Notes on large-format printers

Having spent the past couple of years messing around in I have developed a need to run off some of the overly-convoluted and error-filled family tree charts to go over them in search of problematic entries. There’s really no good way to do this, unfortunately. The best way to get a complete dependency chart requires a bunch of workarounds that involve custom paper sizes and I still end up with trees that are 36 inches by 200 or more inches wide.

I suppose the best way around this is to subdivide the trees and run them off on smaller sheets. Those sheets still wind up being huse, well over standard 8.5×11 or 11×17 sizes.

This of course sent me off on an intensive craigslist hunt that resulted in sourcing three wide format printers for very reasonable prices. I’m in the midst of figuring out the best way to implement LAN printing to them, something which is proving tricky due to the age of the machines.

The two most interesting of the devices are both Hewlett-Packard DesignJets, the enterprise-level large format printers descended from old-school pen plotters and most widely deployed into architecture and CAD shops. The models are the HP DJ 450c and the HP DJ 1050. The 1050c appears to have come on the market around 2000. The 450 looks to me as if it was designed and released sometime in the early 1980s.

Neither model supports USB. The best method of access in both cases is via HP JetDirect printserver. In the case of the 1050, an ethernet-capable JetDirect card is installed and setup and has no difficulty obtaining an IP from my LAN. In the case of the 450, I had to pick up an outboard unit on eBay for a couple of bucks.

HP recently ended support for the 1050c entirely. They never shipped a Mac driver for the unit in its’ bare-bones non-Postscript configuration, either. Of course, the one I have is non-PS. PS upgrades are available on the aftermarket for between 300 and 3000 dollars, and that’s well outside my budget for the project.

The unit is interoperable with Gutenprint drivers derived from a PPD originally written for the HP DJ 650, but none of the integrated distributions include these drivers, instead including ONLY the Gutenprint PS3 driver for the 1050c, 1050c+, and 1050cm.

I am currently able to print to the machine using a 750 driver derived from the Gutenprint 650. I need to blow the dust off the part of my mind devoted to writing custom PPDs in order to enable the custom, user-defined rollfeed paper sizes, and the PPD assumes a lower maximum print resolution than the printer is capable of. One of the printheads has failed and a careful cleaning failed to resurrect it, so it looks as if I am on the hook for that consumable cost. But on the whole I’m happy with the progress to date.

The other old HP printer, the 450, had quite evidently not been used for years and had a shredded and rotten drivebelt. I order to replace the belt, nearly the entire unit must be struck, a disassembly involving no fewer than ten steps. Happily, the service manual is trivial to locate. Unhappily, the manual’s illustrations are somewhat deceiving and occasionally omit important details, but despite this the teardown is less demanding than a laptop disassembly.

Once I had replaced the belt i ran into a few snags on the reassembly and testing, most importantly a reassembly error in which the cutterhead would always snag on the printhead and halt the startup test sequence. This has been rectified.

Very interestingly to me, the 450 uses the very oldest style of HP inkjet printer-cartridge refills.

Early next week I think I will have each unit operating as I intend and then I will make a decision as to their disposition. I am leaning toward keeping them for a short period and then reselling them on CL in working order and with documentation to simplify the life of their next owner.

Some links and notes:

Alternate drivers suggested here:
“Which Driver do I use?
There are two GhostScript drivers which should work.

Have not located or tested the OCE series drivers.

The following entry for the 1050cm suggests using dnj650c. Currently I have set up a 750c driver which seems to work but which has bad page size descriptors.

Skeletal instructions for creating a custom ppd.

Q1281A postscript upgrades rare, usually listed at $450-550, one listing at $330 here.

HP4820A black printhead usually $180-$140, occasionally $130. currently one $100 listing on Amazon. Recent month sales history on ebay includes several sales at about $50.

Another PN for PS upgrade: C6076A. An oddity on the PNs for the upgrade is that the Q1281A PN seems to be universally associated with the 1050c+. It is not clear if that is because implementing the upgrade converts a 1050c to a 1050c+.

Q1281 for “>also.

Notes on ink buildup causing printhead replacement call by printer on 1050c.

Repurposing old ram for use in some HP printers (this is really interesting, and I have a bunch of old DIMMS around).