Hewlett Packard 2500c Plus
High Quality Presentation Plotter

Comments by: Odin Cary

Last Fall I was called upon to supervise a design project that served as an experiment in numerous ways. One of the experiments was based around output. We had three primary pieces of software that we wanted unsurpassed output from: Adobe Illustrator 4.0, Adobe PhotoShop 4.0 and AutoCAD R14. The company decided to order the Hewlett Packard 2500c Plus Ink Jet Plotter even though none of us knew of anyone who had used this new model. The following information describes what it took to get the best high quality large-scale plots that I have ever seen.

The first thing that was difficult to understand was how to hook it up to an existing NT networked environment – to use the included JetDirect card or not. After experiencing a number of poor plot jobs from AutoCAD via the NT system printer drivers (included with the plotter), Hewlett Packard support advised that the Jet Direct Card should definitely be used. Once this change was made, a routing configuration that took perhaps an hour, PhotoShop printed all jobs without a glitch, but AutoCAD continued to produce errors and half printed sheets. When Hewlett Packard support was contacted once again, the mystery began to unravel.

The HP 2500c Plus comes equipped with 20Mb RAM, a JetDirect card and an internal 2 Gig Hard-drive. Unfortunately for those who don’t read all of the small print on new products, that 2 Gig Hard-drive is designed for PostScript (RIP) output only. If you print in non-PostScript format, as with AutoCAD configured to use the System Printer, the Hard-drive is not utilized. So, more RAM was ordered for the printer and it was upgraded to 68 Mb; the plotter comes with 4Mb onboard and an additional removable 16Mb SIMM (plus one open slot) which can replaced with a 32Mb SIMM. AutoCAD can be configured to output in PostScript format, but I found the output time to be incredibly slow and thus not a viable solution.

This appeared to solve all the problems until the AutoCAD files grew to 50Mb +. The file sizes were exceptionally large because the work involved a great deal of scanned map information that had to be traced and it was often necessary to print both the AutoCAD work and the raster images being traced.

By this time, about two months into the project and only a month and a half to go, fear began to take form. Since it was quite obvious that HP had not produced a new set of drivers for AutoCAD R14 to plot to the HP 2500c Plus, their WEB site was visited nearly everyday and finally, my fears were alleviated when the new AutoCAD drivers were released. They were downloaded on the day of release and after some minor adjustments to the new "HPCONFIG" utility within AutoCAD R14, all plots came out without a glitch.

Within the HP plotter configuration dialogue box, type "HPCONFIG" on the AutoCAD command line, check the box for "optimize memory usage". Then, in the white text box to the left of the previous check box, you should see the option for how much memory your HP plotter has installed. What I discovered, was that if you experience plot problems with AutoCAD and your HP plotter, you can often resolve them by reducing the configured plotter memory. Though I am not entirely sure about the affect upon HP’s optimization process, it does seem to increase the output time - the product still looks great though.

The HP 2500 series is, in my opinion, the new generation of HP output. I wouldn’t even consider buying anything less for large scale high quality plotting. Though it is reported as 600 dpi, it is not like any 600 dpi I have every seen – the new technology behind the inkjet heads produces a far cleaner dot of ink that is virtually indiscernible.

The HP 2500 series has a body similar in size and style to the 755 series, but functions more intelligently. Everything about this plotter was intuitive: the digital display panel guides every move like a software wizard and even those completely unfamiliar with plotters were able to change rolls and correctly align the media. We printed on several different media and even fooled some by reproducing a photograph on the high gloss media.

The HP 2500c Plus came with 4 reservoir ink canisters, 4 ink cartridges similar to those in the 755 series and 4 self cleaning cartridges; all bundled and color coded in separate boxes for easy installation. With this setup, we ran the plotter non-stop for days and discovered that the only drawback, was that the rolls should be two to three times as long.

Improvements I would like to see:

Obviously I was very impressed with this plotter and since I have been working with HP plotters for over 10 years now, I know when I see solid improvements. The following items are merely wish list items and not complaints or gripes. This series is currently out of my personal price range but I really wish I could afford one.

The biggest problem I had with this plotter is when a color begins to have problems. Since this system has three components for each of the 4 colors, it can be expensive to resolve a color problem. For example, if cyan, a notoriously problematic color, begins to fade you may find yourself changing the cyan cartridge, the half used cyan reservoir canister and possibly even the cleaning cartridge. If you look up the price for a color package, you will discover that it is not cheap.

I would also, as mentioned above, like to see improvements in the management of the media. It would be fantastic if several rolls could be loaded simultaneously so that the plotter could go on for longer periods of time or be switched on-the-fly from one type of media to another.

It would be great if I could access the plotter’s control panel via software from my workstation; this would be useful for those who work a bit of a distance from their plotter and would assist in error checking and general plotter maintenance.

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