Short story about the application of quality prints (graphic prints)

With the name “Quality prints”, in the AS/400 environment (iSeries – System i – IBM i) we indicate prints that contain texts but also graphical components, like different logo fonts, bar codes, etc.

For a user of the PC world this explanation is incomprehensible.

In fact, at least from 1990 onward, with the introduction of Windows 3.1, it has been always possible to accompany the printing of PC documents with graphical elements and variable fonts.

On the AS400 system, on the other hand, it isn’t possible to create prints without using additional products to what is provided with the operative system if not with various types of limitation.

The result is that the AS/400 standard print has always been done with just one font per page (typically the Courier) with single spacing and without graphical elements.

The graphical component was made by printing on typographic modules equipped with company logo and columning (horizontal and vertical lines), of a mechanical type that is, typically, with a fixed interline at 1/6 inch with detachable drag (ie the two lateral bands with holes, detachable) and in multicopy.

Modulo con trascinamento staccabile

Modulo continuo con trascinamento staccabile.

The introduction in the early 90s of laser printers with an acceptable price/speed ratio (6/8 pages per minute) starts the use of software for the “quality printing”, up to that point limited to large printing centres, triggering the process of replacing impact or needle printers, which printed on typesetting modules, with laser printers capable of simultaneously printing the data from the AS/400 system and the graphics that replace the printing modules.

The reasons of the success of this type of application, are mainly in this factors:

  • lower costs of printing
  • single type of paper (A4 white) for every type of print
  • better print quality
  • no waste from modules that have become obsolete or damaged during storage in the warehouse (exposure to the weather or the sun)
  • autonomous and faster modification of the modules directly by the user, (changes in company name, new data to be included in the print, new companies with new logos, etc.)
  • less noise from the printers
  • distribution of the copies on different printers without manual dividing
  • cheaper maintenance
  • possibility of introducing elements of transpromo (italian version)


The costs of the printing modules added to the consumables of the needle/impact printers are, in general, higher than the costs of the white A4 paper bought in bulk plus the cost of the toner. After the amortization period of the purchase cost of the laser printers and the software product to manage the graphic printing, the savings start (example).

Saving is the simplest advantage for a company that can be identified among those shown above. But, in reality, there are other profound advantages derived from the use of a single type of paper that reduces the waste of human time in the company related to paper changes, the loading of the paper in the printers, the purchasing of more modules from the printer, the warehouse management of the various modules and other activities.


The improvement in quality is also significant, because this type of application introduces flexibility to the printing process and allows for printing “more data” on the sheet with higher sharpness and quality than those allowed by the typographical module/impact printer combination. In fact it is usual, after the migration from typographic module to laser printing, to modify the prints to use smaller but equally readable fonts, with increase in the volume of printable characters, and reduced print interline, increasing the number of lines for each printed sheet.

Towards the end of the 90s, this kind of application expanded towards the generation of PDF files starting from the printing accompanied by graphics that were sent to the laser printer.

In this way it becomes easy to send documents to bodies (customers/ suppliers) outside the company without resorting to the post office. Once written in PDF it is, in fact, simple to publish them on the internet or send them as email attachments. In this context, the term “multichannel” is used to identify the shipment according to various channels: traditional mail, postalizer, e-mail and fax.

The latest frontier of this type of application, which has existed for many years but is only now spreading, is the integration of these electronic documents, originally produced by the AS/400 system, with PC-based document management products. These provide retrieval, document workflow, electronic signature, and replacement storage.

To make these applications possible on documents printed by AS/400, the application “quality prints” extracts the document itself but also the search keys defined for that document (typically: document issue date, document number, customer/supplier code, customer/supplier name, etc.) to the PC environment.

Validoc realizes all the functions exposed in this “short story”. From the savings of typography to the efficiencies of quality printing, from the production of PDFs to multi-channel until the extraction of search keys for the document.

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