We might all imagine how many reams of paper HP must go through testing their printers before they hit the market, and how they must pass certain tests and get tweaked along the way. If you envision rooms full of printers and the smell of heated toner hitting the paper, you are not alone. At the Boise Idaho HP campus, there is so much more than I could ever have imagined.

As the COO of DaniWeb, I was invited out to tour the campus and get a ‘behind-the-scenes’ look at HP’s printer testing campus in order to answer the question: what really goes on at HP? Honestly, it’s way more than you would think.

Daily, HP ships in different paper types from all around the world. They have a loading dock full of reams of paper from around the globe, made up from various materials. What do they do with the paper? The obvious, print on it! Why is this worth writing about? For a start HP simulates the environment of the papers origin; there are many small chambers in the lab, each set to a certain heat and humidity that coincides with that place of origin. The paper sits on a shelf in the chamber with a printer, and both given time to acclimate. HP then performs testing on the printer using different paper types to see how the printer would perform in that part of the world, with that type of paper. Although an interesting experience, I’ll pass on standing in a high-heat, high-humidity chamber for a while!

IMG_5807article Ever wonder why your dog may bark when your printer starts? Another huge metal door led us into a sound-proofed room. The concrete floor is set on springs, with more concrete and then more springs . HP does this so that even vibrations from passing trucks on a distant highway will not be able to penetrate the room which also contains a printer, microphones, and a device that looks like a human head which replicates our ears. HP records the noise from the printer, and analyzes it. Any noise deemed “annoying” is moved to a frequency that humans cannot hear, but your dog may. Listening to the before and after from a recording was amazing.

For MF printers, HP simulates an enterprise environment. They virtualize thousands of users at workstations using various devices. HP monitors the traffic at the printers just to test how they would work with multiple users in a scalable environment. I even got to see the screen on an actual printer changing as a virtual user was using that machine to make photocopies, typing in their user ID.

IMG_5804article What happens if you live in a busy area with lots of radio/electrical interference? HP has taken care of that too. In another room, behind another big door, there sit antennas on poles. This whole room is a giant faraday cage. Eliminating any outside surges, radio waves, or other interference, HP is able to sit a device on a turntable and raise and lower the antennas. The antennas put out different frequencies and the devices performance is measured under those stresses. That was just another test that I never really thought of.

Toner: Why buy genuine? HP showed me why by cooking some in a frying pan. It was the last thing I expected, at the end of a long day. A burner was wheeled in on a cart, with some toner and a pan. When the toner was cooked there as a noticeable difference. HP toner transfers at a lower temperature and more evenly than that money saving no name brand. In the end, you end up throwing away more unreadable pages, making more service calls to a technician, and wasting more time using the cheap toner. That stuff costs way more than the few extra bucks spent buying OEM toner.

At the end of the day, I had a new appreciation for the printer sitting across the office. The tour was fantastic. HP’s Boise campus is devoted to creating a superior product, and one that won’t be noisy and annoying. I must say it was a very informative trip, and there really is so much more than we imagined that goes into testing new printers.