As a work of the U.S. federal government, this image is in the public domain. Rapid condensation of water vapor due to a sonic shock produced at sub-sonic speed creates a vapor cone (known as a Prandtl–Glauert singularity), which can be seen with the naked eye

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ALPS MD-Series Availability History

1) Please keep in mind that ALPS stopped sales of printers in January 2000.


By January 2000, Hewlett-Packard, Epson, and other major ink-jet printer companies had been reducing their cost of manufacturing and thereby their selling prices by a large margin. ALPS was still producing a high precision printer in an increasingly lower profit environment. To reduce the impact on the corporation, they decided to leave the retail printer market. The overhead of maintaining a large sales force, advertising, service and parts depot was too great to keep.

2) In the interest of fair play, ALPS decided to provide supplies for the near future. This was to keep existing customers supplied with products for the printers they had purchased.

3) Within the next two years all the major computer/office supply stores had dropped the ALPS product lines. ALPS supplies were available from only about a dozen independent suppliers in the US.

4) It was about this time that ALPS designated one distributor (MPS) to be the sole source for their supplies in the US. All dealers would have to purchase ALPS products through them. Fortunately prices stayed the same as in the past.

5) In December 2006 dealers were asked to provide their requirements for the next six months so that ALPS could plan one final run of supplies. This was done and we were told to expect deliveries in January, February and March. There was expected to be additional product available through June of 2007

6) The January delivery was very late as was February and March. By the time we finally got the March delivery, we were told that ALPS shut down the production lines at the end of March.

7) All deliveries that were planned for April through June were cancelled.

8) Information has come to light that ALPS was required to shut down the printer assembly plant permanently due to environmental issues. Japan is a signer of many international agreements regarding environmental clean-up. It appears that this also applied to the paper and ribbon producing plants as well.

9) Products sold under the names of Kodak, OKI-Data, Citizen, Roland (wax based), Powis, and possibly others, were ALL produced by the ALPS production facilities. These are no longer in operation.

10) While there has been efforts put forth to get another manufacturer involved in making replacement ribbons to fit the ALPS cartridges, this has not come to pass. I would like to say "as yet", but this may not happen at all.

11) ALPS is a very large, stable international company with offices in many countries around the world. Many of the products they make are invisible to us. It has been estimated that 50% of the computers in the world are using ALPS floppy drives. ALPS is mostly an industrial controls company. What this means is the retail printer business is or was a tiny fragment of their overall business and like any responsible corporation, they have to ensure that each active segment of their business makes sense.

Added 14 Oct 2007 - Please note: ALPS Japan has stopped all production of printers and ribbons and paper and other MD-Series supplies. The environmental issues, as explained to me by ALPS Japan, effected the manufacturing facilities where printers were produced. Any printers available today are from stock that was created from available parts. There are no more printers being assembled. This information was supplied to us by ALPS Japan.

ALPS hold the rights to the micro-dry process and continues to use this in their industrial products. They, so far, will not entertain allowing others to use this technology to produce products. It's really simple. They own it and control it. They are not under any obligation to share this technology. They announced that ALPS was quitting the retail printer business in January 2000. The production of all printer supplies was stopped in March 2007. It's been a great ride for the past 7+ years.

As to printer ribbons: (posted here April 2008)
In December 2006 I received this response to an inquiry to ALPS Japan. The response was from ALPS USA.
ALPS is indeed the manufacturer of the cartridges. The ribbon material was developed by ALPS as a proprietary product and is not used by any other company. Because ALPS wants to get out of the retail printer support they are not interested in providing the ink/media formula or tooling to others to continue manufacturing the product. I'm very sorry but it is a dead issue.
Update 26 Nov 2007 - There is a possibility of another company producing equivalent ribbons. This is a proven process. ALPS has been reluctant to allow this process. Work is still in process to get the legal agreements. It is very doubtful as ALPS is currently still manufacturing ribbons. (This is no longer likely)
There are ALPS MD-5500 printers available at ALPS-Supplies in New Zealand. These printers are being manufactured today and supplies should be available for a long time to come. See note below
Update 14 Aug 2009 - There is a small operation in Germany that is refilling ALPS/OKI/Citizen cartridges with white ink. There may be more than white available. Currently sales are limited to inside Germany. We're going to be working on acquiring the rights to expand on this. The white in is longer than the original ALPS product.
On the 18th December 2009, Alps Electric announced that they will be withdrawing MD series printers and consumables from sale from the following dates:

* 31st May 2010
o MD-5500 printers will be withdrawn from sale.
o All printers sold to this date will still carry a 12 month warranty from date of purchase.
o Alps will continue to offer repair services for another 5 years.
o Alps will continue to supply ink for another 5 years.

* 31st May 2015
o Alps MD consumables, including inks will be withdrawn from sale.
o Repair services will end.
ALPS Repairs - click here
Click here to see an ALPS advertisement as published in Electronic Engineering Time (Aug 2012)
This will give some insight to ALPS and their extensive range of electronics
This is the best information we have at this time.

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