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Minolta RP-600Z, RP-603Z, RP-605Z, RP606Z, RP-607Z, RP609Z Microfilm Reader Printers

- A brief technical perspective

Written by Evis Beaton – Microfilmworld.com

Between 1989 and 1994, Minolta released a new line of microfilm reader printers that were robust, quality products that became industry standards for many years. Canon did compete well with this Minolta line-up, having their own formidable units in the PC-80, MP-60, MP-90 and high production NP-880/980 units. Kodak also had the IMT-350 which was actually borrowed Minolta’s RP-505 successful print engine (Minolta EP-450Z) along with a sophisticated Kodak roll film transport system. Bell & Howell was also selling units at this time branded with their name but were actually private labeled Minolta and Canon units.  Alos Micrographics also sold systems made by Minolta including the Z-40 which was actually the Minolta RP-600Z and the Z-43 which was the RP-603Z.

The first of the new Minolta series to hit the market was the RP605Z around 1989. This was a phenomenal unit. The RP-605Z was taller than the RP-505 but was on a permanent stand base with casters making it easy to move around. It was also about a third of the weight of an RP-505 and offered a slightly faster print engine as well as new options not available on previous models like auto image masking, and motorized image rotation. The RP605Z now discontinued, borrowed the Minolta EP2100 copier print engine. Most of the transport, image development and fusing system came from that photo copier.

The RP-605Z was a successful system and did gain the loyalty of Minolta RP-505 users once they demoed the system and had a chance to see its productivity. The RP-605Z had great image quality (when the imaging system was working in top form) and overall provided a long service life for users. Service intervals were at 30 and 60k and consisted of replacing the fuser rollers, drum cleaning blade, starter (developer) and the drum. The paper take up roller generally lasted more than 60k prints but did require changing at 75-80k. The main technical issues from the start was the dual developer system, fusing system jams and paper wrinkling as well as copy quality issues.  Systems that did have bi-mode capability had two DV units each with its own specific developer powder and toner feed mechanisms. The PP system was fed by a toner hopper while the NP system by toner tubes.

As with the RP503 and 603Z series machine, toner replenishment was an issue that technicians confronted daily. The bulk of the problem was that if users did not zoom the projected image to its full size on-screen and printed with border consistently, the machine simply could not keep up with the replenishment of that constant black border around the image. Eventually, the images would get lighter and lighter until a service call was made. The solution was twofold. One was the release of the image masking option which could be retrofitted onto existing systems. This masking kit would illuminate the border during printing allowing for a more consistent replenishment to the DV unit. The other was the use of the “drum dry” mode activated by a small pinhole button on the front control panel that would replenish the DV unit for a cycle of 3 minutes when depressed.  When customers noticed image quality dropping off, they could try toner replenishment via “drum dry” to correct. If toner levels dropped off too much, developer and toner would then be used up during printing and eventually a tech would need to intervene and add new developer to the system.

The paper take up roller and separation pad also had to be replaced periodically to reduce P1 and double feed jams. The take-up, transport and synch rollers were activated by electro-mechanical clutches that tended to get dirty with toner and require cleaning and replacement periodically. The drum cleaning blade was rated at 30k or so but would fail even if few prints were made since over time, the silicon based cleaning blade would degrade and become stiffer causing image ghosting and streaking.

About 1990, the RP600Z and RP606Z were released. The RP600Z was intended to replace the aging RP-502 and RP-503 systems while the RP606Z was more difficult to place. The RP600Z was mechanically almost identical to the RP-503 except for the optics section and electronics. The paper take-up, transport, imaging section and fuser were almost identical.

The RP606Z offered a few advantages over the RP-605Z like motorized image rotation (which later became an option on the RP-605Z) and it could print on legal (8.5x14) paper which the RP605Z could not do. Other than those differences they looked almost identical and were technically twins except for the CPU and screen frame (maybe a few more bits).

The RP-607Z was released around 1992 and technicians generally thought it was designed to compete with the Canon NP880/980 which was having some success in the market, especially at title companies, banks and county recorders offices. The RP-607Z had dual paper cassettes, dual DV units and toner hoppers and was a huge machine, much like its predecessor the RP-507. Although a good many of them were sold into the Southern California market place, they quickly became a source of concern for technicians. The RP-607Z although robust and formidable, did not deviate much from the design of the RP-507. It still retained the vertical paper feed, dual dv systems and dual paper cassettes. The same issues that plagued the RP-507 (paper jams, copy quality, toner replenishment) continued on with the RP-607Z because the design was little improved from the technicians point of view.

The RP609Z was released about 1994 and was intended to replace the RP-509. This was the engineering model, designed to print as large as 18-x24” on bond paper rolls or vellum from Aperture Cards or 35mm Roll Film. The RP-609Z did offer a motorized roll film carrier and also and auto AP card feeder both of which were completely new and an improvement over the RP-509. Copy quality on the RP-609Z was very good and it generally was not a problematic machine from a technician’s point of view. Selling to mainly aerospace, military and engineering applications, it was not sold in the same numbers as others in the Minolta line since these markets have always been much smaller than the 16mm microfilm and microfiche markets.

The RP-603Z as also released about 1994 and retained the same Minolta EP-50 copier engine the Minolta RP-502, RP-503, RP504 and RP-600Z used, although it introduced a series of zoom lenses, an electronic mage rotation feature, auto image masking and a host of motorized film carriers that were available to the RP605Z, it was not sold in large numbers in our area.

Its market was believed to fit those users that could not justify the top of the line RP-605Z but also had needs the RP-600Z could not meet. It was a successful system and made improvements to the previous models, especially in the fuser system which was more reliable. The RP-603Z was built on a table top chassis, so it was much more compact than the RP-605Z. This same RP-603Z chassis was used for the next series of Microfilm Reader Scanners like the MS-2000, MicroSP 2000 and the eventual superstar of the industry, the Minolta MS-6000 & MS-6000 MKii.

Please feel free to contact me regarding Micrographic solutions or for technical support on these or other Micrographic Systems. Evis Beaton evis@microfilmworld.com

Evis Beaton is the Sales and Marketing Manager for Microfilmworld.com and has over 25 years of experience in the Microfilm Industry working as a field service technician, technical specialist and service manager for Minolta’s then largest microfilm dealer in the USA. Evis has an ASEET (Electronic Engineering Technology) and a Bachelor’s degree in Business Management with an emphasis on e-commerce organizations.

 © Evis Beaton All Rights Reserved

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