HP’s large format printing division has just delivered what it calls a ‘mid-life kicker’ for its mid-range and high-end DesignJet products. Greg Corke takes a look at the software that is playing a major role in this evolution.
HP’s DesignJet printers need little introduction. They have led the large format inkjet printing sector since the mid-nineties, driving the technology forward by refining print quality and accelerating print speeds. Over the past few years, however, there has been a shift in development. With advances in print speeds and print quality slowing down, HP has concentrated on making its products easier to use and manage and software has been at the heart of this initiative.
In line with the release of its new DesignJet T1120, 4020, and 4520 products, HP has launched four new and enhanced software solutions designed to maximisw user productivity, enhance presentations and control and save costs. HP Instant Printing Utility 2.0 and HP Accounting Excel 2.0 are completely free to DesignJet customers, while Serif Poster Designer Pro for HP and SCP Reprocontrol for HP come at an additional cost.
HP Instant Print Utility 2.0
This free software tool is designed to make it incredibly easy for anyone to print large format documents, predominantly in PDF and HP-GL/2 file format, but also PowerPoint files (though you will need PowerPoint installed on the same machine to do this).
Printing from HP’s Instant Print Utility can be as simple as right clicking on one or more files, choosing an installed printer and selecting print. The system can auto-scale, auto-rotate, and offer real-time print preview. For PDF and HP-GL/2 files that are scaled, a watermark can be automatically added to warn users not to take direct measurements off the drawing. The system can also be configured so prints are never scaled and will warn users if they won’t fit on the paper loaded into a particular machine.
The software works with virtually all DesignJet printers, so even if you’re not looking to upgrade to one of the new machines you can still enhance your existing investment.
HP Accounting Excel 2.0
This freely downloadable utility provides administrators with a simple way to manage and keep track of print costs for specific projects. Reports can be created which capture the usage tracking information of the printer, including supplies, media, user information, account information and the type of print. This information is sent to the administrator by email as a CSV file and imported into a Microsoft Excel template, which can be downloaded from the HP website.
In the technical space, support of HP Accounting Excel 2.0 is limited to the T1100/1120 series, 4000/4020 series, and the 4500/4520 series.
Serif Poster Designer Pro
This software tool is designed to help users create professional posters and banners with ease. While the results look impressive, it is unlikely to be of huge interest to technical users, not only because it is relatively niche, but because it costs £349.
SCP Reprocontrol for HP
Jointly developed with print software specialist SCP in Germany, SCP Reprocontrol for HP is primarily targeted at production operators in enterprises and repro houses to help take control of multiple prints. The software is a print workflow management system with full queue management capabilities and includes a full RIP (Raster Image Processor) for colour management, a built-in accounting system and unlimited job capacity. It supports all the major file formats including HP-GL/2, PDF, Autodesk’s DWF, and a wide range of raster files.
These high-end credentials mean it is really targeted at companies with a minimum of two DesignJets and printers can be clustered so they work as one, which can help streamline projects to different printers. Like HP’s Accounting Excel 2.0 software, support is limited to the T1100/1120 series, 4000/4020 series, and the 4500/4520 series. Prices start at £1,495.
HP Web Jetadmin 10
While not a new product (release 10 was launched in October 2008) HP’s web-based print management software tool is still worth a mention. It is designed to make the management of DesignJet and office printers more efficient and users can group network devices and configure them remotely, not only for network settings, but to carry out firmware upgrades.
The system can also be used to monitor consumables and can be configured to send an email when supplies are running low. The software is free and can be configured to work with non-HP devices.
In the past, print speed and quality were the headline grabbers for any new large format printer. However, while HP’s new DesignJets certainly tick these boxes, it is the complementary software tools that currently make its products stand out from the crowd.
HP Instant Print Utility 2.0, for example, does an excellent job of bringing wide format printing into the hands of non-technical users, meaning anyone can print an engineering drawing providing a PDF file is available, while HP Accounting Excel 2.0 helps users keep control of project costs using a familiar Office tool. The fact that both of these tools are ‘free’ adds significant value to its new models, but it shouldn’t go unnoticed that they are also available to existing DesignJet customers.
The new DesignJets
The DesignJet T1120 (pictured) is a high throughput workgroup printer, available in A1 (24”) or A0 (44”) format. This single roll printer features three black ink cartridges in addition to standard cyan, magenta and yellow. This means it can print photo black for true black on glossy paper and a separate grey to help achieve better grey tones. Prices from £2,290 (24”); £4,030 (44”).
The DesignJet 4020/4520 is designed specifically for repro houses and large work groups and features two automatic roll feeds to offer more flexibility when printing on different media types and sizes. Prices from £6,840 (42”).