By Lisa Guerriero
Architecture, engineering, and construction (AEC) and geographical information systems (GIS) are changing fields. As they rely increasingly on computer-aided design (CAD), hardware tools supporting the industry adjust to meet new demands.
Developments like 3D renderings require impeccable color imaging, which vendors strive to deliver while matching monochrome’s low cost. Advanced ink sets now offer water and smudge resistance and durability. Multifunction capabilities proliferate, the better to serve AEC, GIS, and other CAD firms where printing rarely happens within professional print rooms.
Technology continues to evolve with high-performance software enabling Web-based connectivity, freeing architects and designers worldwide to collaborate on projects. Ink, media, and speed continually improve amongst the players.
Here, DPS examines these trends and how they influence the technical print market, as well as products available for this segment of large format printing.
The AEC and GIS markets have options for cost-effective color printing, inks that withstand time and wear, and connectivity through multifunction products (MFPs).
Technical printing is traditionally done on monochrome LED devices, which offer low cost and speed. Color printing, however, offers clarity to designs and helps to reduce errors. In addition, AEC trends—like the prevalence of 3D renderings—add to the importance of color. Vendors now offer color devices that factor in the importance of efficient production.
“They are designing in color and the designs are much more complex. By keeping the details and documentation in color, they have the ability to transfer this knowledge from their screens to the field,” explains Jamie Sirois, Designjet technical production segment manager, Americas, Hewlett-Packard (HP).
Wide format vendors respond accordingly, developing technical printers that offer high resolutions and lower cost color production. “From a printing perspective we see that high-speed, high-resolution single-pass printing is enabling full-color prints to be produced at costs formerly only achieved with monochrome printers,” observes Erik Norman, president, RTI Digital Ltd.
Aqueous, dye-based inks have long been the standard for technical printers; practical because of the cost. However, some vendors are developing pigment-based inks for this segment. The goal is delivering color inks that are fade resistant and durable, yet comparable to the price of dye-based inks.
HP’s Designjet T-Series utilizes dye ink to deliver color and quality. “Each of these devices utilize the HP Original dye-based inks that provide an economical cost per square foot for CAD drawings while ensuring line accuracy and high-quality prints every time,” notes Sirois. However, some models in the T-Series now feature pigment ink for matte black. This gives users the best of both worlds, she explains.
In addition, HP introduced PageWide Technology last June. The printheads utilize thermal inkjet technology, which allows for four-color, pigment-based inks. Sirois says the result is fast, large format printing with an affordable cost of ownership, and AEC and GIS professionals are among the target audience. “The prints are water and smudge resistant and long-lasting. With a 40-inch print bar, all technical and offset print sizes are covered on a variety of readily available medias,” she explains.
Epson’s SureColor T-Series features PrecisionCore printheads, powered by a microchip and offering small drop sizes for crisp output. The printheads utilize UltraChrome XD pigment-based inks. Epson designed the color inks for archival photo-quality prints suitable for both indoor and short-term outdoor use.
“All other inkjet printers in the technical market use dye-based inks for colors that are susceptible to rapid fading and bleeding if used outside. The Epson UltraChrome ink cartridges are available in three sizes—up to 700 milliliter capacities for each color—lowering printing costs,” says Timothy Check, product manager, Professional Imaging, Epson America, Inc.
Other changes to AEC and GIS workflows influence the market. Printing is done by architects and engineers rather than print professionals. This puts the focus on user friendliness. It also means that many users prefer to invest in the convenience of an MFP. “Users are demanding more capability from their investments, driving a plethora of new capabilities—scanning, copying, and collaborative sharing—while reducing the total cost of ownership,” observes Check.
HP also finds document sharing important for this segment, especially since AEC professionals are often on the go. The company offers HP Designjet ePrint & Share, a free cloud-based service that allows end users to remotely print and share documents, which are accessible from smartphones, tablets, and desktop computers, and are printable on any Web-connected HP Designjet printer.
This level of collaboration is a selling point for MFPs. “Imagine a foreman in the field that needs to send a revision back to the office for final documentation. With scan to email, he can have the red-line drawing in the hands of the designer in just a few moments. And utilizing a scan template, it will only take him a few steps to do it,” explains Sirois.
“I believe Web-based connectivity is huge in all businesses today, and is used within the technical document space as a conduit for real-time collaboration application between projects teams,” says Bob Honn, director, marketing services, Canon Solutions America. “As the construction process is complex, changes occur often and collaboration applications make it possible to do many changes in real time across a variety of geographic locations,” he adds.
For users that require mobile access to print large format documents, Honn points to Canon Solutions America’s Océ Publisher Mobile software. This is a free application that enables users to print from an Océ system using an Apple iPad mobile digital device.
Canon Solutions America offers a range of products suited to the AEC/GIS/CAD segments. Honn says key products include the PlotWave monochrome devices and the ColorWave series color devices, including the Océ PlotWave 340/360 systems, Océ PlotWave 500 System, Océ PlotWave 750 system, Océ ColorWave 500 System, and the ColorWave 900.
“Océ’s market differentiation has always and continues to be based on three areas of productivity,” says Honn. He outlines them as preprocessing, processing, and post processing.
Preprocessing involves how quickly and efficiently a job can be sent to a print device, processing is how fast it can be processed and output by the printer, and post processing is how efficiently the job is output, including smooth flat stacking and smear resistance of documents across an array of materials.
“In addition, the robust design and construction of our printers make them a favorite choice of many technical document professionals,” says Honn. “And lastly, our continued commitment to the large format printing space as demonstrated by new product launches and extensions, including the most recent Océ ColorWave 500 and ColorWave 900 systems,” he adds.
Epson designed the SureColor T-Series of technical graphics printers to blend into an office environment. The devices are compatible with a variety of media, ranging from plain paper to photographic material, including rigid 1.5 mm thick poster board for presentation displays. The series supports optional modules, including a 36-inch color multifunction scanner, an Adobe Postscript engine, and an internal print server. A firm can add these options later if they need more features over time.
The Epson T-Series offers presentation-quality color prints at speeds up to two D-size prints per minute. Proprietary printheads provide line and text quality at high print speeds. “Unlike thermal printhead technology that degrades over time and requires periodic replacement, the Epson PrecisionCore printheads are designed to last for the life of the system for higher reliability and lower costs,” explains Check.
HP features an extensive portfolio for technical printing, ranging from the 24-inch Designjet T120 for wireless wide format printing to the 42-inch Designjet T7200, which produces four D-size prints per minute and offers the option of pigment or dye inks. HP also has two MFP devices, the Designjet T2500 eMultifunction printer and Designjet T3500 Production eMFP, which offer scanning and copying capabilities as well as printing.
The Designjet T-Series line comes in varying sizes, with features such as a color touch-screen front panel. Several models feature an Adobe-certified PostScript upgrade, which allows the user to manage complex PDFs. The Postscript drivers “allow for advance color management and enhanced file management options,” adds Sirois.
This Spring, HP introduced a new portfolio of HP PageWide XL Printers, designed to enable reprographic houses, print service providers, CRDs, and print corners to produce CAD drawings and will open new business opportunities with GIS maps, point of sale applications, and posters. The portfolio includes the HP PageWide XL 8000 Printer, HP PageWide XL 5000 Printer and MFP, HP PageWide XL 4500 Printer and MFP, and the HP PageWide XL 4000 Printer and MFP.
RTI Digital offers two roll-fed Vortex 4200 and four roll-fed Vortex 4204 printers, powered by Memjet printhead technology. The company designed the printers for high-volume applications as well as nuanced output; it delivers 7,000 square feet per hour at 1,600 dpi. It utilizes dye-based inks and offers inline folding capability and stacking for cutsheet requirements.
The company equipped the Vortex 4200 line with workflow solutions from Caldera and T5 Solutions, aimed at the AEC and GIS markets. For optimal color management Norman recommends Caldera’s GrandRIP+, which is optimized for the Vortex 4200. “Vortex 4200 is differentiated from the competition by its intuitive and user-friendly Liberty operating software, as well as its remote diagnostic reporting capability, accessible through our VisionCenter,” says Norman.
The AEC and GIS fields are more sophisticated than ever with the influence of advanced CAD software, 3D rendering, and other developments. New tools and technologies are cropping up to meet the various needs of these professionals.
Color printing options, specialty inks, MFPs, and connectivity keep technical printing current to those it serves. These solutions help AEC and GIS professionals ensure profit and success. dps