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Raster Image Processors: Which One Is Right for You?

Sifting through the options to find one perfect for your needs.

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A RIP saves time, allows multiple users, schedules print jobs and more.

THE BENEFITS OF RASTER Image Processors (RIPs) are tremendous and also necessary upon buying most digital printers. While options for RIPs abound, what we want to discuss now are the pros and cons of various RIP solutions, so that you can make an informed buying decision.

You will find that RIPs can reside in three different places. For simplicity’s sake we will assume that you want to get a PostScript (or a clone) RIP, as this will assure the best processing of PDF files. In general, RIPs are software products whereby you provide the hardware platform. Some companies actually offer purpose-built hardware RIPs that typically are tuned to the manufacturer’s printers, though they may support other devices. You will typically find these with the larger, industrial printing companies and they can be a good choice if you run multiple grand format or high-speed printers. The hardware will be serviced under a maintenance contract and your job is training folks on how to use its features.

For most other shops, you can either choose to buy a package that runs on a workstation, or software designed to run on a dedicated server. The workstation-based software is typically centered on small shops with one or two users. This solution is usually the easiest to set up and the least costly. In some cases you may be able to add RIP capabilities to your design software. In other cases you add the software as an application that continuously runs in the background. If you have no plans to add additional printers and have a fairly beefy workstation, then this solution will probably be just fine.

Now, what if you have multiple printers from different manufacturers, dedicated operators and a room full of designers? You will either need to get a dedicated RIP as mentioned above, or you will have to roll with your own. For your own dedicated RIP, you will need to purchase a system that meets the software’s hardware requirements. Be aware that this is typically a minimum requirement, and for best performance, you will need to have large amounts of memory, a fast processor and loads of storage. These devices will reside on a local network that allows all designers to submit files. In other words, you need good IT skills in the shop.

The benefits are numerous, however. Print processing is fast, jobs can be monitored and scheduled, and additional features specific to signmaking and, in some cases, textile printing, can be added or may be included. It’s also easy to add new printers if you expand your shop further.

Hopefully, this will help you make a wise purchasing decision. If you are a mom-and-pop shop, then a workstation solution will probably be just fine. However, you may find that you plan on expanding your printing capabilities in the future and a server-based solution is the best place to start. Luckily, there are solutions for everyone today, so go out and get RIP’d.

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Chris and Kathi Morrison own and operate The Image Specialists, a full-service graphics company based in Clements, CA. Chris is also a Microsoft-certified systems engineer. Contact the Morrisons at [email protected].

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