Xerox Xpress 54 replaced by XES ColorfrafX X2 Large Format Inkjet Printers.

When the XES Xerox Xpress was actually a printer which was being shown at tradeshows, Xerox Engineering Systems ads claimed "advanced piezoelectric technology that delivers outstanding 720 dpi quality for large format digital printing applications." Yet they used Xaar heads, in that era renowned for average output, nothing "outstanding." I have seen these printers at Seybold trade show and also again at Photokina trade show. Compared even with an Encad the output from the oil based inks was poor. Only the output from the Seiko and Fuji Brady printers looked worst. If you would like copies of the various FLAAR reports on large format printers at all the major trade shows, just follow the links below.

Some large format printers are either outmoded technology or simply below average. These are the former XES Xerox Xpress and Fuji (Hunt) Brady large format inkjet printers.

The Fuji Hunt Brady printer is no longer available from Fuji, but since used models are still lurking on e-bay and elsewhere, it is necessary to be aware of their lack of photo-realistic quality.

Same with the XES Xerox Engineering Systems Xpress 54 and other models. Not all users of this printer were satisfied but used printers are still being sold on the Internet. Be very sure you know exactly what kind of a printer this was before you consider it. You can ask for the FLAAR Report on “Used Wide Format inkjet printers".

The Xerox home page is not the place to go for anyone seeking information on large format printers at Xerox. You have to know that large format printers have been shunted off to XES ( Here you get the revival of the ColorgrapfX brand name. The older Xerox electrostatic printers of a similar name are long ago obsolete and discontinued. But the new oil-based ColorgrafX X2 trued to resurrect the name as a new model since 2001. Then recently XES itself shut down, and the remaining wide format inkjet printers are being moved back into Xerox itself.

When Xerox bought Tektronix (a good move) they inherited the large format printer melted phase change hot wax printer of ektronix. Xerox wisely dropped this lackluster melted crayon technology. For laser-like desktop printers the phase-change melted way is okay, but that Tektronix large format version never got good reviews.

But every printer has some saving graces. The Xerox Xpress is a tad faster than the Epson piezo printhead system (Mutoh, Roland, Mimaki, and Epson itself). The Xpress has two rolls of paper on line. The Epson has an incomplete 2-roll system, its second roll just sits there and is not on-line at all. The XES oil-based inks are waterfast and pigmented.

Although the ads state "instant dry inks" in fact oil-based inks of that generation have a reputation of "never drying" and of being difficult to laminate (lecture at Big Picture Show, October, 2000). Yes, if you select the proper media you are okay, but few companies make media for oil-based printers since other than the new Seiko printer hardly any system uses oil-based inks. The Seiko has the same splotchy, grainy, poorly focused image, a result of either the Xaar piezo printheads and/or the oil-based inks.

However at all tradeshows, the output from the ColorgrafX X2 was dry to the touch immediately after printing. This is certainly an advantage over output from thermal printheads which are tacky and sticky to the touch, even hours after printing.

The Xerox brochure for the Xpress claims "superior printing quality." The "quality" is uninspiring. The "fast speeds" result in the lowest quality setting. With most printers you only get speed when you lower the quality. To get even close to average quality, you have to slow the printer down.

The ads claim "permanent heads" and suggest that other kinds of heads have to be changed in the middle of a print operation. That is somewhat misrepresenting the actual technologies. Even the worst heads of all, Lexmark heads on an Encad, are not that awful. Ironically, potentially the heads that get comment in terms of needing to be replaced in the middle of a print would be those on a Roland, but often they only need to be cleaned, not completely replaced.

As for the speed claims, in recent years lots of newer faster printers have appeared on the market, such as the 2 x 4 mode of the Encad 850, the even faster six color HP 5000ps, the Canon BJ-W9000 and Mach 12 from ColorSpan. So it remains to be seen whether the Xerox Xpress offers a speed advantage in today's world. Even if it did, there are countless other printers that should be considered since you can buy two of any other printer for the cost of the very very expensive XES printers.

But at BGSU we met a person who had worked in a sign shop and felt the XES Xpress was a satisfactory printer, so you should not pay any attention to our comments if you happen to love oil-based technology.

Now XES offers an improved model, ColorgrafX X2.

Since March 2001 Xerox Engineering Systems has introduced a new improved model, ColorgrafX X2, at CeBIT trade show. Since we do not have a ColorgrafX X2 among the eighteen inkjet printers in-house, we are unable to comment on how it performs in real life. But you can ignore anything we said about the Xpress, because the newer ColorgrafX X2 is improved in almost all respects.

Today (September 2003) the ColorgrapfX X2 printer from XES is back on their web site. XES had skipped the ISA ’03 tradeshow and we were unable to locate any ColorgrafX X2 printer presence in May, neither on their web site or via the main XES telephone number. But the printer seems to have been resurrected.

For some people reading this report, perhaps you need the speed and outdoor longevity of an oil-based system. In image quality we find the ColorgrafX X2 is better than the original Seiko oil-based printer (we have not yet studied the newer Mk-II Seiko in detail). But also look at alternative technologies. Be sure that the kinds of media your customers need will work on the printer you are considering.

For additional information and for help making your decision, ask for the FLAAR Previews on signs, posters, banners (specify whether for indoor signs or outdoor signs in the rain and sun), Previews for solvent or oil-based printers, or for the free FLAAR report on CAD-GIS plotters.

We cover oil-based ink printers in the same FLAAR Report Series as solvent ink printers. Our readers said they preferred to have all the information on each topic in a convenient PDF, so we have taken the commentary off these web pages and put it instead into Adobe Acrobat PDF reports. If you are even thinking of buying any oil-based printer, used or new, Seiko, XES, DGI or Dilli, do yourself a favor and benefit from what Professor Hellmuth has learned from inspecting these printers at countless tradeshows in Germany, the USA, and from doing background research.


Most recently updated September 15, 2003
Previous updates:September 8, 2003, Aug 25, 2002.