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What is a RIP for a large format printer?
Why do I need a RIP? Why do I need one for wide format printers? How can I avoid having to buy a RIP? FAQ's on RIPs Which RIP should I select? If I really need a RIP, which one is best? What is the difference between hardware RIP and software RIP? Which large format RIPs will work on my Macintosh? EFI Fiery hardware RIP, Onyx PosterShop, 3M Cactus, PosterJet, BEST, Wasatch, ColorGate? Help me understand what a RIP is, and does!
First, like everything else in the computer world, it is more important to learn how to use a feature than to really understand what makes it tick. So basically, a RIP (Raster Image Processor) is a software (even when called "hardware RIP it is still just software, which is explained in the FLAAR Report which is available from our university). This software takes your image and text and tells the wide format printer where and how to place each squirt of ink on the paper. The PostScript (from Adobe or an emulation from Harlequin or comparable) tells the printer how to make the alphanumeric portion of your text look nice (eliminates the jaggies).
Can't the printer and computer figure all this out by themselves? Yes, and no. Yes, many wide format printers can be run just as is, using their native printer drivers. Epson desktop printers, for example, come with no built in PostScript RIP whatsoever. But that is why they take so long to start printing, and why the details of the letters may be rather fuzzy. Thus the millions of people who got lured into buying those cheap printers eventually found out they needed to buy a RIP to get a bit faster speed and better quality for the text. Birmy and others sold RIPs for cheap Epson desktop printers. We do not recommend the Epson 1520, Epson 3000, or any other Epson inkjet printers under model 5500 or smaller due to potential problems, even when you buy an add-on RIP. The only Epson printers that function adequately for professional use in our consideration are the Epson 7600, 9600 or 10600. If you need help figuring out which Epson printer to select, just tell us what kind of printing you need to do. We have three Epson printers and have contact with people who tell us their experiences with every model of Epson.
A hardware EFI Fiery RIP with Epson 7000 and Epson 9000 may not be a good choice. Why? Just ask for our FLAAR Report “Rip+Help.” Even with the new lower price of that EFI RIP, is it a good buy, or would another RIP be better. Why? That's why we have written an entire separate report. Of course other people love their EFI Fiery RIP. We only report our own experiences (unfortunate that we got stuck with two EFI Fiery RIPs, in 1997 and 2000). We have also checked the opinion of both end users and resellers (most of whom no longer handle that brand).
Which RIPs can not be upgraded, can not be updated, and are limited to one single printer? (you have to throw away the RIP when you upgrade to a new model of printer. Yikes, sounds like a bad choice… how to avoid potentially bad decisions).
How many RIPs are out there and which should I seriously consider?
How to avoid buying a RIP from a company which just went bankrupt? (kind of hard to get tech support…)
Please note: Since it's unrealistic to tackle all 60 RIPs, we tend to feature those RIPs whose companies we know in person from our visits to tradeshows in Germany and across the USA. PosterJet, Best, Colorgate, Perfect Proof, Wasatch, and other companies provide RIPs for us to evaluate so obviously we know more about the insides and background of these RIPs than we do of RIPs we have never seen in person.