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Stacks of appeal

Editorial Type: Review     Date: 07-2013    Views: 2931   

HP introduces two new Designjet ePrinters, the Designjet T920 and T1500, with ergonomic features that will be welcomely received by users

I am sure that printer manufacturers are always talking to their customers to find out what features they'd like to see in future models. If so, I am surprised that it's taken until now to work out that a couple of the most useful features for the average user are the ability to collate and stack a series of plots - instead of having to dig them out of the output hopper and manually sort them into some sort of order - and the provision of a decent flat surface on the top of the printer so that drawings can be taken straight off the stack, placed on top of the machine and checked in situ, rather than having to find a suitable uncluttered worktop somewhere in the office.

Well that's exactly what you get with HP's new, ergonomically designed wide format ePrinters, the HP Designjet T920 and T1500 series. Both of them are A1 sized web-connected printers designed to be operated by busy workgroups whose members spend their time shuttling between offices, talking to clients, making site visits and so on, the new models enabling them to access, view and print project related documents at any time, directly from the cloud.

The integrated output stacking tray has had lots of appreciative comments from users. It delivers flat, collated prints (up to 50 sheets of A4 to A0 media, after directing the software to print first page to last or last to first) at a 'sensible' height. The printers are much lower than earlier models, enabling users to operate them or change the conveniently placed media rolls even while seated.

It appears HP to have finally ironed out the most requested ergonomic and non-mechanical aspects of the printer – with a little help from their customers. It locked a number of customer teams away for a couple of days in their Barcelona factory, together with a stack of cardboard and wooden printer components, and told them to build the sort of wide format printer they really wanted - some of the results of which can now be seen in the T920 and T1500!

A number of other features add to the improved user experience. The front-roll paper handling comes with automatic paper roll alignment and smart switching capabilities to handle multiple jobs on different media types and sizes (but only on the dual-roll fed T1500). The transparent plastic cover also enables users to actually see the wide, 3.5inch, print-head working - an irrational but natural comfort factor.

Does this improved user experience lead to more efficient printing? According to at least one user, it certainly does. Gerardo Salinas of Rojkind Architects is quoted as saying "the printer's ability to collate prints and organise the queue allows us to print drawings and plans more efficiently: my team has a competitive advantage and our business is faster and better".

The Designjet T1500 printer's processing power, doubling that of its predecessor, uses a parallel processor with a 320Gb hard drive, enabling the printer to handle multiple files simultaneously. Both printers also have full-colour touchscreens, enabling users to manage job queues, track print costs and view true print previews. You can also see exactly what you are going to print before you click 'print', a minimum requirement nowadays for hands-on wide format printer operation, and which supplements the ePrinter's ePrint and Share capabilities.

Regarding PostScript options, HP have found that, with the increase in transmittal of documents in PDF format, the PS option is more popular - mainly because files have to be processed through Adobe Acrobat with its full Adobe licence, but also because the image processing capabilities of PS provide better colour management. Users without PostScript have to rely on the capabilities of Adobe's free viewer.

It's been around for a couple of years now, but HP's ePrint and Share is a free web service that makes it easy to access, view and print large format documents from anywhere, using any mobile device - Android, iOS, iPad, smartphone, notebook - or the ePrinter touchscreen. As web-connected printers, users automatically save copies of projects to the cloud when printing - besides being able to email projects to print by attaching PDFs or other print-ready files to emails, including the ePrinter's dedicated email address.

Having followed the wide format printer market from the long forgotten days of the pen plotter, we can almost be forgiven for taking any incremental improvements in speed, colour and print resolution for granted, in spite of the fact that such performances were inconceivable back in the early days.

The Designjet T920, for instance, operates at speeds up to 21 seconds per A1 print, assisted by 32Gb of virtual memory space to process complex files easily and deliver faster prints. And we have already mentioned the Designjet T1500's use of parallel processing power to enhance its capabilities.

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