RE: Color technology--opinions?

Subject: RE: Color technology--opinions?
From: "Smith, Martin" <martin -dot- smith -at- encorp -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Wed, 25 Oct 2000 08:20:29 -0600

Dick Margulis wrote "...I'm seeking opinions from those of you who are in
the color copier/color laser space...I don't want to make the wrong purchase
decision... I'd appreciate input from others who have looked at this

About four months ago I leased a Canon 1150 digital color copier which is
controlled by a Fiery Raster Image Processor. I also purchased a punch and
plastic coil insertion machine. We now use this combination to print all of
our documentation in house. In addition to our end-user manuals, I produce
business plans for our investors which are full of full-color charts and
tables. Our manuals also make extensive use of schematics and CAD drawings,
which are also nice to have in color.

The Fiery RIP allows you to store rasterized, ready-to-print manuals on a
network file server. A monitor, mouse, and keyboard connected to the RIP
allows our production people to see a list of all released documents and
print them on demand.

We have been very happy with this decision. When I was shopping around, I
sent the same quote to several printing companies and local copy shops. In
every case I asked them to quote printing 100 copies of a 150 page book in
which 20% of the pages may be in color. One company with an Indigo plateless
digital press quoted $17,300.00 for the printing alone. The local copy shop
wanted $0.75 per impression which works out to $11,250.00 plus binding.

When I was shopping around for a copier I had the various vendors supply me
with their device drivers and I then had them print one of our manuals as a
test. I noticed a far greater difference between products depending on the
RIP used to control the copier.

For example, the Xerox copiers support both the Fiery RIP and their own RIP
which is based on an Apple Macintosh computer. The output from the Macintosh
RIP was far superior to the output from the Fiery RIP. However, Canon and
Sharp both use the Fiery RIP and output from those machines looked great.

The deciding factor for me came down to the cost of the machines, the cost
of the maintenance contract, and whether or not the controller was overly
proprietary. Output from all the machines that I tested was nearly
identical. However, the Xerox Macintosh-based RIP will not allow you to
archive to a network file server (which completely defeats the ability to
print jobs on demand) and they expressly forbid you from adding additional
hard drives to the computer. Canon gives you a choice of two Fiery RIPs. One
is based on a Windows NT PC. The other is based on a DEC Alpha motherboard
running a stripped-down version of UNIX and their own proprietary ROM. Even
though the DEC box has an ultra-2 SCSI bus and a narrow SCSI bus inside the
case (I looked) you can not expand beyond the meager 4 GB hard disk supplied
with the RIP. I got a Fiery technician on the phone and found out that they
wrote their own ROM and crippled the ability of the machine to recognize any
disk other than the one supplied with the machine. The ROM goes so far as to
look for a special chip on the disk drive--this is how they force you into
larger machines.

I am having the Fiery Alpha RIP removed this week and replaced with the
NT-based RIP. Some of our jobs, after rasterization, exceed 1.5 gigabytes.
This is proving very time consuming to archive to a network server. Even
though repeated calls to Canon have not resolved whether I can upgrade the
hard drive capability in the NT-based RIP, I have basically decided to
install a SCSI card in one of the many open PCI slots and try it out. This
may void the warranty, but we are willing to live with that in order to make
the on-demand printing model work.

This may be more information than you requested. I would caution you to
carefully look at how the combination of copier and RIP will work within
your environment. You may want to get your IT people involved in the
evaluation as well since they are the ones who will have to make it work on
your network. From my experience, the image and color quality of these
machines is virtually indistinguishable. However, there are many differences
in terms of networking, storage, service, support, and cost.

If anyone is interested in going this route, feel free to contact me. I've
been dealing with these issues a lot lately and would be happy to share what
I've learned.

Good luck.

Martin R. Smith
Technical Writing Manager
ENCORP: The Energy Automation Company

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