Author Topic: Capabilities of ALps MD printers  (Read 2474 times)

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peteski

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Capabilities of ALps MD printers
« on: February 23, 2013, 09:31:17 PM »
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Not wanting to totally hijack Leggy's Decal thread I decided to start another thread to continue the discussion.  From DKS:

No argument about the sharpness of the alps; however, the fuzziness of a good laserjet image is only visible under high magnification. As for rendering fonts, at 3 points the alps starts to fall apart, and at 2 points it fails completely. And of course the alps can do nothing with a grayscale except print halftone dots which are easily seen with the naked eye.



Some dimi data is in the 3 and 2 point range; most of the lettering for the DB4 containers is 2 points, and looks awful (unfortunately, there's no choice but to use the alps since it must be white).



And the school bus decals would suffer on the alps given some text is 2 points, and the colored areas would be dithered (unless one goes to the trouble of obtaining the required spot colors). Under normal viewing, and indeed even under macro photography, the laserjet image looks good and crisp, with no objectionable fuzziness. (White specs are reflections, not flaws.)



If it were me, I'd have experimented with finding ways to reliably register an inkjet image over an alps white background print for the graf decals, because the inkjet would have rendered the color image without visible halftoning. That would look seriously impressive, IMO.

David,  I just ran a test print on my MD-5000 and I seem to be getting better results than you.



You and TiVoPrince mention the need to convert fonts to curves to get better results. As you can see from the image above, I have not problems printing unconverted fonts.  After all, TTF format stores fonts as curves to begin with.

As far as halftones go, you are of course correct David: in spot color mode, the halftones are rendered at 85 lpi (which is way too coarse to be acceptable). That clearly shows up in your sample of Alps printout.  I printed my gray scale using VPhoto (2400 dpi, 190 lpi) and as you can see, the halftones are much finer. But the in this mode, printer uses CYM inks for representing gray. I think we both know rather well that Alps printers excel at printing solid colors using the spot color mode. Because of this, their range of printable colors is limited. But with some clever layering of inks, they are capable of printing a surprising number of usable colors..



Here is a scan of your School Bus decal with Alps printed sample of some of the text. Both printouts were photographed together. I just cut and pasted the Alps printed text to place it next to the text on the decal (for comparison purposes). As you can see, the Alps text compares favorably to the laser-printed test on your decal. I would even venture a statement that the EMERGENCY EXIT printed on Alps is clearer and less fuzzy than than the original NZT decal.


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DKS

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Re: Capabilities of ALps MD printers
« Reply #1 on: February 23, 2013, 11:30:39 PM »
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Interesting. I wonder if my alps has shat the couch. All of the settings are correct.
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peteski

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Re: Capabilities of ALps MD printers
« Reply #2 on: February 24, 2013, 12:20:40 AM »
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Interesting. I wonder if my alps has shat the couch. All of the settings are correct.

You can run the selftest to check if the head is still ok.
Turn off the printer.
Disconnect the Power Cable.
Disconnect the parallel (or SCSI) cable. 

Make sure that the printer is set up for automatic paper feed and that it has at least 1 sheet of letter size paper loaded.  This printout is one page long on all but the MD-5000. On MD-5000 printers it is seven pages long.  But only the first page has the info we are looking for.

Install a regular black cartridge (label code 0) into the left cartridge holder (as you are facing the open printer door).

Plug in the Power Cable only. Wait for the lights to turn off.

Press and hold the "POWER" button, then press and hold the "READY/INSERT" button.

Release the "POWER" button but keep holding the "READY/INSERT" button.

Keep holding the "READY/INSERT" button for at least 4 seconds.  This is important. It is OK to hold it longer than 4 seconds but not less.  Ignore any lights flashing.

After 4 seconds release the "READY/INSERT" button , then right away press and release it again.

In few seconds, the printer will start making noises and then it will print out the selftest.  After the fist page prints out on MD-5000, use the power button to turn the printer off.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------------
This printout contains bunch of info and calibration parameters.
Look for the head-test printout.

There will be 2 bands (about 0.5" again) of very thin, slightly skewed lines printed on paper.  If any of those thin lines is broken up or missing segments then there is a problem with the head (unrepairable).

Some printers might also print a 0.5" solid black band. Again, that band should be solid black.  If it is not, then the head is defective (unrepairable).


If the head is ok, then it might be some settings in the software you're using.  Or your printer might just be different than mine.

Also, I printed the test prints on VPhoto film (Not on regular paper or decal paper). I did that because I needed to print something else on that film and I just added the test print to the end of the page I was printing. That film produces the best possible results with Alps while some decal papers have problem with ink adhering to them. I usually use Bare Metal Foil decal paper and ink adheres to it rather well. Before printing I wipe the clear film's surface with VM&P Naphtha to make sure it is clean and degreased. The clear decal film is not affected by Naphtha.  I also warm up the inside of my printer to about 90 degrees F using a hair dryer. That also seems to improve ink adhesion. Then I spin a rubber chicken over my head while printing.  ;)  Successful printing with Alps is like a black magic.  :facepalm:
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DKS

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Re: Capabilities of ALps MD printers
« Reply #3 on: February 24, 2013, 04:12:40 AM »
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Thanks for that, Peteski. I did do the test prints I posted on top-grade HP photo film, not plain paper or decal paper, on both printers for a fair comparison. I hear you on the black magic part--as it is, I recall that it took me weeks of spare time just to get the printer to listen to a PC (I tried three of them); I don't even remember exactly what it was I did that finally got its attention, but it wasn't straightforward by any means.
« Last Edit: February 24, 2013, 04:45:49 AM by David K. Smith »
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peteski

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Re: Capabilities of ALps MD printers
« Reply #4 on: February 24, 2013, 04:21:14 AM »
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Thanks for that, Peteski. I did do the test prints I posted on top-grade HP photo film, not plain paper or decal paper, on both printers for a fair comparison. I hear you on the black magic part--as it is, I recall that it took me weeks of spare time just to get the printer to listen to a PC (I tried three of them); I don't even remember exactly what what I did that finally got its attention, but it wasn't straightforward by any means.

David, was that ink jet Photo paper?  Alps specifically warns against using ink jet media of any kind in their printers.  In some models, that warning was even included on a extra pink colored leaflet included with the manuals.
--- Peteski de Snarkski

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DKS

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Re: Capabilities of ALps MD printers
« Reply #5 on: February 24, 2013, 04:29:32 AM »
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It's general purpose photo paper. Anyway, just ran the self-test, and it passed with flying colors. So there's something else that it's not happy about. (It's also surprisingly low mileage--2014 bands.)
« Last Edit: February 24, 2013, 04:46:10 AM by David K. Smith »
"Life's a piece of sh!t when you look at it."
                                       —Monty Python