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Print Speed

One specification that plays a vital role in decision making of a printer purchase is its speed rating, usually quoted in Pages-per-Minute or Prints-per-Minute (ppm).

The ‘page’ in print speed is usually stated in equivalent A- or A4-size letter pages. This gets a little tricky if the print engine does not infact handle that paper size. Some large format printers may quote in square feet (meters) per minute (hour). Some relatively slow printers may quote in Minutes-per-Page, while some high speed production printers or digital presses may quote in impressions-per-hour (which may be 4-color prints or only one of four colors, or even a duplex page (printed on both sides). In all of these situations they are referring to the maximum print engine speed, excluding print startup times, possible RIP/Controller processing delays, and data-dependent mechanical processing delays.

Often used as a key marketing tool for the product, the measurement of print speed is not quite standardized (as of this writing, the ISO is working on a standard). Usually, measurement starts with the second copy of a test document, often a very simple page, and multiple (e.g. ten) sequential prints are averaged. Therefore, advertised print speed may be the average print engine rate for ten copies after the first copy of a very simple page.

Clearly, Print Speed by such a definition does not represent the Realized Average Speed, the true throughput speed performance of the printer (integrated RIP/Controller plus Print Engine) that a typical user will experience. Preprocessing and mechanical print startup times, and page content data-dependent RIP/Controller and mechanical processing delays are among the real-world factors that should also be taken into account.

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