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 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 1excellent RIP software products.

These 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): “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 is 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 can’t 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 has no need to replace the HP Designjet 5500ps at present, since it is 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.

Today other options would be the Canon iPF8000 or Canon iPF9000, but they are still rather new.

If you are looking for a place that is not a box-pusher (meaning you want a place that provides service after the sale), then one place we know for many years is Parrot Digigraphic. Their telephone is 978.670.7766.

Other printers worth nothing

The newer HP printers are the HP Designjet 8000s and HP Designjet 9000 solvent ink printers, and the HP 4500 series. The more recent HP printers are the HP Designjet Z2100 photo series and the HP Designjet Z3100 photo series, available in both 24” and 44” sizes.


Most recently updated Nov. 17, 2006.
Previous updates: January 18, 2006.