Cartographers aren't the only fans of the new printers: Canon, Nikon and Sony all ordered massively large output from the device for the PhotoPlus Expo trade show in New York City in October 2013.
The process of taking a digital file and creating an oversized digital print is pretty complex, so the Duggal tech pulled the side off of the printer and showed me how a photograph is turned into a gigantic print.
First, a file is run through a RIP, or Raster Image Processor, the device that separates the images into the RGB data needed to flow from the lasers, and then gets queued for print. Despite the huge amount of technology inside the box, the printer needs to be fed paper in gigantic lighttight cassettes.
The cassettes are filled the old-school way, in a large darkroom near the printer. It's a bit like loading shells into a deck-mounted gun on a Navy ship, with a loading card used to align the cartridges. Some of the papers need to sit in the canister at least three weeks after rolling before use, so job estimation is important.
The HD C-prints can be output on transparency, metallic, matte or glossy photo paper, which is fed into a washing-machine-sized lighttight chamber around four feet wide. A circular drum holds the paper via suction, and the device slowly moves a laser to expose the paper.
The HD C-printer needs to perform calibration when the paper is changed, but when it has been completed, the device will stay in register, unlike inkjet or other printers that tend to come out of alignment over time.
Evaluating the images, I found them to be excellent, although not necessarily the best choice for all photographers. For casual output and even for some gallery work, we've seen inkjet devices produce highly detailed work with good longevity.
But the HD C-printer has two things going for it, most importantly, the C-print look. There's a different look—albeit, sometimes subtle—between something produced on an inkjet and work that's produced on photographic paper using photographic chemical processing, and it's a look that photographers and designers often seek out.
The other great thing about this printer is the super-large output size. At 100 inches, it bests the widest inkjets by a considerable margin and produces best-in-class images.
For the next year, Duggal will be the exclusive user of the 100-inch version of the Polielettronica HD C-printer, explaining the popularity of the unit during the leadup to PhotoPlus Expo.
Visit duggal.com/hdc.aspx or call Duggal Visual Solutions at (646) 638-7316.
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