By Cassandra Balentine
Beyond snazzy displays and standout graphics, wide format printers are required by professional environments to produce essential output like blueprints, maps, renderings, and simple imagery.
These technical wide format printers are well suited to support graphic arts applications as well as meet the evolving document demands of architecture, engineering, and construction (AEC); computer aided design (CAD), and geographic information systems (GIS) firms.
Increasingly, document management functions like scanning and connectivity are necessary to facilitate distributed and remote working environments.
The technical print market is mature, but still represents a strong segment for the key vendors that play in it, including Canon Solutions America, Epson America, Inc., HP Inc., and Ricoh USA, Inc.. It goes without saying the COVID-19 pandemic had an influence on the expected course of this market.
Jacob Hardin, product manager, professional imaging, Epson America, Inc., points out that according to the recent 2021 Ink Jet CAD Forecast from I.T. Strategies, the inkjet technical document market is estimated at nearly $2B. “While the market declined in 2020, we’re seeing strong recovery to pre-pandemic demand levels toward the end of this year. Future years, we estimate a flat to slight increase in the CAD market. More users are looking to do more with their printers such as using them for both CAD and color graphics. On the other hand, technology is allowing printers to become more efficient, so when refreshing their fleet, some users are finding they don’t need as many printers to accomplish the same output levels,” he says, citing the report.
While several technical printers are inkjet-based, it is important to note that toner-based solutions, such as the Canon ColorWave, feature toner-based technology.
Hardin sees a key demand from technical document printers as of late, including features for integration into existing networks, distributed printing, and a small footprint.
“Users are looking for the ability to integrate large format, technical printing into their existing office networks. IT managers want to have visibility and control over who is printing large documents, as well as security features which are being utilized on their existing fleet of business printers,” he explains.
Technical document users today want all pieces of their workflow to keep pace and it’s necessary to stay competitive. “There’s so much competition—winning a bid or keeping happy clients can come down to a great presentation with detailed plans and visual aids, printing out copies within seconds during a meeting, or the ability to scan big documents and email them out in minutes. We continue to make our printers faster, flexible, and more compact than the previous generation. The product of today’s high-speed digital environment in the world is the expectation that all technology ought to be quick, adaptive, and mobile—even if it’s printing,” he notes.
Additionally, as more technical users are working from home at least part time, life is much more mobile than it used to be. “They’re communicating and sharing information, plans, and renderings to and from the field more frequently from the road or wherever their office is for the day. In this new environment, we’re seeing a need to print from various devices, including shared folders, USB thumb drives, tablets, and smart phones using multiple formats including PDF files, which transport a significant amount of data without a lot of bandwidth requirement,” shares Hardin.
Another important consideration is size. “Users want a fast, robust printer, but in many cases don’t have the space for a large printer footprint at their home or office facility. Recent developments in compact design help here,” he adds.
As suggested, several considerations are top of mind for those looking to invest in a technical document printer.
Hardin suggests buyers think about where their printers will be used, who will be using them, and what kind of applications/output they would like to achieve. “It’s much easier to select a new printer once those questions are answered. More users will mean a higher speed requirement, for example. Nobody wants to spend time waiting for another colleague’s prints to finish.”
Another progression for technical printing is color. Hardin says the most common ink set used for technical document printing is four-color CMYK. “Technical documents are working documents, so four-color usually provides enough gamut to highlight different color areas, sections, plumbing, walls, etc. within line drawings and renderings. Epson offers four-, five-, and now six-color options for increased color gamut and smoother transitions for those using their printers for more versatile applications, such as GIS mapping, poster, and graphics applications,” he offers.
Many professionals found printing graphics and technical output will probably need a five- or six-color ink set versus a four-color ink set, which is fine for line drawings. “Someone working from a construction trailer may want to have options to connect their smart devices directly to print, versus an office installation where a high-speed LAN connection is key,” says Hardin.
Lastly, maintenance and total cost of ownership are other important considerations.
The pool of vendors targeting the technical market space is a small but dedicated bunch. Here we highlight some of the offerings on the market.
Canon Solutions America’s ColorWave large format color printers, scanners, copiers, and plotters are designed for applications in the graphic arts, AEC, GIS, as well as retail markets for poster printing.
The products in this series feature CrystalPoint technology, which is developed by Canon to deliver high-quality color and B&W prints on plain and recycled paper. Using patented TonerPearls toner it is ideal for a range of printing, scanning, plotting, and copying applications including CAD plots, GIS documents, and business graphics.
For professionals looking for a B&W offering, Canon Solutions America’s PlotWave large format printing systems are based on internally developed controller, print and scan technologies that deliver consistently impressive, comprehensive large format B&W document printing, plotting, scanning, copying, and document management solutions that optimize a business’ printing processes and workflow.
Epson’s technical printers have evolved to include more IT security functions, file flexibility, and compatibility with office fleet management solutions than ever before. “We are designing our latest generation of printers to be more compact without compromising speed or output. Our latest production-class T-Series models are 25 percent more compact than their previous generations and almost 30 percent faster, which is pretty impressive,” says Hardin.
Last June, Epson introduced a new generation of production-class SureColor T-Series wide format printing solutions with a compact design, including 24-, 36-, and 44-inch models.
Developed from the ground up, the SureColor T-Series models include Epson’s latest 2.64-inch PrecisionCore printhead, which is designed to provide outstanding image quality while enabling higher speed performance than previous generation models.
The new, compact industrial design provides a small footprint for space-constrained production environments. The latest models also incorporate a number of new features that improve usability and streamline workflow and media handling, including Adobe Embedded Print Engine standard on most models, dual roll capability, a built-in take-up reel for roll-to-roll printing, complete front operation, easy automatic roll loading, and optional, foldable production stackers.
Additionally, the PrecisionCore printheads used are designed to last the life of the printer.
Among its solutions for technical printing, the HP PageWide XL Pro 5200 large format multifunction printer enables professionals to respond faster to customer demands. The device supports end-to-end productivity with up to 20 D1/A1 pages per minute and 4,300 feet per hour.
Additionally, the device offers a 15-inch touch screen and two spindle-less draws with automatic roll switching. Users are able to print single- and dual-side sheets and boards up to 3/8-inch thicknesses from A2 to B1 sizes. The HP PageWide XL Pro 5200 also offers a scanner that is able to scan multiple pages quickly with a multi-page scanning feature. Further, its one-liter eco-carton based ink cartridges are made with more than 60 percent recycled materials and 80 percent less plastic than previous ink cartridges.
The RICOH MP W6700SP wide format B&W printer is designed to help users lower costs while providing the flexibility needed to print an array of crucial documents and applications in house. With this printer, teams can easily collaborate with full multifunction capabilities and print, copy, scan, and share from a single device.
Compact and ergonomically designed, the MP W6700SP is designed to be easy to operate. Ideal for low- to mid-volume workflows, this large format plotter offers detailed 600 dpi image quality, simplified document sharing, built-in security features, and remote management capabilities.
For color, The RICOH MP CW2201SP wide format inkjet printer provides a smarter way to produce and share work. Users collaborate easier with full multifunction capabilities, mobile support, and precise color technologies—all packed into a single compact footprint.
Powered by an innovative Smart Operation Panel and intuitive user interface, the MP CW2201SP delivers the flexibility needed for how—and where—business happens today—on the network, in the cloud, and on the go.
For AEC, CAD, and GIS professionals, a printer that offers crisp output is essential. Document management functions are also essential as blueprints and plans must be accessible at a variety of locations at a moment’s notice.
Feb2022, Digital Output