By Cassandra Balentine
Architecture, engineering, and construction (AEC) and geographical information service (GIS) professionals look to wide format printers to produce effective output that supports their business. The latest technologies are particularly helpful to this segment. With scanning functionality and the proliferation of mobile devices, remote workers reduce print costs and improve efficiency. On the print front, the addition of affordable color output is an imperative advancement.
Bob Honn, director, product marketing, Canon Solutions America, Inc. (CSA), suggests that emerging trends include collaborative workflows—both via mobile printing and cloud-based sharing applications, increased measures to safeguard sensitive data with functionality such as electronic data shredding and removable hard drives, and the continued growth of color inkjet print devices.
The future of technical documents is a heavy mix of the latest in electronic and print technologies. “While electronic distribution of documents in the AEC industry has increased over the last few years with the addition of online plan rooms, tablets in the construction field, and access to drawings in the cloud, giving users choices to view plans via different mediums, AEC professionals still have a need to print large format documents during the design phase, which requires several layers of reviews,” suggests Jamie Sirois, Americas Designjet technical production segment manager, Hewlett-Packard (HP).
So how important is color to this space? “In a word, extremely,” says Honn. “Not only is the availability of color devices much more prevalent, but the inherent value that color brings to the large format document process exceeds that provided by B&W documentation,” he adds.
Tim Check, product manager, Professional Imaging, Epson America, Inc., expects to see growth in GIS/AEC and computer aided design (CAD) market segments. “In the technical/AEC markets specifically, users have increased the use of color within their documents. Color inkjet printing technology has evolved, becoming faster, more reliable, easier to use, and more cost effective. With companies looking to be more efficient, purchasing a new color inkjet can save significant time and money compared to outsourcing or using older technology,” he says.
Sirois admits that for the past 30 years monochrome has been the AEC/CAD industry standard due to the low cost per print and speed. However, she says wide format technical devices are now available at the same cost per print for CAD color and CAD monochrome drawings, and reports of lower total cost of ownership with select color production devices versus comparable LED monochrome units enable a switch from monochrome to color at a higher rate.
Common benefits of large format color technical documents include the reduction of contractor estimation contingency, which Honn explains is the percentage a contractor adds to bids to cover unforeseen costs.
Check adds that the use of color in technical documents is increasingly important as a means to improve clarity when reading the document and to highlight areas of importance. Breakthroughs in ink chemistry, as with Epson’s UltraChrome XD ink, ensure that the information printed in color will be archival and resistant to water and fading for consistent appearance over time.
Color also helps reduce change orders and requests for information (RFI). “An RFI is a method of gathering information to make a decision on what steps to take next. This drives up operating costs for all stakeholders responsible for managing this process.”
CSA’s research shows that every dollar invested in color large format printing yields up to $4 in project savings, according to Honn.
Color adds value by providing users with a better understanding of information, points out Bill Milde, wide format product manager, Ricoh Americas. “With this better understanding comes better retention, reduced search time, and minimal errors,” he explains.
Kevin Howes, director, wide format solutions, Americas, Reprographic Technology (RTI), adds that the use of color has become more globally acceptable, especially in 3D rendering and in 2D drawings in order to highlight any variations or multiple layered work.
Technical Printing Made Easy
In addition to color, another major trend is the shift to a distributive and collaborative environment. Providers of output devices for the technical print space are aware of the pain points.
Honn says that GIS operators spend countless hours manipulating layers of imagery in order to produce intelligent maps that enable proactive decision making. When it comes to printing these images, GIS operators often find themselves limited with existing large format color printers.
He also notes that AEC professionals know the value of their large format technical document information so they rely on solutions that provide quality and accurately printed documentation.
In addition, much of the work they perform is client/fee-based, so they need the ability to track and bill clients for printing and copying performed for a project.
Several vendors offer products dedicated to service this space. Here, we provide highlights of some of the latest technical printing solutions.
CSA provides large format hardware dedicated to the GIS/AEC and CAD segments. Product distribution to these market segments is through either the company’s direct sales force or the dealer sales channel.
The primary products offered to these market segments include the Océ PlotWave 340/360, Océ PlotWave 750, Océ PlotWave 900, Océ ColorWave 300, Océ ColorWave 650, and Océ ColorWave 900.
Key target markets for the CSA Large Format Division include AEC—general and sub contractors, reprographics, manufacturing, utilities, GIS, transportation, government, education, as well as healthcare.
Epson offers a complete line of printers—the Epson SureColor T-Series, which were first introduced in late 2012—or use within the GIS/AEC/CAD market segments. The T-Series line is comprised of three different width printers designed to deliver accurate line quality and precision detail at high print speeds, the 24-inch SureColor 3270, the 36-inch SureColor T5270 and dual roll T5270D, and the 44-inch SureColor T7270 and dual roll T7270D.
A high-speed multifunction scanner module is available for the 36- and 44-inch models to add copy, scan, and share capabilities. Additionally, all models can be upgraded with a high-performance Adobe Postscript 3 hardware engine for seamless integration into workflows.
The SureColor T-Series color plotters are designed to meet the specific requirements of today’s engineering and scientific professionals, offering architects, engineers, and GIS professionals an unprecedented combination of precision, performance, and value. In addition, the ease-of-use, fast print speeds, and Epson UltraChrome XD pigment ink provide brilliant, crisp output on virtually any media type, says Check, making them well suited for use within the education and corporate graphic markets for indoor sign creation.
For more than 30 years, HP has focused on providing innovative technology to the GIS/AEC/CAD professionals of the world. According to HP, since 1991, HP Designjet has been the market leader in AEC large format printing. HP estimates that 80 percent of large format prints are produced with HP Designjet printers, based on HP analysis of internal and market data.
The company offers a full line of large format color printers for this space. In its technical portfolio it provides options from the Designjet T120 ePrinter, which is developed for the single-person and small-sized firm; to the HP Designjet T2500 eMFP with scanning capabilities and HP Designjet ePrint & Share access; and the HP Designjet T7100 Printer, which handles unattended printing for large workgroups. For clients that require longer lasting prints and more color management, HP offers its graphics series.
GIS customers enjoy the HP Designjet Z6200 Photo Printer for its speed and maximum width of 60 inches, but the company also offers solutions that produce the finest print quality in just 24 inches.
Ricoh’s Wide Format product line serves the GIS/AEC/CAD segment. Solutions include the Ricoh Aficio MP W5100en/W7140en, Aficio MP W3601, MP CW2200SP, as well as RICOH Pro L4130/L4160.
The company targets AEC, manufacturing, utilities, federal, state, local, education, corporate, print for pay, DOT, garment, and retail.
RTI offers the Vortex 4200. The 42-inch printer is powered by Memjet technology and delivers up to 12 images per second at 1,600 dpi. Howes notes that this speed provides up to 466 E-sized prints per hour.
The Vortex targets point of sale, GIS, and other CAD/AEC applications.
A shift from high-volume monochrome printing to a de-centralized print department is underway, which Epson’s Check predicts will lead to lower volume printing that takes place locally, based on where users are.
Much of this shift is due to the reliance on electronic documents for some aspects of a project lifecycle. “It is no secret that there are more tablets and smartphones in use in the AEC industry, allowing for a more mobile and connected workforce. With this comes an increased need to have access to the CAD files wherever the professional may be located,” says HP’s Sirois.
One example is the construction side. “Construction project contractors rarely provide a printed set of drawings to subcontractors, instead the drawing sets are provided electronically. The subcontractors only need to print the specific pages of the drawing set that are relative to their work, and as such, large format color inkjet printers are very cost effective to print the drawings quickly,” says Check.
Print providers understand this need and deliver features that support a collaborative environment. For example, HP provides free access to HP Designjet ePrint & Share that includes 5GB of storage. By utilizing Designjet ePrinters, end users access files for remote printing and sharing.
To ensure success and profitability, it is important that the AEC/GIS embrace the latest trends in document scanning and output, as well as mobile technologies.
CSA’s devices are available with scanners, and depending on the device, it is either attached—to provide a compact footprint, or standalone. Honn says the majority of devices sold today opt to include the scanner. “The scanner line we offer today is almost completely color, given how documents are normally marked up in color and the increased demand for color printing.”
The new Epson SureColor T-Series printers feature an optional Multifunction Scanning module, available for the 36- and 44-inch models. “This module enhances the printers features with best-in-class color scan speeds up to six inches per second, and D-sized color copy speeds under 40 seconds,” explains Check.
This allows the users to seamlessly collaborate with scanned images shared to network file servers, shared via email, and even sent files directly to remote SureColor T-Series Multifunction systems for printing.
HP also offers scan functions with two fully integrated multifunction printers currently available on the HP Designjet portfolio. “The HP Designjet T2500 is popular with small- to mid-sized workgroups in AEC firms that need the ability to reproduce precise color documents and scan up to 36 inches wide,” says Sirois.
The new HP Designjet T3500 Production eMFP includes advanced scan features such as scan to email, scan/copy templates, and multi-page PDF generation from the front panel. The device handles higher production needs of medium to large workgroups across a variety of customer segments.
“We offer scanning and copying feature in these two devices based on feedback from our end users,” comments Sirois. “As the design-build process becomes more collaborative and more decentralized, it is important that end users have the ability to share information in a variety of ways.”
She notes that adding the ability to take a redlined drawing, created from an onsite meeting with an owner, and then immediately scanning and emailing it to the CAD/BIM manager for official documentation saves everyone time, resources, and ultimately, money.
Sirois says that having one device that can print/copy/scan within a single footprint allows for less space, supply, driver, and IT management. “Consolidation is always a nice message for the teams that need to manage these devices.”
RTI partners with Rowe for capture and provides a driver for its 650i model to support real-time scan to print—or scan to copy—capabilities. Howes points out that Rowe scanners scan up to 18.5 images per second, providing good productivity when combined with the Vortex 4200.
To ensure success and profitability, AEC/GIS/CAD professionals embrace the latest trends in document scanning and output, as well as mobile technologies.
The aforementioned companies are dedicated to the technical printing space. They have researched current and future needs, offering solutions meant to address current challenges as well as encourage future success among the AEC/CAD/GIS space. dps