Not all digital presses are created equal (and neither are the operators who use them.) So when choosing what printing store you will go to for your job now requires a little more planning and knowledge. This article is meant to help you understand just how different the digital press offerings available today are. It’s equally important to know the knowledge of the operators using those presses.
SLB Printing has been using two entirely different processors that are typically used for different types of jobs. Although both machines use the same toner, developers, drums, print engines and fusers, the ability of one machine is much more limited than the other. The machines even look identical to one another. So what’s the difference? The RIP (Raster Image Processor) and a few other upgrades to the internal workings of the machines. Now if you were shopping for your next digital printer and all you asked is “What machine do you use?” you just set yourself up for massive disappointment.
STOP THE MADNESS! Save me Shelby! What questions should I be asking? Here’s a short list of 5 questions you should be asking to anyone with a digital press:
If you can’t ask the above questions, you may not really know what it is you want. That makes the entire process of being able to deliver a quality product that meets your expectations difficult if not impossible. But going back to the original question of “what machine do you use?” this question actually does need to be answered and here’s why.
The list of digital presses is not very long: Xerox, Canon, Konica/Minolta, Ricoh, Xante, Kodak to name some of the more popular names. Each manufacture’s press will produce a copy that appears to be a little different from the next. This is primarily due to the different techniques, toners and fusers that are used. Then there are the different materials that each machine is capable of printing on. So, who’s the best? That’s not for me to say. What is best really is the machine that produces an image that YOU like the most. That’s why it’s so important to know your project and ask to see printed samples of other jobs or be prepared to pay for a printed proof of your job just to be sure.
What about the RIP device I mentioned earlier? The RIP device attached to the press is responsible for how versatile the machine is when it comes to reproducing colors. A low end RIP is going to struggle with complex or large files. Going back to our two machines, one is capable of processing a 48 page booklet in under 3 minutes, the other machine, will take over 2 hours to process the same file. BIG DIFFERENCE! Colors are more vibrant and gradients are smoother as well. But our machines still are not capable of handling all types of jobs. Actor head shots is one example of a job we struggle with but ask us for a fashion look book and that’s another story. Why? Because head shots are made to be run on a stock that our machine doesn’t run well. But that paper is not used for look books. Different machines run different papers using different techniques. We choose our machines based on the most common jobs our clients currently ask us to produce. We end up turning down a fair amount of work because of this while other companies would try to just make it work.