By Olivia Cahoon
Technical professionals, including architects and designers, rely on wide format products specifically configured with their needs in mind. These devices, also known as technical printers, feature wide format output and scanning, color, and advanced workflow options that support easy collaboration—all in one device.
Technical professionals look for mobile solutions and distributed print environments as business needs evolve. As the cost of color declines, it is a coveted option for reducing costly errors with more distinguished prints.
In addition to quality and low-cost output, scanning functions are increasingly important to technical environments, including architects, engineers, and construction (AEC), geographic information systems (GIS), and computer-aided drawing (CAD) industries. Digitization enables collaboration, remote access, and electronic backup and storage.
When architects and engineers markup blueprints or drawings, having them digitally available is a time saver. Prior to scanning capabilities, Matt Kochanowski, product manager, professional imaging, Epson America, points out that drafts and markups were created on documents rolled into shipping tubes. “Users now instantly scan and share documents with wide format scanners,” he says.
John Fulena, VP, commercial and industrial printing group, Ricoh USA, says scanning capabilities have drastically improved in recent years. He comments that only recently have scanning capabilities reached the size, quality, and price requirements firms need to capture specialized documents reliably, accurately, efficiently, and affordably. “In fact, in some cases these advanced scanning capabilities are included in wide format multifunctional products (MFPs) to make document sharing, storing, and printing simpler than ever,” shares Fulena.
These devices also simplify workflow by reducing the need for dedicated wide format printers at various locations. Kochanowski explains that anyone with access to an internal network can send files from commonly used applications like Adobe Acrobat and AutoCAD.
In addition to advanced scanning capabilities, the look and feel of technical printers is a noteworthy characteristic. Technical printers are designed to provide a smooth integration for technical applications in office environments, mimicking user interaction for printing, copying, scanning, and maintenance of office MFPs.
“If the device is going to sit amongst the employees, rather than in a CRD, it must be quiet, have low energy, and wiring requirements, and not give off excess heat or other emissions,” comments Bob Honn, senior director marketing support, Canon Solutions America.
As previously noted, technical printer manufacturers primarily target professionals in select industries such as AEC, CAD, and GIS. Each market seeks specific functions for a more efficient production.
Demand for color output with the productivity commonly associated with B&W systems has increased. In the past, compromises existed in mechanical print speed, processing speed, dry time, and media handling compared to monochrome large format systems were a reality.
“Research finds that color in large format technical documents is primarily used for presentation-quality sales and marketing applications, namely to ease interpretation and comprehension for faster decision making,” says Honn.
To convey detailed designs, architects use color for presentation while engineers rely on it to clarify complex drawings to avoid mistakes during production. In the GIS market, Honn says more maps are now produced in color to facilitate interpretation.
Color is also used in electronic drawings for chips and circuit boards to create fine lines and small elements. Color aids in material retention as color-coded drawings in the educational and training sector. “The use of color is important in industrial designs to make products appear more realistic and assist with product evaluation,” says Honn.
Advanced color devices allow a printer’s use to be extended beyond simple technical drawings to a wider range of graphics applications. This is due to high print quality and the ability to use a variety of media types. “It becomes easy to load multiple roles of media, and of different sizes, simultaneously for departments in the organization for a variety of projects,” says Honn.
Demand for electronic formatted documents that enable easy accessibility and storage is found across a range of industries. Digitization is important for easy sharing and in the event that stored documents are destroyed without backups.
“In CAD, for instance, you’re seeing an industry wide move—albeit a somewhat slow one—toward a PDF workflow, so making sure all relevant documents are in an electronic format is important,” points out Fulena.
In the AEC space, companies store years of hard copy drawings that require specialized bulk storage. Fulena believes AEC digitization is a huge positive because the industry relies on communication and collaboration among disparate workers. “With high-resolution digitized plans, the electrician or plumber in the field doesn’t have to lug around huge paper plans—they just have to pull out their smartphones and consult the plans there.”
The cloud also plays a role. Over the past few years, cloud computing affected engineered printing and scanning systems across industries. According to Honn, it’s important that this function be platform agnostic and not tied exclusively to any single vendor for interchangeable usage.
Each of these characteristics is underlined by the demand for ease of use. “Having an easy-to-use interface and simple maintenance makes the printing experience much less complex,” comments Kochanowski.
Fulena agrees and sees a big push for ease of use in every industry. “Just because their prints have extremely specific requirements doesn’t mean people are willing to—nor should they have to—struggle at the device,” he adds.
On the Market
Many vendors support solutions for technical professionals.
Canon Solutions America
Canon Solution America’s technical printing solutions include the Océ ColorWave 500, Océ PlotWave 345/365, and 450/550 systems. Released in 2010, these devices print, copy, and scan wide format technical documents.
The Océ devices are intended for AEC, CAD, GIS, and manufacturing markets. Honn says the Océ PlotWave and ColorWave systems are designed for office environments and can plug into a standard electrical outlet with no additional lines to pull. “They are completely quiet and draw no more energy than a light bulb when in standby mode,” says Honn.
Océ ColorWave 500 units serve multiple users by printing engineering documents, renderings, sales presentations, organizational and marketing posters, and banners with the same system. Featuring a resolution of 600 dpi, the Océ ColorWave 500 has a maximum roll width of 42 inches. It reaches up to printing speeds of 225 D size prints per hour and handles flexible media like bond, film, waterfast Tyvek, polypropylene, and recycled paper.
The Océ PlotWave and ColorWave product family integrates into any WebDAV compliant cloud, public or private, for users to access documents as needed.
The Epson SureColor T-Series is available in single- and dual-roll models. Released in July 2014, the series features Epson PrecisionCore TFP printheads and Epson UltraChrome XD pigment ink. UltraChrome XD inks are designed for durability against extreme water, smudge, fade, and ozone resistance.
Kochanowski says the SureColor T-Series provides technical, corporate, and marketing professionals with a combination of precision, performance, and brilliance. Its targeted markets include architectural, engineering, education, and corporate graphics professionals.
The SureColor T7270D features a maximum width of 44 inches in dual roll at $6,995. It is capable of precise technical drawings, graphics posters, and retail signage at speeds up to 780 square feet per hour. It copies color D-size in less than 40 seconds and color scan speeds up to 12 inches per second.
“The SureColor T-Series printers deliver line accuracy with resolutions up to 2,880×1,440 dpi at fast speeds—producing a presentation quality D-size plot in as little as 25 seconds,” explains Kochanowski.
The SureColor T-Series 36- and 44-inch printers offer an optional multifunctional module for PC-free full-color copy and scan capabilities up to 36 inches wide.
The KIP 940 is a color and B&W high-production print system for all types of wide format printing tasks from maps to photo enlargements.
The KIP 940 features print-in-one-pass and a production speed for wide format printing for monochrome and color prints between 325 and 390 meters per hour. It handles approved standard and special media for indoor and outdoor usage.
The device supports three online roll decks and a manual bypass sheet-fed tray. Its LED system has 600×2,400 dpi resolution output. A CMYK dry toner system produces UV- and water-resistant output.
All the device’s system functions are performed through a 12-inch display with multi-touch color controls. The auto stacker configuration stacks up to 500 sheets with paper sizes up to 914 millimeter width.
HP’s DesignJet T2530 Multifunction Printer series uses six original HP inks including gray and photo black for detailed color. Its integrated print, scan, copy, and built-in output stacking tray is designed for workgroups and professional-quality CAD and GIS applications.
The DesignJet T2530 has a maximum width of 36 inches and prints D/A1 prints in 21 seconds. It’s designed for productivity with an integrated 50-page output stacking tray to deliver flat, collated printers.
The HP DesignJet T2530 produces resolution up to 2,400 dpi and suggests Adobe PostScript for architectural prints. The device features the HP AiO Printer Remote and allows mobile device or USB drive printing with HP Mobile Printing.
Ricoh offers the RICOH MP CW2201SP, an all-in-one, full-color B&W multifunctional printer with color, copy, print, and scan capabilities. The device features a clamshell configuration for easy front access to paper rolls and ink cartridges. It is intended for production speeds up to 5,000 square feet per month.
The CW2201SP handles roll paper up to 36 inches wide and takes less than 40 seconds to warm up. Its dual printheads and pigment-based ink technology is intended for full-color results with less smudge.
To improve the user experience, the CW2201SP features a Smart Operation Panel with a streamlined user interface. “It lets users have specific job settings, so when users frequently print documents that have the same kinds of complexities it becomes a matter of a few simple taps instead of carefully calibrating each time,” says Fulena.
The control panel includes an optional NFC card reader with access to up to 3,000 files stored on the Document Server. The display tilts freely from zero to 55 degrees.
The CW2201SP targets CAD and AEC markets and is priced at $15,919 MSRP. It was released in August 2016.
Powered by Memjet technology, Rigoli offers the Vortex 4200 wide format printer. The device targets several print applications, including CAD, AEC, GIS, and point of sale graphics with a combination of speed and quality.
The Vortex 4200 features five printheads for single-pass, wide format printing. It offers an effective print speed of 500 BI sheets per hour and a print resolution of 1,600 dpi.
Printed output still plays a major role in the technical marketplace. Fulena believes annotation and collaboration on technical documents is often simpler and more intuitive on paper. “You can see users printing out plans, making plastic molds, and then holding the mold up to the paper plans to make sure the sizes match up,” he adds. For these applications, reliable high quality to scale print is crucial.
With in-house printing capabilities, professionals print instantly without leaving the building for wide format prints. “Information is consistently changing and having to run out to a copy shop to get prints done is too cumbersome for any business,” says Kochanowski.
Technical printing benefits from wide format printers with scanning capabilities, color output, and the latest workflow for a complete digital device. AEC, CAD, and GIS markets seek these devices for accurate designs, efficiency, necessary width, and ease of use.
July2017, DPS Magazine