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RIP part 2

SET IT AND FORGET IT

RIP installation is as simple as installing any other software on your computer. For the  most part, a RIP operates seamlessly, but you need to know how to set its parameters, so there’s a small learning curve of perhaps an hour or so. For

instance, the Wasatch RIP can handle up to four printers, so you could set one or two for the Kornit machine and one or two for film output to an Epson inkjet. Other RIPs allow you to create preset printer queues  — or hot folders — that have your specific settings locked in for easier printing.

Black Dots are required to produce the best halftone separations for each color in a multicolor job, and it’s impossible to print them on most inkjet printers without the precise controls that a RIP provides.

Also, do some test prints and check the density of the dots. If the black isn’t dense enough, make some adjustments to the RIP to put down more ink by adjusting the density curves or changing the droplet size. Once you’ve made these types of adjustments, you basically can just forget about it and let the RIP do its job.

Because you essentially just set it and forget it, there’s generally not much troubleshooting involved with a RIP. Occasionally, you may need to adjust your settings — if ink is running on the film or if blacks aren’t dark enough, for  instance. You should have no trouble getting your printers, computer and RIP to communicate on a wired local area network (LAN) in your shop. If you have one or more components connected to the network via wireless, problems may pop up. In theory, a printer connected via wireless should work every bit as well as one that’s hardwired into the network, but that’s not always the case. When outputting via a RIP to a printer, I suggest you avoid wireless in favor of using Ethernet cable connections.

RIP COMPATIBILITY

A single RIP can talk to more than one printer; likewise, you can choose among a variety of RIPs from different suppliers for a single printer. (Still, you’ll only select a single RIP for a job; in other words, you can’t send one art file to two or more RIPs.) For instance, if you own an Epson 4880, you could choose from AccuRIP, FASTRip and numerous other options, regardless of what may have come bundled with the unit.

On the other hand, certain RIPs can only drive certain printers, so it’s critical to talk to your supplier about compatibility before making a purchase, especially if you’re shopping for a package deal. Most vendors of output devices have a relationship with a RIP supplier whose software works with the company’s printer and specific media. Speaking of compatibility, also talk to the supplier about your computer platform, as some RIPs are designed for Macs, some for Windows, and some for both.

SHOPPING FOR A RIP

Essentially, all RIPs do the same thing: They take information and manage it on its way to the printer. However, that definitely doesn’t mean that one RIP is as good as the next. Some packages come with many more features and options, such as greater control over ink density. In addition, some RIPs give you the ability to create a hybrid printer that allows for more than one type of ink to be installed in the printer at once.

rip_03
Unlike desktop
photo print drivers, a RIP produces black halftone dots that, in turn, can be output as individual stencils for each color needed to create screens and complete a traditional print job — in this case, a six-color print.

For example, MultiRIP allows the user to print dye sublimation transfers and film positives from the same printer. Other key features to look for in RIPs are the ability to import/export printer files and build in density curves or profiles to coordinate with different types of media.

Again, printer compatibility comes into play too, especially if you have more than one type of output device. For instance, if you own an Epson 4880 and a Mimaki wide-format inkjet printer, it would be helpful to have a single RIP that could drive both printers. Expect to spend around $500 to $700 for a RIP for smaller, desktop units, and up to $4,000 for a RIP to drive a high-production direct-to-garment machine such as a Kornit. In other words, the larger and faster your printer, the more you’ll spend on a RIP.

When shopping for a RIP, ask the supplier about platform compatibility (Mac and/or PC), training and what type of technical support is available. You also might ask if a demo version is available, and make sure the version you purchase is the most up-to date one.

Some RIP software won’t work unless a dongle — which is a sort of digital key — is plugged into a computer’s USB port. Others require a software registration or validation key to be typed in before the RIP will work on a particular machine.

If you need to install your RIP on multiple computers, ask the supplier how many licenses or dongles come with the purchase of one RIP. If you have to buy additional licenses or dongles for each work station that uses the RIP, make sure you know how much of an investment will be required. Some RIPs, such as AccuRIP, allow you to share your printer over a network for the convenience of printing to it from multiple computers.

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