With common sense and a capable wide format printer you can produce museum-quality exhibit prints
Can you, in your own shop, set up, and use, a wide format printer easily? Yes, if you select the appropriate wide format printer and the pertinent PostScript RIP. To test how easy it is to set up a wide format inkjet printer and actually begin printing, we conducted a test. Naturally this is not a setup that computer-shy people should realistically think of doing on their own.
Andreas, at the left, is an architect (teaches architecture at the leading architectural university in Central America, Universidad Francisco Marroquin). He has the advantage that he knows how to work with Macs because Macintosh computers are his choice for the architecture department.
Juan Carlos, at the right, is the key person in the university's Internet and campus network system. Like most good computer systems people he is largely self-taught. He is ideal for this test because his strength is in PC's (not Macintosh) therefore a good representation that you don't have to be a Mac idealist to handle a Macintosh graphics setup.
Although naturally all good architects have experience with HP CAD plotters, neither Andreas nor Juan Carlos had ever used or set up a wide format inkjet system. Also assisting in the setup was Franz Holzheu (not pictured) who did the actual setup of the ink, ink lines, and print heads.
I was in the background but only offered a few tips to the three based on my having watched Del Fox capably setup this same Encad printer at Brevard Community College. BCC changed presidents and the interim president closed down most multi-cultural programs and displayed little interest in high-tech digital programs 2 years ago, so FLAAR moved all its equipment to the Francisco Marroquin University where the Vice Rector (architect Max Holzheu) had a keen interest in digital technology for his university. Our goal is to develop a means to showcase digital imaging hardware and software for the Latin American market. We are developing the same in Germany for the European market. Naturally the present web site is the showcase for the American market (as well as for almost every country in the world that clicks onto our site from the leading search engines).
There is no Encad technician in Guatemala, so we had to do everything on our own. Indeed we lacked the main technical manual. Nonetheless, the Encad equipment worked just fine.
Here is an early sample print and the basic setup: Encad wide format printer; EFI hardware Fiery RIP (PostScript RIP), Macintosh computer (any model will do, this is a legacy PowerTowerPro 225 MHz model), 20" monitor (courtesy of Apple computer; the 9600 that Apple also donated is now in our office in Germany; the monitor was too large to ship to Europe so we have kept it in Guatemala). The blue print server is the EFI Fiery RIP, which is a Pentium PC with a dedicated RIPPostScript software inside.
Now we have replaced the Encad with three Hewlett-Packard printers. This is partially because in 1999 Encad announced that it was "abandoning the graphics art market" to concentrate on signs for grocery stores, WalMart, etc. Hewlett-Packard, in distinction, makes a full range of printers that can produce signs for point of sale as well as other printers that can produce quality approaching that of fine art printers. Encad of course subsequently realized that doing only low-end signs was not good PR. In the meantime, however, Epson, Roland, Mutoh, HP, and other printers carved up the market for fine art giclée printing. Encad has about a 1% toehold in this growing market. The new Encad model 850 has a bit of potential for printing on canvas but its low 600 dpi has a tough time competing with HP's 1200 dpi or Roland's 1440 dpi.
Artists, collectors, and museums do not take some brands of printers seriously. Thus Encad has little chance of cracking the fine art giclée market unless the printer technology is improved dramatically, rebranded, and bundled with a superior RIP that can match the dithering pattern of the Epson. The 8 color Roland and faster 8 color ColorSpan sort of doom any attempt by Encad to manouver their 8 color model 850 into the fine art giclée market. However since the RIP software is more important than the hardware, it is possible that a major breakthrough in software could offer a glimmer of hope to Encad in the market for printers capable of rendering photorealistic images.
Last checked: Sept. 24, 2003. Previous updates: Aug 17, 2001 (NHM), June 16, 2002.
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