Hardware PostScript RIP print server vs software Postscript RIP.

Additional evaluations of PostScript RIPs for wide format printers are in the works by the FLAAR crew and the professor of printing at Bowling Green State University of Ohio.

This program of evaluations of Postscript RIPs began with our initial EFI Fiery RIP print server with its Encad NovaJet printer. Then we got our second EFI Fiery RIP server. BEST, Wasatch and ColorGate RIPs have arrived for evaluation as well. The new version of PosterJet arrived in January 2002. Aurelon, ProofMaster (PerfectProof) and other RIPs have arrived too. O.R.I.S. Sent their complete software suite. MacDermid ColorSpan sent their ColorMark Pro 1G print server hardware RIP.

Why is a RIP so helpful?

hardware rip from EFI
EFI Fiery RIP with Encad NovaJet .

What will make your posters and banners noticed? Color attracts attention. So it helps if your RIP can handle color management adequately.

You can add text and a logo, but then you need PostScript to interpret the lines and text. Postscript, either from Adobe or a comparable interpreter from Harlequin (Global Graphics) is the heart of most RIP packages. Basically a RIP is the brains of a large format inkjet printer.

When FLAAR began its programs we used an EFI Fiery RIP, a hardware PostScript server solution. The EFI Fiery RIP offered several advantages over attempting to print with no RIP at all (frees up your computer so you can work on another project while the server RIPs the image and handles the printing, relieving your own computer of these chores).

But when our Encad NovaJet Pro printer became obsolete, we naively asked EFI how we could update the Fiery RIP to run our next generation wide format printer.

We were stunned to find out that the $4,500 RIP was a dead-end, boat-anchor. This expensive thing suddenly had a value of close to zero. I was so surprised it took a while for reality to sink in.

During 1996 into 1998 I had been so impressed with EFI Fiery, after all, every trade magazine touted them.

Then I found out that virtually every other RIP in the world could be updated, at least all the software RIPs.

So I figured, well, maybe I can't update the EFI Fiery, but surely I can at least run some other printer with it. I mean look at the dozens of printers that you can run with a Wasatch or Onyx or PosterJet RIP. Indeed with some of these RIPs you can run two printers simultaneously.

The new Fiery RIP
EFI Fiery RIP with HP Wide Format Printer.

Another shock: the costly EFI Fiery not only was unable of being updated, but also it would not run a single other printer. So when the HP 2800 arrived, it required another thousands and thousands and thousands and thousands of dollars worth of EFI Fiery.

That was the year I began to check out software RIPs. I met the capable engineers and officers first of PosterJet and then of BEST. Saw their RIPs at CeBIT tradeshow in Hanover, and then at DRUPA. Subsequently we have met the people of ColorGate, Wasatch and I visited the Aurelon headquarters in Holland. It was just 4 hours from my office in Germany.

The Digital Imaging Technology Center is devoted to providing recommendations on digital imaging equipment, originally (in 1996-1997) to museums, institutions, and departments of archaeology, anthropology, tropical botany, zoology, and geology related to studies in Mesoamerica. However this service became so popular that now (Jan. 2002) the FLAAR network is the largest nonprofit information source of its kind, read in three languages and in 42 countries world wide.

It appears that this kind of information is much sought after by professional photographers, digital designers, graphic studios of all kinds, desktop publishing, in-house publishing in companies, and naturally by the thousands of in-house repro and copy shops in colleges, universities, and museums. Thus we have expanded our information services and solutions to these markets as well.

Now that FLAAR's evaluation facilities are situated on the campuses of two universities, it is more feasible to catch up with overdue discussion of RIPs. The new season will pick up again during January 2002, led by Professor Charles Spontelli of our university (BGSU). He has an MS degree from Rochester Institute of Technology. His specialty is in color management and he really likes working with RIPs in general and proofing RIPs in particular.

We have Aurelon, BEST, PosterJet, ProofMaster, and several other RIPs waiting in the queue.

The downside of corporate PR

I guess my question is why did so many trade magazines promote EFI Fiery RIPs all those years?

We were so mesmerized by all those PR releases that naturally when we started we too thought it was a fabulous product… until we found out our two versions did not offer tiling or nesting nor could we even reorient an Adobe Photoshop file horizontally or vertically in all modes.

A possible parallel would be Enron. They were probably masters of PR releases. Now you can understand why FLAAR has a policy of not repeating corporate PR releases and definitely not including corporate PR releases in our evaluations.

ColorSpan hardware RIP

ColorSpan is one of the few companies which offers a dedicated hardware RIP. At least you realize this is a dedicated RIP when you purchase it. Our students find it easy to run. We don't have a list of all its countless features but my impression is that it is very multifaceted, as it ought to be considering its price.


We thank Encad for providing a NovaJet and EFI for the Fiery RIP; Hewlett-Packard for providing an HP DesignJet 2800 CP complete with another EFI Fiery RIP as well as providing the more recent HP 1055cm, 800ps and HP 5000ps and BetterLight for providing a Super 6000 BetterLight large format tri-linear digital scanning back. We thank all the other RIP companies mentioned herein for providing their products; kind of tough to check them out without having them on hand.

Postscript: Although EFI has dropped the concept of hardware RIP for the Epson, they continue it for the Canon. In that case we would recommend the PosterJet for the Canon as faster and more flexible. In fairness to EFI, we understand they have now begun to add features like tiling and nesting, but our impression is that their RIPs still run only one single isolated printer and in most cases are not upgradeable. However it is always possible that an EFI may have some feature you specifically need; many people probably love them. But just be sure you check out other RIPs independently.

Contact for Wasatch RIP is info@itnh.com.

Contact for PosterJet is PosterJetUSA@aol.com.


Most recently updated Jan. 20, 2002.