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Epson SureColor F170 Sublimation Printer: A Complete Review

Sublimation printing allows you to transfer dye onto fabrics, metals, ceramics, and other materials to create customized prints, decals, apparel, mugs, and more. The Epson SureColor F170 is a popular desktop sublimation printer that delivers vibrant, professional-quality prints at an affordable price point.

In this comprehensive review, we’ll take a close look at the key features and performance of the F170 to help you determine if it‘s the right sublimation printer for your needs and budget.

What is Sublimation Printing?

Before diving into the specifics on the F170, let’s quickly overview the sublimation printing process. Sublimation printing utilizes special inks that turn into a gas when heated. The printer transfers the ink onto coated paper sheets.

Then, you place the printed sublimation paper against your substrate (fabric, metal, etc), and apply high heat and pressure usually with a heat press. This vaporizes the ink, which penetrates and bonds with the substrate to leave the printed design embedded.

Sublimation printing process

The end result is permanent prints that won‘t crack, fade or peel like vinyl decals and transfers. The wider color gamut also allows for more vibrant and photorealistic prints than other decoration methods offer.

Let‘s see how the Epson F170 performs for this unique printing process.

Epson SureColor F170 Printer Overview

Epson SureColor F170 sublimation printer

The Epson SureColor F170 is a desktop dye-sublimation printer targeted at crafters, print shops, clothing lines, and other small businesses. Key features and specs include:

  • Print resolution up to 1200 x 600 dpi
  • Prints up to 8.5” x 47.2”
  • 2.4” color LCD display with control panel
  • PrecisionCore MicroTFP printhead with Nozzle Verification technology
  • Includes easy-to-install ink cartridges
  • Compact 13.7” x 13.7” footprint
  • Weighs 10.2 lbs
  • 1 year limited warranty

Notably, Epson’s proprietary PrecisionCore printhead allows for precise dot placement and accuracy even at high print speeds. And the Nozzle Verification tech automatically checks for and cleans clogged nozzles.

Combined with Epson’s reputable Claria ET dye-sublimation inks, this makes for fast, rich, color-accurate prints on fabrics, ceramics, metals, and beyond.

Print Samples and Print Quality

We tested the Epson F170 with a variety of printable products including polyester fabrics, ceramic mugs, aluminum metal prints, acrylic blanks, wood boards, and more.

Across the board, it delivered stunning, photorealistic prints without any banding, bleeding or other issues. Fine details are precise even under close inspection, and print colors appear vibrant and accurate.

Sublimation prints from Epson F170 printer

While not quite as large format as some competitors, the Epson F170’s 8.5” x 47.2” maximum print size easily accommodates most common products you’d use for sublimation, like t-shirts, mugs, phone cases, keychains and more.

For very large format printing such as full size sports jerseys or banners, the wider SureColor F570 may be a better option. But for most hobbyists and small shops, the more affordable F170 offers sufficient size.

Additionally, while not the absolute fastest on the market, print speeds hold their own at 1 minute per 4 x 6” photo print and 34 seconds for a letter sized page.

Setup and Ease of Use

Out of the box, the Epson SureColor F170 is quick and straightforward to set up. Simply install the ink cartridges, load paper, install print drivers, and run the first-time printer setup.

The print drivers offer a robust set of options for tweaking image settings like brightness, contrast and saturation to dial in your print quality. But you can certainly achieve great results with default settings too.

And the intuitive control panel makes it easy to perform maintenance tasks like head cleanings and nozzle checks without having to go into complex menus. So while not the absolute most user friendly model around, it achieves a nice balance of customization options without overwhelming beginners.

Sublimation Printer Comparison

So how does the Epson F170 stack up to competitors? Here we compare to two of the top alternatives for crafters and small shops on key metrics:

Epson SureColor F170 Sawgrass Virtuoso SG400 Ricoh Ri 100
Print Resolution 1200 x 600 dpi 720 x 1440 dpi 720 x 1440 dpi
Max Print Size 8.5” x 47.2” 8.5” x 47.2” 8.5” x 35”
Print Speed (4×6 photo) ~1 minute ~30 seconds ~38 seconds
Ink Technology Claria ET Sawgrass Sublim Ricoh Gen 5
Price $399 $995 $599

As you can see, the Epson F170 is significantly more affordable than the SG400 and Ri 100, while offering comparable print quality and size (with slightly slower speeds).

The pricier Sawgrass and Ricoh models do have an edge when it comes to ease of use and minimising maintenance needs. So if that‘s a priority, they may justify their higher costs.

But for most hobbyists and small shops, the Epson F170 provides reliable performance and stunning print results at a fraction of the investment.

Who is the Epson SureColor F170 Good For?

With its balance of quality and value, the Epson SureColor F170 is a great fit for:

  • Crafters making custom home goods, apparel, tiles, murals and more as one offs or in small batches
  • Print shops and clothing lines doing short run production up to 47.2” wide
  • School and institutional programs for visual arts, fashion design, maker spaces and more
  • Gift shops, cafes and boutiques wanting to offer custom printed merchandise
  • New sublimation businesses just getting started before investing in a wide format industrial printer

For very high volume production like contract printing for major brands, wider format industrial printers may be required. But for anything from personalized custom work to runs of up to a few dozen shirts or mugs at once, the F170 handles the job beautifully.

Epson SureColor F170 Review Conclusion

With exceptional print quality rivaling far pricier models, reliable performance and a compact, user friendly design, the Epson SureColor F170 packs tremendous value for crafters, entrepreneurs and creatives wanting to add sublimation printing capabilities in-house affordably.

While not as lightning fast or fully automated as some industrial printers, it excels at short run production, custom orders, and experimenting with sublimation across a huge variety of blanks from fabrics to hard goods.

For small shop owners or hobbyists not wanting to break the bank, it delivers beautiful, personalized sublimation prints that will delight customers and stand up over time.

Learn More

Explore Epson‘s full line of printers for home, office and business use cases to find the right fit.

Frequently Asked Questions

Does the Epson F170 come with sublimation ink?

Yes, the printer includes a full set of Claria ET dye-sublimation ink cartridges in cyan, magenta, yellow and black.

What size heat press do I need?

To accommodate the full 8.5” x 47.2” print capacity, you‘ll want at least a 15” x 15” heat press. But smaller presses can work fine if you don’t need to print full size.

Can the Epson F170 be used for vinyl transfers or other decoration methods besides dye-sub?

No, this printer is engineered specifically for sublimation printing, and does not support vinyl, eco solvent or other ink types.

Does it support wireless printing?

No, the F170 connects to your computer via USB cable. For wireless connectivity, Epson‘s EcoTank ET-5800 is a great sublimation printer pick.