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Tech Reference: Getting the Most From Test Patterns

Although they may appear similar, not all test patterns are equally well designed or equally effective. In addition to influencing service technicians’ success in diagnosing and correcting copier performance problems, the test pattern they use can affect a dealership’s service costs and professional image. Critical factors to consider when choosing a black-and-white test pattern include: design, print quality, and material durability.

Test Pattern Design

With an effectively designed black-and-white test pattern, a well-trained service technician can diagnose many copier performance problems after running just two or three copies. However, this level of efficiency requires a technical test pattern that provides extremely detailed test elements (such as a ladder chart and line/space array), positioned logically throughout the image area.

In general, OEM and non-Katun aftermarket test patterns are inconsistent in design. They provide some detailed visual test elements for intensive examination of some aspects of copier performance, but fall short in other, equally important areas.

For example, one OEM test pattern incorporates detailed halftone samples and resolution charts, but its border lines and edge registration scales have no measurement markings. This design allows a service technician to check and adjust exposure, but correcting edge deletion or copy skew problems is very difficult.

Many OEM test patterns have this type of inconsistency, because they are typically designed for use with certain machine models. These test patterns often have only the test elements required to make the most common adjustments to those machines. To eliminate the inconsistencies and shortcomings of such test patterns, Katun’s technical test pattern is universal in design. Its highly detailed, logically positioned test elements provide a complete, accurate overview of any copier’s performance. These test elements include:

  1. a highly precise line/space array for checking fusing characteristics and identifying copy quality inconsistencies;
  2. border lines and edge registration marks with measurements, for fast, easy diagnosis of edge deletion and skew problems; and
  3. vertical and horizontal ladder charts for checking optical and transfer-related systems.

Print Quality and Material Durability

Producing accurate “before-and-after” test copies is essential for excellent customer service. Test copies should clearly demonstrate to the end-user customer that copier performance problems have been corrected. However, to produce such test copies, a test pattern must be accurately printed on highly durable material.

Most OEM and non-Katun aftermarket test patterns are printed on ordinary paper, and are therefore subject to printing and finishing inconsistencies. These may include poor halftone images, broken lines, and edges that are not trimmed square. In addition, ordinary paper test patterns are easily smudged, torn, or creased.

If the test pattern used to produce “before-and-after” copies is poorly printed or in poor condition, a service technician can have a difficult time demonstrating to the customer that machine problems have been corrected. As a customer, how would you react if a service technician told you, “I’ve corrected your machine problem. Unfortunately, these test copies don’t show it very well, because the test pattern I used is in bad condition.”? Ordinary paper test patterns wear out quickly, and are ultimately quite expensive. Even at 50 cents each, the annual cost to supply one service technician with two test patterns per week would be $52.

To minimize the problems associated with ordinary paper test patterns, Katun prints its technical test pattern on LEXAN®, a highly durable and flexible polycarbonate film. The fundamental material characteristics of LEXAN help eliminate many of the inconsistencies of printing on paper — halftones are extremely sharp, lines are solid and consistent, and edges are consistently trimmed exactly square.

Consequently, service technicians can consistently present accurate “before-and-after” test copies to their customers, clearly demonstrating that copier performance problems have been corrected. This leads to increased customer confidence, in both the service technician and the dealership. In addition to providing excellent print quality, LEXAN is difficult to crease or tear, and can be washed with mild soap and water without degrading the image. As a result, the actual cost for Katun technical test patterns is extremely low: one durable Katun test pattern can easily last up to six months!