographic print showing skin tones and subtle gradations and colour fades. Again excellent. No discernible signs of banding, stepping or graininess.

I guess the Million Dollar Question should be: “Is the print quality better than the VersaCAMM?”

Of course the answer to this question is subjective – certainly there are people with better colour perception than me, and undoubtedly superior eyesight – but in my opinion, the answer to that question is yes. The new Roland TrueVIS produces better quality than its predecessors.

There, I’ve committed it to writing. Time will tell if others in the industry share that view.

VersaWorks Dual, included in-the-box, but better than expected

Also included in the box is VersaWorks Dual, the latest version of Roland’s free-of-charge RIP software. As suggested by the name, it benefits from 2 image processing engines – one PostScript, one PDF. In real terms this means it can seamlessly handle all manner of files including those with multiple layers, alpha channel transparencies, drop shadows, Gaussian blurs, and other similarly complex file effects that might trouble lesser RIP solutions.

VersaWorks Dual also features the expected cropping, tiling and nesting functions, including the ability to mirror and rotate variable data, for example to flip sequentially numbered or named badges that are reverse printed on a clear film. 

Spot colour replacement with built-in Pantone libraries, an ability to save and store unlimited queue settings, and even a predictive ink calculator that gives estimated ink usage per print are further unexpected features that set this RIP apart from typically more spartan included-in-the-box fare.

Remote control included

The TrueVIS SG series includes the Roland DG Mobile Panel App – available for iOS or Android – that gives the user the option to manage printer functions from their smartphone or tablet. It also provides feedback on printer and job completion status. In effect, it means you are at the printer when you are not actually at the printer. For the busy owner/operator, it’s a nice addition.

Roland TrueVIS SG Applications

Typical usage

As any existing owner of a Print & Cut device will attest, they are the Swiss Army Knife of sign and display printers – the sheer diversity of work you can throw at it makes this an ideal machine for the start-up, and a perfect complement for the established business running print-only devices.

Let’s play the ‘list of things we can print’ game, I’ll go first… Backlit Displays, Banners, Custom Apparel, Die-Cut Decals, Exhibition Graphics, Fine Art, Heat Transfers, Industrial Marking, Label Printing, Package Prototyping, Personalised Print, Photo Printing, POP/POS Display, Posters, Promotional Products, Signage, Stickers, T-shirts, Variable Data (numbered and named badges, card etc.), Vehicle Wraps, Wall and Window Graphics.

See, it’s as versatile as a Swiss Army Knife – a TrueVIS SG will print (and cut) a bunch of stuff, probably a fair few of them outside of the things you normally print on a regular day. Many are niche, and many are profitable exactly because of that fact.

Typical customer

So we’ve covered what you get and what it does, but who exactly is the target customer?

Let’s start by saying that I personally think this printer serves a far wider customer demographic than Roland themselves might initially realise. It’s intended – by dint of its price point – for the start-up and the smaller sign or quick print shop, but I think it’s fast enough to handle a heavier workload than that, and – for a number of High Street sign shops – the TrueVIS SG is more than capable of serving as their primary print production device.

For the bigger sign and display print operation, particularly one who may not currently have Print & Cut in their production arsenal, the versatility of this printer – together with its keen price – make it a potentially viable addition, even if only to serve the lower volume niche applications that this printer can excel at.

Incidentally, I also think this printer inadvertently competes with the growing market for second-hand printers. When you consider the speed, the quality, the included Roland Care support, and the price – well me personally, I think I’d be buying a new TrueVIS SG rather than chancing my arm on a second-user printer with an unknown service history and unverified mileage.

Ironically, it is probably Roland printers that actually hold their value best on the second-user market, so you could even consider selling your old Roland out and buying a new Roland TrueVIS SG in, with a relatively modest Net spend. Food for thought there.

So there you have it. The Roland TrueVIS SG. I like the quality. I like the performance. I like the price. And I like that it has a Roland badge on it – the latter alone makes this as safe a purchase as you could make.

Roland TrueVIS SG Print Cut

P.S. You can also CLICK HERE to visit the Roland DG website for more information on the TrueVIS SG Series, or you can book a demo by calling 01275 335540.