Mon, 18 Sep 2000

Order your own giant posters through the Web

By Zatni Arbi

SINGAPORE (JP): In the past, creating a background decoration for a stage was a tedious job. During my high school years, for example, it took a team of five to six students working for days to complete the decorations. Today, the easiest way to do it is to use a powerful projector, a notebook with Adobe Photoshop or Corel Photo-Paint and a lot of snazzy graphic images. The impact can be far stronger than just seeing a white banner with painted characters.

Still, in many cases it may not be possible to use a projector to create impressive effects, especially when we have an outdoor stage and the event is in the middle of the day. What can we do now that we have had more than enough of those letters on white cloth? We can hang large, brilliant posters as backdrop.

These giant posters can be made of special paper that does not tear or crumple easily. At the recent launch of Hewlett-Packard's latest DesignJet large format printers in Singapore, journalists were asked to trample the posters that the machines in the demo room were printing. Amazingly, the posters survived.

During the same press event, HP also announced new printing materials and inks to complement the new printers, including their Photo Imaging Gloss, Photo Imaging Satin and Satin Poster Paper.

Photo quality

Not long ago, printing large posters was an ultimate test of patience. Because of the huge area that had to be covered, the printer seemed to work at a snail's pace. With the top-of-the- line DesignJet 5000 Series, the highlight of that event, we could actually see the machine painting the paper. The DesignJet 5000 is, needless to say, a giant printer. I was glad that HP did not offer to let me test-drive a demo unit. It would require three people with a lot of muscles to move it, and, worse, there would be no place for it in my small and already crowded living room.

The 5000 Series come in two models, the 42-inch and the 60- inch. For those really into printing large posters, try the Raster Image Processor (RIP) or the PostScript 3 RIP-capable models.

Interestingly, this high-end DesignJet also prints enlarged photos. Like all the other HP's printers with photo-printing capability, the DesignJet 5000 has six different inks instead of just four. In addition to cyan, magenta, yellow and black, it also uses light cyan and light magenta inks. The large printer also incorporates HP's color layering technology, which means that more than one drop of ink can be placed on an individual dot. By combining different amounts of colors on one dot, the printer is able to produce a wider range of colors. The maximum print resolution is 1200 x 600 dots per inch (DPI). A roll of printing paper can be 300 feet long, and, believe me, it would be quite a challenge to create or collect enough images to fill a poster that long.

Another improvement is the printing speed. The DesignJet 5000 Series, for instance, is capable of printing 569 square feet (52.8 square meters) per hour. Clearly, with this type of print job, the performance measurement can no longer be "page per minute" (ppm). The increased printing speed is the result of incorporating a new technology called JetExpress that enables the printer to apply a wider print swath. These models are also network-ready, which should not be a surprise given its capabilities.

"Printing costs have come down a lot," Puneet Chadha, HP Marketing Manager for large format printers explained during the event. He mentioned some figures, but unfortunately I did not have my notepad and my pencil with me to write them down. Yet, no matter how low the cost has gone, I would be surprised if I ever saw our street demonstrators carrying a poster printed by one of these printers, though. That would be another strong indication that they do have serious financial backers behind them.

Other new printers

In a bid to lower the total cost of ownership even further, HP finally bowed to customer demand and introduced a new design for the print heads. The longer-lasting print heads, which have the ability to clean themselves, are no longer integrated with the ink tank, and therefore they do not have to be replaced each time the ink cartridges are changed. A microchip inside the tank also informs the user how much ink is left. More importantly, the printer has also been made Web-ready. With the Web-access system, the printer can work unattended, and the operator can monitor it as well as manage the print queue from a remote location.

In addition to the DesignJet 5000 Series, HP also launched four other large format printer models. These were the DesignJet 800, DesignJet 500, DesignJet 800PS and DesignJet 500PS. Intended for professionals in graphics arts, GIS (geographical information system) and CAD (computer aided design), with more emphasis on DPI. The entry-level DesignJet 500, for instance, is capable of printing at 1200 DPI, while the DesignJet 800 can print at 2400 DPI.


Quite understandably, buying a printer of the DesignJet 5000 class will not be a cost-effective solution for those who need to print giant posters only occasionally. Therefore, HP is working with a number of entrepreneurs who are interested in setting up their own production printing shops. These shops, called HP Certified Print Service Providers, will be scattered worldwide. These entrepreneurs will have the expensive DesignJet 5000, which has been optimized for this purpose, as well as all the necessary supplies ready. They shops will provide services for anybody with large format printing needs.

Thus, if we ever need to print a poster, for instance, we can go to the Web site of HP Poster e-service (, enter our address and our printing requirements, and then HP will refer us to the certified print service provider in our area. If you happen to be an entrepreneur and you enjoy handling large format printers, this may be a business opportunity for you, provided you have the right location near an active art center, for example.

HP is also working with online stores with images to sell. If an end customer likes an image and would like to have it printed on a large poster, the store can use the service of the printing service provider and the poster can be delivered to the customer.

With prices ranging from a couple of thousands to US$ 19,000, large format printers are obviously for the niche market. The majority of us do not even use our photo-capable DeskJet everyday, let alone a DesignJet 5000. However, with the availability of these printers and the printer service providers, one now has the capability to create one of those behemoth posters more cost-effectively in order to enliven special events such as golden wedding anniversaries or centennial birthdays. (