Ready for Growth
The wide format technical document segment is poised for a boost.
By Cassandra Carnes
As the U.S. economy strives to rebuild, government stimulus packages aim to resurrect struggling industries by increasing and creating work across the board. Architecture, engineering, and construction (AEC) are naturally affected, as companies are commissioned with new building projects. Next-generation support from wide format technical document equipment for these fields, as well as the computer aided design (CAD) and geographic information systems (GIS) industries should expect to feel the relief.
AEC, CAD, and GIS professionals require sophisticated software and wide format printers to bring technical plans and designs to life—and to the physical work site. The production of these technical documents is an area that was admittedly hit hard by the economic downturn. However, the horizon looks optimistic. "I think we’re all looking forward to the bright light at the end of the tunnel," says Scott Frame, VP, Global Business Group, Xerox Corporation. "We’re looking forward to a flow through of stimulus dollars that will help bring plans to fruition, and hopefully see all of the ‘shovel-ready’ projects begin to take hold."
Print, scan, and workflow technologies are categorized in three separate segments in an overall technical document industry—high-end production, mid range, and low-end or decentralized environments. In addition to the stalwart faster and cheaper enhancements, vendors on all ends are introducing new trends—such as multifunction capabilities to support both hardcopy and electronic channels; increased color for superior complexity; and enhanced workflow capabilities to effectively manage and archive new and existing documents—to encourage new placements.
"We have no doubt the industry is poised to grow steadily from 2010 on," says Guayente Sanmartin, world wide marketing director, Graphic Solutions Business, Hewlett-Packard (HP). "Our projections are based on economic indicators that are telling us we should see a steady double-digit growth from 2010 until 2013."
Scan, Print, and Multitask
Like most applications, technical document digitization is vital to a company’s ability to share, collaborate, and reproduce mission-critical documents. Therefore, capture capabilities are significant to an organization’s ability to fully support oversized technical documents. Stand-alone scanning solutions are available from a number of vendors, including Böwe Bell + Howell’s scanning division—recently purchased by Kodak, Colortrac, Contex, Graphtec, HP, KIP, Océ, Ricoh, Widecom, and Xerox.
Speaking to the widespread adoption and necessity of wide format capabilities, Jan Napolitano, marketing manager, Paradigm Imaging Group, Inc., says, "with the availability of new, economical, integrated scan, print, copy systems, large format is now a viable solution for almost every office environment." Paradigm distributes large format scanners, printers, and multifunction devices to dealer networks targeting AEC, CAD, and GIS as well as reprographics and traditional small format copy segments transitioning to wide format.
Multifunction solutions are also gaining momentum. "With the cost of this technology coming down, we see large format, high-speed inkjet multifunction product (MFP) devices start to really expand the low end of the AEC and GIS markets," says Michael McMillen, regional sales manager, Contex. He notes that until recently, the cost of these devices slowed adoption.
Contex offers more than 20 scanner models dedicated to large format for technical line documents serving AEC, CAD, and GIS markets up to high-end color capture suitable for fine art reproduction.
A business process that incorporates the digitization of all documents is key to increased efficiencies and a productive, collaborative environment. However, the archival and digital storage of old—and often decaying documents—is also important. "In the technical document segment, old or well-used and damaged documents are not uncommon," says Peter De Winter Brown, group sales and marketing director, Colortrac ltd. He notes that users need to be sure their scanning equipment doesn’t cause physical damage to originals, while still producing a high-quality image. Colortrac scanners focus on providing high-quality performance with superior paper handling transport systems.
A variety of vendors developing stand-alone printers, as well as multifunction products to meet the needs of AEC, CAD, and GIS applications. Canon, HP, Océ, and Xerox all offer an extensive selection of large format printers that serve technical document professionals, providing solutions that differentiate on levels of cost, speed, and widths to serve the high-, mid-, and low-range of users in these industries.
Canon U.S.A., Inc. offers 19 imagePROGRAF printers in its family. Those are divided into three separate lines to serve different industries, including the photo and fine arts, production, and technical documents and general use. The technical document and general use line of printers feature a unique five-color dye/pigment inkset developed for general office use and the AEC, CAD, and GIS segments. The line includes 11 printers that range from 17 to 44 inches and make up approximately 50 percent of the company’s large format businesses.
The Epson Stylus Pro 3880 and 4880 feature 17-inch print widths, while the 7880 and 9880 offer 24- and 44-inch widths, respectively. These devices feature Epson’s UltraChrome K3 with vivid magenta inkjet. The devices utilize MicroPiezo AMC printheads, which are designed to produce a higher level of droplet accuracy.
Approximately 50 percent of HP’s large format business is dedicated to the AEC, CAD, and GIS segment. Most of the HP Designjet product line is dedicated to the AEC, CAD, and GIS segment. The HP Designjet portfolio includes products targeted to small studios, such as the HP Designjet 110plus, HP Designjet 510 and HP Designjet T620, and powerful products targeted to medium- and large-sized studios and enterprises, such as the HP Designjet T1200, HP Designjet 4020 and HP Designjet 4520. In addition, the portfolio for AEC, CAD, and GIS is completed by the HP Designjet Z6100, which delivers exceptional image quality and lasting print durability at high print speeds, which are important attributes for companies that need to print maps used in the field.
KIP offers several print and copy solutions that are well suited to technical document reproduction. The KIP 3100 is a digital copy, print, and scan system that offers speeds of up to six D, A1 size sheets per minute as well as the option for one or two media rolls. The KIP 5000 series is a range of digital imaging systems designed to provide a combination of productivity and image quality. The 5000 series prints eight D, A1 size sheets per minute at 600x600 dpi. The KIP 7000/7200 series systems are print, copy, and scan solutions that offer 13 D, A1 size sheets per minute at 600x600 dpi. Each KIP solution provides an integrated touch screen display for advanced system management. KIP software and application drivers are also included.
Océ holds a leading position in wide format B&W printers for technical applications as well as a strong position in color printers for these applications with a steadily growing market share. The latest generation of Océ’s wide format color printing technology is found in the ColorWave 600 printer, which uses a fundamentally new solid toner print technology called CrystalPoint.
The production of technical documents is a traditional mainstay component of Xerox’s wide format business. For the high-end, production level environments, Xerox recommends its 721, a product that runs 22 D-sized images per minute. For the mid-range, the Xerox 6279 is a multifunction device capable of 7 or 9 D-sized images per minute. The Xerox 6204 is well suited for the low-end or decentralized placements and is capable of printing four or five D-sized images per minute. "Xerox has placed thousands of these in our marketplace—not just in North America, but more broadly speaking in all Xerox-served markets. It’s really set the gold standard in the low end," says Frame.
It is important to stress the impact of mobility to technical document professionals. In addition, document management and archival systems are not necessarily only for regulation, but also for internal backups. The need of secure digital backups are apparent after natural disasters and other national threats hinder the functionality of everyday business when essential files are not accessible.
HP cites the advent of a fully digital generation as a main source changing the way the Design & Make segments work and communicate design. "Call it the GenY or the Creative Class," notes Sanmartin. "Many of our current and future customers are part of this group and catering to them means putting a lot of focus on the overall experience of products and solutions." Meeting the needs of a segment that is mobile, multidisciplinary, and collaborative means offering networking capabilities powered by the Internet and mobile technology. "Smaller teams will be able to carry out large projects, mixing experts from different fields," Sanmartin explains.
Xerox also notes the impact of a mobile-enabled generation. The company expects to see customers continue to print, but also a migration to screen view capabilities and electronic submission. "We see more bits flying around in the ether, but that does not worry us too much," says Frame. "It’s sort of aligned to the idea that email means that print is going to die. We haven’t seen that happen, right? And at the end of the day, there are more documents out there and a percentage of those get printed and keep the print space strong. We’ll continue to see workflows related to electronic view sharing and submission," he says.
As a result of this movement to digital, the AEC, CAD, and GIS markets can expect a shift towards decentralized printing. "As the technology for digitizing and distributing information in digital form has evolved, the shift from a print-and-distribute to a distribute-and-print model has rapidly progressed," says Penny Holland, director, product development, Wide Format Printing Systems division, Océ North America.
"Sub contractors who were once given drawings for bids are now given a compact disc and they either have to pay to have the plans printed, or they may find it more efficient to purchase their first large format printer," says Richard Reamer, senior manager, product marketing Canon U.S.A., Inc.
He notes that color also stands out as a growing trend throughout print as an industry, and does not exclude the production of technical documents. Reamer anticipates growth for aqueous-based inkjet printers. He says a few different trends lead to this growth, "such as the movement toward color with growth of applications such as 3D imaging."
"Color clarifies complex information," explains Holland. With the transition from 2D to 3D CAD, the incorporation of GIS data or when implementing a business information modeling system, drawings become more complex. Color in technical documents makes the data easier to understand, facilitates communication among all team members, and can ultimately reduce project errors and rework," she adds.
The growth in complexity is driven by a lot of factors, as is the need to be able to reproduce documents that reflect these complexities, such as the different dimensions and associated data. Frame explains that color becomes increasingly important for customers to achieve improved clarity and enhance capabilities surrounding review and collaboration.
Addressing the Pain Points
Point of need printing requires fast, reliable printers that meet the low-volume needs of multiple users. Additionally, the cosmetic benefits of complex files achieved with color come with large file sizes that need to be processed quickly and efficiently.
"Walk-up users must be able to quickly get what they need, which requires an intuitive operation, not one where the function the user needs is buried several screen layers deep on the control panel," says Holland. She explains that the move to decentralized printing requires a durable printer that can fit into small spaces, such as a construction trailer, where size, noise, heat, and ozone emissions are important considerations.
In terms of color, Holland notes that larger file sizes create unacceptable workflow bottlenecks in industries driven by swift deadlines. "An inability to know where your print job is in the queue can lead to sending the file to the printer more than once. And users often have to choose between quality of the image and slow print times," she says. Holland notes that Océ’s solutions are designed to address these issues.
Reamer says the Epson is currently developing large format solutions that will handle larger size files, such as allowing for the processing of files. He notes that one way to alleviate bottlenecks is to allow the file processing at the client workstations so they are not occupying the printer.
Colortrac’s De Winter Brown sees productivity as a major pain point within the AEC, CAD, and GIS print, scan, and workflow. "Productivity is partially about scan speed, but also the overall scanning operation," he says. This includes pre-scan time, preview and clean up time, as well as the ability to use the file immediately in terms of cleanliness and clarity.
HP notes that its customers looking for devices that print fast and well, but Sanmartin explains that the real bottlenecks happen before and after printing. "It’s not about how fast you can get the right print done, it’s about how fast you get your job done," she says.
Sanmartin adds that the HP research and design team is especially focused on solutions for driving content from any type of fixed or mobile device—as well as the Internet—seamlessly. "For example, the HP Instant Printing application is a great tool to print PDF, DWF, HPGL2, and MS Office files to the Designjet with just a right click from Microsoft Outlook or Windows Explorer, and our users can download it for free."
HP is also working on easing post-printing tasks. HP Instant Printing allows the collation of batch drawings, reducing the need for manual operations. Xerox takes a similar approach, bundling its solutions with partners to meet finishing requirements such as stacking and folding.
Digital print has a place in nearly every type of work environment. The addition of wide format capabilities are often a surefire way to add value to any business. Technical documents applications are mission-critical to the everyday functionality of many industries.
New trends respond to the complexity requirements of technical documents. The falling costs of color, and the importance of mobility are resounding reasons for organizations to upgrade or bring solutions in-house for the first time. For more on wide format technologies addressing the needs of AEC, CAD, and GIS, log on to www.dpsmagazine.com and search keywords "technical documents." dps
Jan2010, DPS Magazine