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Alternative LFP Solutions

On the large format print side we have tended to concentrate on the high profile inkjet printers because that's where the main issues of digital image manipulation and colour management are important. It's also where a copy shop can charge a premium for a service the customer cannot get at home or at every high street outlet.Basic black and white plan copiers tended to be functional but with a poor reputation for real image quality. But like everything else, toner based printers have moved on, so if you have ever considered there might be a place for one in the studio, it could be time for a second look. If you are looking for an affordable scan to print option that is user friendly and fast, then you might well want to take a look at the Xerox 6204. We have lived and worked with one for a month, and we're impressed.The most important thing is that it's easy to use. As many large format scan and print options get increasingly more sophisticated and complex in operation, this is one machine that will hold no fears for the copy shop owner. Even our MD, who hasn't worked a green button in anger for years, could get straight on it and produce a print.It's a Xerox, so you already know it will be well built and well thought out, with all those years of background experience providing kit to the market. It was originally designed as a stand-alone machine to go into building site offices, so it's extremely streamlined and robust. It's sculptured to have a small footprint on the floor but still allow convenient access to all necessary nooks and crannies. It's designed in fact to have mobility access for an operator in a wheelchair.At just over 4ft long, a shade under 4ft high and just 2ft wide, it doesn't need a lot of room, and paper feed, and access for jammed media, or toner replacement don't require any more working space.All the print action is full frontal. An option of one or two rolls are kept in the media cabinet so that sizes of A1 or AO can be automatically selected by the print driver, or sheets can be fed into the manual tray. Scans up to 36inches wide are fed flat into the top scanner, and collected in a neat curved catch-all just behind.The disadvantage of a roller-fed scanner is that it cannot handle very thick media, but the advantage is that with creased documents, like folded maps and plans, the action actually smoothes out any unevenness to give a nice crisp image.
The scanner can be wound up to 600 dpi for really high resolution enlargement, or down to 150dpi for convenience and file size. It can scan directly to print or save in memory for further prints, and size options can be selected.With the addition of the Access Controller - essentially an attached PC - the 6204 can be incorporated as part of a network. It needs an IP address rather than a serial or USB connection, but it then means you can both print digital files and save scans as part of a system.It also enables remote management of the printer, including not only all print and scan settings, work queues and cost control and job accounts.The Access Controller also has a 3.06 GHz CPU and a healthy 1GB of ram, so handling large files, which inevitably come with the ripping of large images is not a problem, again unlike some large inkjet machines which come hopelessly under spec. on brain power.Xerox offer a variety of print media, including Bond, Vellum, Tracing Paper and film. With the Bond rolls in, you have a thousand feet of paper to print on so that should keep you going for a while. And even when you come to change them, they are extremely easy to load. The machine does most of the work lining up, and checking size for you, so there's no messing around trying to sort out what media you have got in.To anyone who has battled getting an inkjet machine to accept roll media isn't skewed, this is a revelation.It's also extremely thorough on paper use, cutting very accurately to minimise waste, which is often an issue with large format printing.Most impressively, it's very good quality. There are five print modes to chose from text and line to photo halftone and continuous tone. On the higher
settings it produces fabulous black coverage for text and graphics and very good tonal range for photographs.The on-board control panel is much like any copier and can be easily learnt by an operator with basic skills. Images can be reduced and enlarged from 24per cent up to 400 per cent, with quality controlled by adjustment of density, background suppression as well as extras like edge erase, mirror and inversion of image.It can also print a small sample section to judge what quality adjustments need to be made for the final piece.It can do all of this as a stand-alone machine. The addition of the Controller makes it a much more useful device as part of the studio network.Crucially it's possible to manage overall running costs as the 6204 can be purchased on a cost per click contract that will cover paper, toner and maintenance, with a guarantee of immediate back-up engineer service when needed.
With an A0 print coming out at about twelve pence under this regime, it's an equation that has some serious profit potential to the right market. This is more than a plan printer, but a quality large format copier with scope for those oversize A3s, full bleed spreads and cheap promotional posters. Once you start to get your head around printing cheaply over and above standard copy sizes, the potential is almost endless.For more info on the Xerox 6204 you can contact the nice people at Stanford Marsh who arranged our test machine. 01905 458000 or www.stanfordmarsh.co.uk