We are frequently asked what are the hardware requirements for PrintFactory?  This is quite a difficult question to answer as it depends hugely on the environment and type of devices being driven.  Firstly an explanation of the infrastructure that makes up the PrintFactory Production workflow:

PrintFactory is a unique production workflow in that it is truly modular and scalable, meaning that it can be customized completely to suit small or larger environments, also allowing for easy upgrading as your business grows, but this flexibility can lead to confusion about the best configuration for a particular location.

Version 6 has new features built in to provide more stability and flexibility.

Software Manager

The new Software Manager keeps track of software updates, licensing, driver swaps and resource management.  Software Manager is tightly integrated into the License Server which is what handles the communication with the cloud.  Therefore in environments where there are strict IT policies or security is paramount you can host the License Server in a server room with all the necessary security considerations whilst the rest of the infrastructure will only communicate internally.  Thus the License Server acts as a Proxy Server enabling external communication on behalf of the rest of the system.

RIP

In version 5 we were heavily restricted by the fact that PrintFactory is still essentially a 32bit application, so for instance the largest addressable memory space was limited to 2gb for all front end applications (the actual ripping processes are still 64bit).  With version 6 this limitation is removed as all processes and applications are 64bit.

The tendency when specifying a new RIP is to go all out and buy the most powerful machine the budget will allow.  However this is not always the best approach. Admittedly lots of memory and fast processors as specified in our system requirements will give the best performance where there are a maximum of two printers connected.  But if you have a larger installation there are some red lines that need to be considered.

Firstly, redundancy should be a key consideration, if you have all of your printers connected to one RIP and something goes wrong your entire production will be affected, so splitting the printers across at least 2 RIP’s will halve the risk.

With version 6 there are no memory limitations – as with version 5, so the system will use as much available memory as the computer can provide, however the entire system is only as good as the weakest link, which is generally data transfer and I/O, even with an SSD disk you can quickly saturate the data bus which means all other processing task form an orderly queue.  But by splitting the load across multiple physical computers you mitigate this issue and create a more balanced system.

Printers

Our recommendation is to run a maximum of 2 x 64″ printers on one RIP for example HP Latex 360 or EPSON SC-P20000.  And for Super wide Printers such as the Durst 3m and 5m models then a 1:1 relationship between printer and RIP is advised, especially if there is a high throughput of jobs.

Network

In terms of network infrastructure, for a 2 printer configuration, at least 1gb ethernet to each printer is recommended and 2gb bonded ethernet from the RIP, running on a single switch with at least an 8gb backbone or if the  switches are distributed then the RIP should have at least 1GB dedicated bandwidth to each printer. If you going over a VLAN you need to ensure that there is enough uncontended bandwidth so the printer is not starved of data.  Keep in mind that Ethernet is a very inefficient networking protocol, typically 30-40% of bandwidth is lost due to overhead, so on a 1gb connection you generally actually get around 600mbps throughput.  This is further diluted if the data flow is contended in the switch, so ensuring that there is an uncontended connection between RIP and printer is important.

The diagram below shows how all components relate and most importantly how they communicate externally, so you can see that the License Server is acting as a Proxy to the cloud app. All other communication is contained inside the local area network.   Also due to our modular infrastructure you can quite easily run PrintFactory across VLAN’s.

 

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