5 Questions to ask when buying a digital production printer

If you are in the market to upgrade your digital printer to a digital production printer, here are a few questions that may help in your quest.

1. Do all the paper trays support SRA3 sheets sizes?

Make sure that every tray runs SRA3, a good indication that you are looking at a print engine that was designed for production print is bein able to support the stock that you want to run.

If there are dedicated A4 trays it is a really strong indication that the machine is an office copier not a production printer.

 

2. Can you automatically duplex 300gsm from the paper tray?

The reality is that if you have a digital production system you will want to print business cards, postcards etc on heavy stocks.

If you have to rely on the bypass feed to duplex heavy stocks then you should also be prepared for lots of registration errors. The feed guides on bypass feeds are only short and allow the sheet to “fishtail” through the engine producing poor front to back sheet registration and wasted prints.

Ask for the specification in writing, if the brochure says 256gsm then thats what the machine was engineered and designed for, don’t just rely on a verbal promise that it can do it, ask for the specifications or the expectation guide.

 

3. Does the machine have pre-sets for coated stocks?

Another really good indicator that you are looking at an office machine and not a production machine is when there are no presets for coated papers in the paper catalogue. 

It is really important because if you want to print on coated papers you need the device to be able to modify the way the image is produced and put onto the paper. Otherwise you just won’t get the quality that you and your customers/clients are looking for.

 

4. What is the history behind the machine you are looking at?

While we love groundbreaking technology, it makes a lot of sense to invest in a production print system that has a strong heritage in the production space. 

No need to be a pioneer here, you want to know that the company that makes, supports and services production print has been doing so for a long time, not just entering the market. After all, your business will depend on the machines ability to perform for you, their service team being able to identify an rectify any service issue you will experience.

 

5. What is the bit depth of the resolution?

Whoa, why would you want to know that? Well, seems there is resolution and there is resolution. In fact some organisations will try to make you believe that they have resolution that is finer than the toner particles they put on the paper.

Ask the salesperson what is the bit depth of their resolution. (see below)

Currently you can find 1bit, 2bit, 4bit and 8bit but you’ll also see resolutions of 600dpi, 1200dpi, 2400dpi and 4800dpi. Sounds confusing, well it is.

Many systems have their resolution in 2 different paramters eg 600 x 600, 1200 x 1200, 1200 x 2400, 1200 x 4800.

Most companies trying to sell you production print jump into the discussion by quoting the highest of the resolution figures. This is misleading and in many case not real because the resolution has been interpolated, ie the file was say 300dpi and their software performed pixel conversions to bring the dot placement out to the rating they have nominated.

Ask what is the resolution being sent from your computer to the printer?

Another key point is bit depth, heres a simple explanation – 1 bit means that the dot is either on or off, 2 bit means that there are 4 variations – off, on & 2 shades, 4 bit means you have 16 shades including on & off, 8 bit means 256 shades including on & off. 

The reality is we humans can’t really see higher than 600dpi, having higher bit depth give incredible print quality because every dot that is placed for every colour (the 4 base colours – cyan, magenta, yellow & black) has the ability to be placed with 256 different shades. This creates outstanding hafltones and images.

 

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