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Appeared on: Monday, February 18, 2002
Primera SignaturePro CD Printer


1. Introduction

Primera Signature Pro CD-R Printer - Page 1

Introduction

has shown in the past that can offer significant solutions for CD/DVD labeling. The company has shipped two lines of printers, the Inscripta thermal Transfer printers and the Signature Inkjet printers. The printer we have in our hands belongs to the Signature Inkjet line and comes with the name “SignaturePro”. SignaturePro is the most advanced color printer ever offered by Primera. Some of the main features of the printer are the 2400 dpi printing resolution, the quick printing and the remarkable ink capacity. Primera claims that SignaturePro delivers all the performance you need for higher-volume, high-quality disc printing – at a price that is surprisingly affordable. What’s left is to find it out in practice...

- Main specifications

As mentioned before, SignaturePro is an inkjet printer. The printing resolutions offered are 2400 x 1200 dpi, 1200 x 1200 dpi, 600 x 600 dpi or 600 x 300 dpi (driver selectable). The applied inkjet technology produces 2.88 million pixels per square inch in up to 16.7 million colors.

The printing speed depends upon the percentage of coverage and the selected print mode. It takes approximately 111seconds for a 100%, full-color coverage, in 2400 dpi Photo mode, about 60 seconds for a 1200 dpi print in Presentation mode (default), 51 seconds for a 600 dpi print in Best mode, 34 seconds for a 600 dpi print in Normal mode and about 16 seconds for a 600 dpi print in Fast mode.

The label editing software included is Sure Thing First Edition for Windows. Also the PrimaColor built-in color matching software offered comes to deliver brighter and more photo-realistic colors. The software notifies the user as ink levels get close to empty. Also, it estimates how many discs can be printed based upon the disc’s layout and design

The ink cartridges supplied are a dual-cartridge 3-color (C.M, Y) and a black monochrome (K).

The media types supported are all printable-surface 120mm CD-R or DVD-R, and with additional adapter kit, 58mm x 86 mm printable-surface business card CDs. Primera recommends for optional printing results the usage of media from the authorized media partners listed below.

The data interface supported is Centronics-type parallel but the printer will also work with the most USB to parallel cables for USB-only PCs. The supplied drivers work under Windows 95/98/ME and Win2K OS.

Lastly, for fully automated disc production, Primera Conductor Printer Autoloader can be used in order to automatically load up to 50 discs per batch into and out of SignaturePro. The SignaturePro costs $1895 for the main unit. The color and monochrome cartridges cost $57.95 each.

- Test Machine

WinMe/Win2k
Soyo 7VCA
Celeron II 566 over clocked to 850 MHz
128MB SDRAM PC 133
WD 18GB UDMA 66
Quantum Fireball EX 6.4GB
SCSI: DAWI 2975 - PCI (ULTRA)
ATI AIW 128


2. Installation - Page 1

Primera Signature Pro CD-R Printer - Page 2

Installation - Page 1

- Identifying the parts

The printer looks very solid and weights about 4.3Kgr. Its dimensions are 190mmH x 432mm W x 266mmD. The illustration shows the CD tray and all of the control buttons and LED indicator lights found on the printer. On the top of the printer you will find the power button, the CD tray button witch opens and closes the CD tray, and the ink cartridge button, which positions the cartridge carrier for easy ink cartridge replacement.

The power light indicates that power is on. The busy light indicates that the printer is printing, processing, or is in some way busy.

On the rear panel of the printer there are the communication ports. Both serial and parallel interface port are provided. If using the printer with Windows, you will use its parallel interface port. Note that the printer’s auxiliary port is for use with auto loaders and automatic duplicators only. Also you can find the manufacturer label.

- Installing ink cartridges

For full-color printing, a 3-color ink cartridge is available. This cartridge contains the three process-color inks of yellow, magenta and cyan, which combine to produce up to 16.7 million colors. The available monochrome ink cartridge can be used for inexpensive printings and of course with the 3-color ink cartridge for 4-color CMYK printings.

Note that since different brands of CDs have different printable coatings, you may have to adjust the printer driver settings to accommodate your specific brand of CD media. You may find that certain brands of CDs provide higher printing quality than others.

With the CD tray closed, open the printer’s front cover by pulling down its top-left corner. Remove the tape covering the cartridge’s print head and press the Ink Cartridge button on the printer to move the carrier to the load position. Insert the color ink cartridge into the left cartridge carrier position and the black cartridge in the right position. The copper end is placed first. Close the printer’s front cover and press the ink cartridge button to reset the cartridge carrier. We are ready to install the printer under Windows ME.


3. Installation - Page 2

Primera Signature Pro CD-R Printer - Page 3

Installation - Page 2

The printer was identified from Windows as “CD Color Printer PRO”. We also installed the 32-Bit Spooler in order to optimize the printer’s functionality and to have the chance to check the ink level option provided. The properties of the printer seem to be rather interesting.

The first tab that comes up is the Media tab. Here you can select the type of media you will use (CD or custom sized CD), set the orientation to portrait or landscape, choose manual load. Manual load is used when multiple copies of a single design are made or when an auto-loader is used.

The second tab is the Device Options tab. There many settings to choose in order to have the desirable printing result. Select among the Monochrome Black, Color or Color + Black options in the cartridge type list box.

The print quality list box offers five different choices for printing resolutions: The Fast, Normal and Best options at 600 dpi resolution, the Presentation at 1200 dpi and the Super quality at 2400 dpi. The last option provides the highest quality but slowest speed. You may wish to experiment with these options to see which one is the best for your particular CD media and print quality parameters.

The Dither mode list box has two selections, the “Optimized for Photos” and the “Optimized for graphics”. Select the first if printing a design primarily composed of photographic images and the second choice if mainly printing text, lines, and graphics.

Click on the Color Matching down narrow and choose the color matching option that’s right for you. Select None if you are more interested in processing speed rather than color accuracy, if you have already color corrected your image for printing, or if you are using a third party color matching software. The Algebraic option allows the printer driver to make very simple color balance adjustments based on an RGB color model. The Prima Color enables color-matching profiles written specifically for the CD Color Pro. The PrimaColor automatically adjusts the color of your image according to preconfigured printer profiles and default system profiles. This results in a precise color match compliant with ICC standards. Note that the color of the CD surface can affect the outcome of the colors and PrimaColor is optimized for TuffCoat CDs.

In the device Options tab you can also adjust the ink saturation, which is optimized to 50% for TuffCoat CD printings.

Check the “Use 32-bit Spooler” box under Windows 95/98/ME for consistently faster print processing. The “Write Direct to Port” option allows printer driver to bypass the Win 95/98/ME print manager and send all print data directly to the printer. This option devotes all of your system resources to the current print job, thereby increasing overall print speed.

Lastly, check the “Print Black Text with Black Cartridge Only” if you want to force black text to print only when use CMYK printing.

The cartridge tab displays the cartridges currently installed, their current ink levels, as well as options for cleaning and changing cartridge. These operations are occurred only under Win 95/98/ME and only if the 32-bit print spooler has been installed.

The Calibrate tab displays options for fine-tuning the position of the printed image, changing the size of a CD’s non-printable center, and also performing a bi-directional calibration.


4. Printing Software

Primera Signature Pro CD-R Printer - Page 4

Printing Software

The printing software provided is the "Sure Thing CD Labeler v.2.10.16". We installed the program and fired it up. As you can see above, in the main window there is a circle CD layout that gives user the chance to easily add text on the layout and also to have a first look at the printing result output. On the left you see the design bar where you select the type of the background, the text or the logos you can add to the CD layout. On the top there are two more toolbars, the design editor Speed Tools and the design editor Control Strip toolbars.

The speed tools allow user to manage the items of the template, change the text formatting, calibrate printer, print. The design editor Control Strip helps user to change the text formatting by choosing various of fonts, Bold, Italic, Underline attributes, text color e.g.

You can select one of the 30 Smart design backgrounds for your printings or use your own background from your hard disk. Also you have the chance to set the background color (shade and pattern) in the set background color window. User can add some logos and clipart in his design using the Logos/Clipart tab. The software provides some ready to use CD & Media symbols to insert or you can use the Picture Tool, where you select the inserting image from your disk and then easily you can place it anywhere on the CD printing area with additional capability for size adjustment.

The Text Effect tab gives user two choices: Using the text effect wizard to insert a text in the layout or to use the text effect tool. The wizard is an easy way to insert a text in your layout. In a four step session you select the shape of your text from eight sample patterns, the variation of the text, the text color, the text shadow, border color, and font and text size.

Using the text effect tool give the same affect choices in a more detailed way. You firstly select the text inserting area or the text already inserted and then the options window comes up to make your effect selections, such as text shades, text color, background color, text borders and more.

Some samples text types are also provided for quick and easy selection. The inserted text can be printed in a circular, angled or straight perspective satisfying the user's possible layout preferences. What will be more useful to the novice user is a complete sample collection provided. Here the samples given are categorized according to the selected format options. By this the user can select among samples with or without text shadows or border color, text outline, text color, background shades e.g.

What about adding text? The software gives four choices, three for adding text and one for symbol insertion. The first choice is to add text using the New Text Fame option. A box will appear into the CD printing area and user can write the text there. You can move or change the text size using your mouse with a simple right-click and turning to the object mode. The second choice is the use of the Text Frame tool where you manually select the text inserting area and then move the text potentially. The program also provides some ready to use text forms about User Info, Name, country, address and many more. Also you can choose from a variety of symbols classified in five different fonts.


5. Printing Performance

Primera Signature Pro CD-R Printer - Page 5

Printing Performance

We checked the printing quality of PrimerPro in the various printing resolutions offered. We were also interested in the printing time needed for each resolution selected. The printable media used were Taiyo Yuden white top CD-R printable media, especially for Primera's Signature Pro. The settings we used for all the CDs we printed are shown below:

Orientation: Portrait
Tray Selection: CD Tray
Paper size: CD
Resolution: Fast /Normal /Best 600 dpi, Presentation 1200dpi, Super Photo 2400 dpi
Ink Cartridge: Color
Color matching: PrimaColor
Image Controls: Default settings
Dither Mode: Optimized for Photos
Ink saturation: 50%
Black text with black cartridge only: Yes
Rotate 180 degrees: No
Manual load: No

The results were not far from what we expected. The overall print quality varies according to the resolution selected. The best label was printed when the Super Photo 2400 dpi resolution was selected. The result looks very good and this must be the option if you need a photo alike print. The second best label performance was the 1200 dpi print. Printing with the Best 600 dpi selection also gave a good result as the colors were alive almost as when we printed in 2400 dpi. The difference here was that we could track some print lines as it was expected due to respectively poor resolution. The Normal and Fast 600dpi results had a lower but sufficient quality and the printing speeds were very high. Lastly, the Fast 600 dpi option should be mainly used for text labels. In the following chart there are the printing times in seconds for the different test speeds.

Resolution (d.p.i)
Time (seconds)
2400
167
1200
109
600 Best
93
600 Normal
66
600 Fast
19

The printing quality is strongly related to the kind of the media we used. The results were different when we printed on CDs with different top surface from Vivastar AG. The printed label seemed more faded and the colors were not very clear. Notice that Taiyo Yuden CDs have a White Top surface and Vivastar AG have a kind of silver color top.

In the chart below there is showed the time that SEIKO Precision CD Printer 4000 needs for printing the same label at the printing resolutions supported. Of course, a straight comparison between these two inkjet printers should affect both the printing speeds among with the quality of the provided result. Also those printers do not support the me printing resolutions and printing settings. However, we take a general idea:

Resolution (d.p.i)
Time (seconds)
1440
311
720
204

For the above prints in the SEIKO Precision CD Printer 4000 we chose the Custom Mode option, and the support of sRGB coloring. Comparing the above two charts we could say that PrimerPro is faster than SEIKO CD 4000, in all the related printing resolutions. On the other hand, CD labels made by SEIKO were slightly more “alive” and seemed to be closer to the prototype image.


6. Conclusion

Primera Signature Pro CD-R Printer - Page 6

Conclusion

Primera SignaturePRO inkjet printer is certainly one of the most reliable and quality printers in the market. The printer supports a very high 2400 dpi printing resolution which will satisfy the most of those who want a realistic printing result. The multiple choices in printing resolutions allow user to select the appropriate one for each label with important ink consumption profit. In addition, the printing time is very low making the printer ideal for business use in publishing firms or presentations.

The attached labeling software is easy to use and offers many printing options giving the user the chance to maintain the best result even if he does not use the higher quality printable media.

SignaturePRO supports multiple media sizes with the use of special adapter kits provided by Primera. What you should not try to do is to wet the printed CDs, as they are not waterproof and the result will be very disappointing. Also, the printed CDs are not scratchproof and should be treated with care. As for the price, we could say that it could be more affordable, opening the way to the non-professional to the shop. As a last word, we could say that SignaturePRO will not let you down and is possibly one the best solutions in the CD labeling market.



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