Hewlett-Packard Designjet 5500ps inkjet printer is a workhorse.

We spoke with a printer dealer who sold most major brands. So it made no difference to him whether you wanted an Encad, an Epson, a Canon, or an HP.

Plus, he knew that I was not going to buy a printer that day anyway. He said:

“Nicholas, we can sell nationally, to any location across the US. But we do not like to sell most brands outside our region because most brands require too much service and tech support visits. The only printers we will sell outside our area are the HP 5500, because we almost never have to do any service calls or tech support on an HP printer.”

We learn about printers by using the equipment ourselves, doing site-visit case studies of others who have the printers, and by asking questions in situations where we can count on a truthful answer.

When a dealer realizes you are not going to buy anything, they don’t use smoke and mirrors. It is amazing all the information we learn from knowledgeable dealers and end-users both.

FLAAR uses HP DesignJet 5500ps and we have two HP 5000ps (42” and 60”).

So we have experience with three of these Hewlett-Packard Designjet printers. The HP 5500ps is an update of the venerable HP 5000ps.

We use Wasatch SoftRIP in Ohio and PosterJet at our testing facility in Guatemala. Both are good RIP software products. Today in 2009 we use only Wasatch.

These early HP printers are among few in the world where you can easily and quickly change from dye ink to pigmented ink, and then back again. Yes, we have experimented with this, and yes it works. Indeed we intend to acquire two of the change-over kits and do it again this year. We wish to upgrade our HP 5500 (currently dye) to pigmented.

Dye ink has an advantage of a wonderful color gamut and you can print easily on glossy media. You don’t get the heavy gloss differential that clouds pigmented ink on glossy media with all printers, especially piezo but also thermal printers. So if you need to print on glossy photo media, you should select the HP 130 rather than the HP 5500. Or, use dye ink with the HP 5500.

The HP 5500ps has newer firmware (software), and a modified paper feeding out system as improvements over the HP 5000. The HP engineers probably know the other refinements of the HP 5500ps. But in essence they are the same printer to an end-user. Actually they are probably the most reliable and trouble-free wide format inkjet printer ever designed.

Brent Cavanaugh uses two of these HP printers (the third is in our other office 7,000 miles south in Guatemala): “very little maintenance. Tech support from HP is good (we call maybe once a year, pretty rare that we need tech support). Plus it’s a nice printer for most jobs.”

Brent was the Lab Manager at the BGSU+FLAAR facility. He finds the HP printers fairly good with banner materials and very good with photo papers. Where we must use the HP Designjet printers is for giclee on canvas and giclee on watercolor papers. Yes, we do also have several Epson printers; these we use when photographs are needed for close viewing, though we find the HP 130 even better for fine art photographs on photo glossy (Epson, and Encad, and Canon in those years could not print well on glossy material).

Brent uses HP Designjet printers of the HP 5000 and 5500 series for giclee, indoor signage, trade show displays, banners, and a host of diverse applications. For fine art photography, we have available the HP 130 (which is also better at smaller page-sized prints).

What all of us at FLAAR and BGSU like about the HP Designjet 5500ps is its ease of use for the students. The printer holds up to students using it every month. Most other printers would collapse.

HP had no need to replace the HP Designjet 5500ps for many years, since it was easier to use than most other brands, lasts forever, and produces handsome output for POP, general indoor signage, and dozens of other applications. The HP 5000, its older brother, also seems to print forever without problems. Both the HP 5000 and HP 5500 are acceptable for giclee and digital fine art in general. That’s because the 17 pL drop size is not noticeable on the rough surface of canvas or watercolor paper. Although many people use Epson 7800 or Epson 9800 printers, these have lots of ink wastage due to constant purging. We use the HP 5000 and 5500 for printing on canvas and watercolor paper and the Epson or HP 130 when we have photo paper to print on.
By 2007 other options would be the Canon iPF8000 or Canon iPF9000. Today in 2009 options would be the Canon iPF8100 and Canon iPF9100.

After water-based printers HP tried mild-solvent/lite-solvent printers.

After the era of water-based HP 5500ps came eco-solvent with Mutoh, Roland, and then Mimaki, and now even Epson. There was never an eco-solvent HP printer.

Then HP realized they needed something for these markets and they rebranded the Seiko ColorPainter printers for about two or three years. These HP printers were the HP Designjet 8000s and HP Designjet 9000 solvent ink printers, and the HP 4500 series. This was not as successful as planned (because Mutoh, Mimaki, and Roland, plus DGI from Korea and the cheap Chinese solvent printers still held major market share). So HP decided not to attempt to compete in either lite, mild, or eco-solvent, but instead to develop latex ink and their HP Designjet L65500 printer.

Water-based printers continue, but Canon iPF is gaining market share.

The more recent HP Designjet water-based printers are the HP Designjet Z2100 photo series and the HP Designjet Z3100 photo series, available in both 24” and 44” sizes. The Z3100 had several minor but persistent problems, including with the red colors and had to be quickly replaced by the HP Z3200.

In fine art photography and giclee, many giclee atelies and photographers tell us that after they purchase one Canon iPF printer they end up no longer interested in any Epson and don’t even try an HP: instead they buy a second and a third Canon iPF. I hear this in the US and Europe. Half of the people I hear this from have been reading the FLAAR Reports.

A good place to learn about all three brands: Canon, HP, and Epson is any reliable company that offers all three. A reseller that offers only one brand has obvious incentive to sell just that brand and to suggest that the other two brands are not as good. Thus we tend to recommend companies that offer all three. LexJet would be one such company that sells across the USA and also in Canada. LexJet is specialized in photography media, proofing, indoor signage and knows CAD, GIS and all the other applications that an HP printer is good for. You can contact LexJet at [email protected].  I have visited their offices twice so can attest to their capabilities.

Summary on HP DesignJet 5500ps.

The HP Designjet 5000, 5000ps, 5500, and 5500ps are essentially identical. The 5500 had a better firmware (software). The “ps” was postscript, a kind of RIP software. These printers came in 42” and 60” versions.

FLAAR received on HP 5000 for evaluation at our test labs in Guatemala and an HP 5000 for our test facilities in Ohio. When the 5500 came out that was sent as well, bt actually the 5000 was such a great printer that today, 2009, many many years later, the HP 5000 is still printing just fine.

Since we had experience from three of these printers, the FLAAR Reports were read by thousands and thousands of people every month. So it is not surprising that HP sold over 150,000 of these printers (some people estimate the total sales worldwide were over 200,000 units of the 5000 and 5500 in all versions combined sales).

But we never evaluated the HP 4000 nor the HP Z6000. In other words, no FLAAR Reports exist on these at all. I would estimate their sales have been okay but nowhere near the rate of the HP 5000 or 5500. Indeed Canon iPF printers are gaining market share.

If you are thinking about printing on textiles, any of these HP printers is perfect to start with. Simply contact 3P Inkjet Textiles and they can explain what kind of silk, cotton, canvas, or polyester you might wish to consider: [email protected]

If you would like to learn more about the more recent models of HP, Canon, and Epson for 2009, it is best to ask at a place which offers all three brands (this way they are not going to push one brand over the other just because they sell only that one brand). LexJet sells nationally and knows inkjet media and applications quite well.


Most recently updated March 30, 2009.
Previously updated January 18, 2006 and Nov. 17, 2006.


The complete reports are in full-color PDF format. Our institute has comprehensive FLAAR Reports on over 73 different wide format inkjet printers, RIP software, color management, scanners, digital cameras and on countless markets such as wide format inkjet printers for photography, giclee, proofing, CAD, GIS, graphic design, signs, and specialty applications too. All FLAAR Reports by Dr Nicholas Hellmuth and lab personnel are available on www.wide-format-printers.NET.