Learn what RIP software can do for screen and digital printers.
For those unfamiliar with RIP technology, its function as commonly used in the screen printing industry is fairly basic. An acronym for Raster Image Processor, the software takes files from graphic programs by running them through Postscript and converting them to halftone dots that can be recognized by an inkjet printer, while also allowing the user to dictate the number of passes the jets will make. (Inkjet printers are designed to print everything in color and absent a RIP, it would likely attempt to print the halftone as a shade of gray.) It has allowed screen printers to move away from expensive image setters and gives them ability to print high-quality films using affordable inkjet printers, rather than pricey laser printers.
Bagley has been closely involved with the development of RIP software over the years. In terms of recent incarnations of the technology, he says that many of the advancements have arisen in an attempt to achieve results similar to direct-to-digital printing. On such advancement is the ability to use the software to choose the size of ink dot that the printer lies down on the film.
“The reason this came about is because of the direct-to-garment (DTG) side of things, and they’re able to print smaller dots. They’re going directly on the shirt, and it doesn’t have to sit on the emulsion that’s on the fibers of the screen, so they’re able to fire smaller dots. In the screen print world we’re trying to get them closer to a similar type of output. By using the FM screening, it gives the user control over what dot they’re using, depending on which screen mesh they have, and be able to get rid of some of those standard rosette patterns that you’ll see. This improves the quality,” Bagley says.
Another fairly recent development is the ability to use black ink in multiple cartridges on certain printers, resulting in higher quality films and faster output.
“Most of the RIP software gives you the ability to choose exactly how many channels of ink you can pull black from. For example, you could choose from one to eight, depending on how many ink channels you have,” he says.
User friendliness has become a focus, especially in terms of being able to select default settings. For example, users can dictate their desired angle and have the setting hard-coded into the software. With some products, the settings can be controlled in the graphic software during output. The proprietary nature of RIP software has also given way to a more universal solution.
“In the past, a lot of the RIPs were focused to specific distributors of equipment and supplies. So the RIP would come with a density curve specific to the film that was being sold. Now a lot of the RIPs come with multiple types of density curves already built in to it. So it gives users the ability to source different types of film and figure out which one truly works the best for them,” Bagley says.
While RIP allows for the use for small, inexpensive inkjet printers, users with more money to invest might be better served with a hybrid printer that can output a greater amount of work. Hybrid printers allow for the use of two different types of ink, so that it can print both film positives and other mediums such as dye sublimation transfers. To maximize the benefits of these printers, Bagley developed the concept for MultiRIP Hybrid software.
“The hybrid RIPs allow users to take advantage of more expensive or industrial printers, instead of the smaller printers that require smaller cartridges, or a bulk feed ink system which can be a challenge to maintain,” he says.
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