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What'cha Got Pro Printer Manufacturers?

Pro Printer Titans Clash in Vegas
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Pro Printers From HP

So what kinds of pro printers did I see at PMA. Let me start with HP. While I was pumping out prints on my Epson Stylus Pro 4000 and more recently acquired Stylus Pro 3800, HP was very busy creating a line of most impressive pro printers.

HP showed a group of printers that partially or fully enabled its DreamColor technology, developed with the DreamWorks animation studio. According to HP, DreamColor assures accurate, consistent, automated color. Fully implemented DreamColor includes automatic printer color calibration and profiling.

HP Photosmart Pro B9180

This is the baby of the HP pro printer line. It prints on media up to 13" wide and 19" long and is relatively inexpensive, retailing for around $700. HP claims a 200 year life for prints made with the B9180, which uses 8 ink cartridges employing HP's new Vivera pigment based inks. The printer includes some basic DreamColor capabilities such as automatic color calibration, which sets the printer to a known state in terms of color. This is not profiling, just a reassurance that the printer is printing color at the proper density. The print heads are also automatically aligned.

Both of these auto adjustments are important because the B9180 uses replaceable print heads. Though you can manually run the two automatic functions any time you want, they start up automatically when you start the printer for the first time and every time the print heads are changed. This printer cannot use roll paper. Prints I have seen from the B9180 are quite good, coming close in quality to those from Canon's iPF5000 (around $1945 retail) and Epson's Stylus Pro 4800 (around $1800 retail).

HP DesignJet Z2100 And Z3100

HP's DesignJet Z2100 and Z3100

The Z2100 is a large and relatively expensive printer that comes in two models; one prints on 24" wide media ($3400 retail), the other on 44" wide media ($5600 retail). Like the B9180, the Z2100 uses 8 Vivera ink cartridges, The cartridges for the Z2100 are larger. Both printers in the Z2100 line support rolls of media. Taking DreamColor another step, both models of the Z2100 have built in spectrophotometers that can be used to automatically produce ICC profiles for different media.

The Z3100 is similar to the Z2100 but uses 12 Vivera ink cartridges. Pricing depends on configuration, with basic systems starting at around $4,100 for the 24" model and $6300 for the 44" model.

Prints from both the Z2100 and Z3100 that I saw at PMA were exquisite. Though I had no way to measure the color gamut of prints from either printer, the Z3100's four additional inks appeared to me to produce a wider range of colors more precisely than the Z2100's eight inks.

HP's Indigo Production Printing System

This one's just for grins. When I first saw it at PMA, I though I was looking at a computer system for a large-scale business operation. Instead, Indigo is a system for printing large quantities of the same or different images. This is the system I mentioned earlier that can be used to produce photo books starting with end user input on the Internet. But, input isn't limited to the Internet. It can also be done at in-house consoles. This monster can print 8 ½ x 11 full color pages at 4,000 pages per hour. It uses HP blade servers to store and manipulate images. A super RIP is included. How much? That depends on configuration and I was so taken aback by this system I forgot to ask.

This is just the Indigo printer system. It takes up endless feet. Not shown is the blade server that stores and processes images. This is clearly not a home or small to medium business system.

A photo book produced by the Indigo system
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