What do printers look for in a Raster Image Processor (RIP)? Their first concern seems to be user-friendliness and stability. But the answer may not always be straightforward. Some say it all depends on the application and the printer, the quality of the input files and also the output size.
RIP vendors face a hard sell. Many printers I spoke to tell me their first concerns are stability and ease-of-use, and speed of course — one can never have too much of the speed thing. But when those first concerns have been met, it’s all the same to them. Some of the more technically inclined will mention a preference for a RIP that runs on the Linux platform, but it’s unclear from their explanation whether that doesn’t just go back to concern #1: stability.
Speed matters most to printers who print at over 100m/min on wide or superwide printers with variable dot size and resolution. The major challenge for them is data processing speed. Most RIPs can handle these requirements. For printers who have the basis covered, user interface, flexibility, colour management and support for more base colours like CMYK as well as Orange, Green and White, are more important. For them, familiarity may be the sole reason why they’d use a particular RIP.
One printer I spoke to went back to basics altogether. For him, a RIP is little more than a converting engine from PDF or PostScript to data needed for the printer to print. In that respect, he said, most solutions are equal, with differences between them existing on a higher level. For example, some RIPs, like EFI Fiery, let you select the engine you want to use for a specific job. To him, the user interface was a major element. It should be easy to use with as many features as possible available to the user — preferably adaptable to the type and proficiency of the user.
Which RIP a printer prefers also depends on the type of print market he’s in. There are many types of print markets, including ceramic tile and textile printing. One printer who is active in digital textile printing was enamoured by the Ergosoft TexPrint RIP because it has incomparably flexible drop size controls, while another mentioned that the inEdit neoStampa RIP works with up to 16 independent colour channels, including colours only used in textile printing. This RIP’s colour model stretches from CMYK+ to a free 5-16 basic colours.
Most printers, however, say they love the scalability and flexibility of the Fiery server — even the now obsolete ColorProof XF version — because it also has very good JDF/JMF support. In some printers’ business, JDF is a critical component of an automated workflow. One of them even said JDF support is the first thing he looks at when evaluating a new RIP, claiming it has even higher priority than colour management.
The user interface plays a significant role for most printers. ColorBurst and EFI’s Fiery are probably the two with the most user-friendly UI, while Caldera and Wasatch are reported to be the two with the least user-friendly interface. EFI’s seems to be one of the most intuitive when it comes to setting up printers and workflows, while their Color Manager tool remains a gold standard for creating calibrations and profiles. The award for the “best” profiles went to GMG, but for creating a new media configuration, EFI was said to have one of the easiest tools to use while still delivering very good results.