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Increase print speed of graphics

Posted on 2005-04-19
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I have an application that prints documents.  It is designed to print 2-4 page documents in a looping mode where about 50-100 documents will print in one session.  We are using an HP laserjet 2200.  Everything prints fine, however it is averaging about 30-60 seconds per document to print.  The documents are text and images.  My question is, what can I do to speed this up?  Can I buy a printer with a faster RIP?  What is the fastest / cheapest printer out there with a great RIP?

Thanks,
Becker
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Question by:benbecker
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by:WillHudson
ID: 13821933
The 2200 is capable of upto 18 ppm, so it's a bit surprising that you are only getting 1-2 ppm.

I'm not sure what kind of media your are printing on, but you might want to take a look here:

http://h20000.www2.hp.com/bizsupport/TechSupport/Document.jsp?locale=en_US&taskId=110&prodSeriesId=28861&prodTypeId=18972&objectID=bpl11235
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by:nobus
ID: 13822131
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by:benbecker
ID: 13823622
I think you'd only see 18PPM if you were printing the same document and it doesn't have to re-raster it.  My problem is that I'm printing scanned documents , so a document may have 2-3 full page images that are printed as part of the document.  It'll print a page, rest about 2-3 seconds and then print another.  The time before it starts printing is about 8-10 seconds and it taks about 5 seconds to print a page, add all this up and it is not 18PPM.  
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by:benbecker
ID: 13823626
There also is no live support option for the laserjet 2200.
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by:Watzman
ID: 13828471

We need a lot more information to help you.

If the documents are being printed in graphics mode, there are different "levels" at which the documents can be sent to the printer.  They can be sent as a "high level", using either PCL or Postscript, or at a low level.  An example of a "high level" would be a Postscript command to print a circle with a given radius and a given center point.  An example of a "low level" would be a list of all of the pixels that, when turned black, would form that circle (could be hundreds of thousands of pixels).  However, the PRINTER can actually process the list of pixels faster than the "draw a circle" command (which is merely a command to the printer to generate that exact same list itself).  And there is the matter of data transmission time:  Is this a parallel port connection, a USB connection or a network connection?  It matters a great deal, because a 600 dpi page has about 4 megabytes of pixels on it, and sending that as graphics data over a parallel port could well take between 80 and 800 seconds (at which point, the 18ppm of the printer becomes rather irrelevant).

So here are the variables that go into this:

-what software is generating the form on the computer
-What language (PCL or PostScript or ???) is being used to convey the document
-What type of interface between the computer and printer (parallel, USB or Ethernet)
-How much memory is in the printer

With the answers to those, we can begin to suggest some ways of speeding up the overall print process.
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by:benbecker
ID: 13830733
Ok, I will try to answer these.

- the software that is generating the document to be printed is VB.NET that I wrote.  A document consists of two things.  A crystal report which I load into the crystal report viewer on a form and issue the print report command to the default printer and then there is an image array that I have loaded BLOBs from a database into and I send these to the printer, I can post the code I use to do this, it is only a few lines.

- I am unsure what language is being used.  How would I find that out?

- The printer is connected via parallel port cable to a machine.  This machine is the one doing the printing.

- The printer has the default memory of 8MB.

Thanks!
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by:Watzman
ID: 13830833

Well, I'm not 100% certain of what's going on here, but my guess is that the rasterization ("RIP"-ing) (RIP = Raster Image Processing) is being done in the computer, not the laser printer, and in fact is being done by your VB program.  It's very possible that the time is being consumed right there, and that it's the VB program, and not the printer, that is limiting your speed.  I'm going to further guess that the data is being sent to the printer as a PCL data stream at a very low level (essentially, as a pure graphic list of the pixels to be made black and white).  If all of that is correct, there's nothing that you can do in the printer to speed things up.  Any improvement would probably have to come in the VB program itself, and may be impossible for you to accomplish.

However, I do see one significant thing that you can address and that may be significant:  You may be sending up to about 4 megabytes of data per page over a parallel port whose throughput is probalby no more than 50,000 to 250,000 bytes per second (and possibly as low as 1/10th of that).  This could be a BIG part of the bottleneck.  The solution is to use a network or USB interface, instead of the parallel port.  Note, using a parallel port network print server won't accomplish anything, since you would ultimately be back to going through the parallel port.  The object here is to bypass the parallel port entirly, which means an internal network print server (an MIO card) or an internal USB port.  Since I'm not familiar with this particular model printer, those might or might not be available.  And even if they are, they will only help if the parallel port is the limiting bottleneck, which I'm not certain of (but there's a fair chance that it is).
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by:nobus
nobus earned 80 total points
ID: 13831287
You can test the issue, mentioned by Watzman, that it is the VB process limiting the speed, by making a set of documents with text and images, comparable to the ones you want to print, but make them with Word, and copy comparable pictures in the text. If those print noticeably faster, you know where to look
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Watzman earned 420 total points
ID: 13833912
Another comment, take your VB program just as it is and "print to file" instead of printing to the printer (this will be an option in the "port" section of the printer driver for the laserjet 2200).  Now try printing the same document (the one you just printed to the file) not by running the VB program, but by copying the resulting file to the printer.  Now there will be NO "RIP" overhead, because the file will have been "riped" in advance.  So, if the print time decreases dramatically, then you know that you have a major bottleneck in the VB program.  If the print time does not decrease, then the limiting bottleneck is elsewhere (most likley in the parallel port).  Also, look at the size of the resulting data file from the "print to file" operation.  That will give you the number of bytes that have to be transferred between the computer and the printer to print your document.  A typical paralle port speed is 50,000 bytes per second (some are nowhere near that fast, a few are faster).  You can estimate (it's going to be rough) the number of seconds that just the data transfer is going to take from the file size and the parallel port speed.  You can't print any faster than the speed at which the data can be transferred, so if that's the issue (and it well may be), you need to look at a USB printer connection.
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by:benbecker
ID: 13833938
I think the parallel port may be the problem.  I have a Dell 1600n (a lexmark under the covers) and it is connected via network card.  I used my app to print to this printer and it worked great, it was a continuous stream of pages printed with a short pause between every 3 or 4 documents which is probably a limitation of the memory I have installed on the printer.  

Thank you all for the help, but I think this gives me an idea that I need to get a networked printer.
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by:Watzman
ID: 13834418
USB would probably be as fast as a network interface for this application.
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by:benbecker
ID: 13834524
you think?  100MB versus 1MB?  I'd rather have it connected as a network port than a port on some local users desktop and then have to share it.
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by:nobus
ID: 13834752
if you want it fast, install a 1 Gb network card
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by:Watzman
ID: 13834919
Benbecker, there is a whole chain of events here, from the VB program to the physical printout.  The process cannot proceed faster than the slowest link in the chain.  One of those links is the physical printer, and it's ony capable of about 18 pages per minute.  As long as the interface is "fast enough" to keep up with that, being faster than that will buy you nothing.  And what I'm suggesting is that USB (which is about the same speed as 10 Megabit per second Etherent) is probably "fast enough" to do that, and that while there are faster interfaces, they won't result in any difference in the clock time required to print a document.

[At 600 dpi, a full page of raster graphics -- the "worst case scenario" -- is about 4 megabytes.  A USB 1.x interface can send 4 megabytes in about 3.2 seconds.  One page per 3.2 seconds is 18.75 pages per minute, which is just about the speed of the print engine in your printer.  Speed beyond this isn't going to buy you much in terms of reduced print time.]

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by:benbecker
ID: 13836853
I c, thank you for the explanation, this is very helpful!
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