The world of architecture and engineering is among the most precise professions in the world. Many hands can become involved in a project, and one small mistake in even the smallest of details can lead to disastrous consequences. Therefore, it is imperative that the original plans—and all copies thereafter—are clear and concise. The best way to ensure that this happens is to have a top-of-the line wide-format engineering printer/copier. The manufacturers of these devices are constantly working to upgrade their products, creating new technologies that meet the demands of the engineers, architects and contractors who will use them.
“In the past several years the trend is to make the workflow electronic and eliminate the need for paper documents,” said Michael Hunter, director of product marketing, Ricoh. This trend is not only environmentally friendly; it also helps in the storage of these documents. Most digital devices today allow users to scan to PDF, in a variety of ways, including scan-to-folder and scan-to-e-mail. “Either way, users can deliver documents fast and meet tight deadlines. The newest trend is a move towards color products, either color scanning or full-color output.”
Digitalization and Decentralization
While technological advancements abound, Scott Frame, vice president of wide-format business at Xerox believes they come from necessity. “These changes are evolutionary, not revolutionary,” he said, citing multi-function devices that come in smaller, more cost-effective packages.
“Many of the recent technological changes have been driven by the market trend of increased sharing of digital files, which in turn has driven decentralized printing,” added Karen Fitt, vice president of marketing, Oce North America.
New technologies like Business Information Modeling (BIM) and project delivery methods like Integrated Project Delivery (IPD) have been the key catalysts behind digitalization and decentralization. What this means is that reprographers need to continue to find ways to provide print services to customers on a more dispersed scale across more customers with smaller volumes.
“Many reprographers have become much more active in the resale and FM’ing of hardware and services,” said Fitt. “In addition, the more progressive shops are looking to provide data management services around BIM, such as model hosting and design review trailers.”
IPD requires all project stakeholders (architects, engineers, contractors, subcontractors and the client) to be on board from day one of a project, instead of joining in phases as it happens today with BIM.
“BIM is the technology platform that supports this phased process and it implies a different way of designing and communicating information to all the project stakeholders,” said Ferran Vilanova, worldwide product manager, Large Format Printers, Graphics Solutions Business, HP. “In traditional design (CAD), architects will distribute information down the chain. In BIM, all stakeholders have access (with different permission levels) to the same digital model from which they can work and print.”
Vilanova said IPD and BIM impact repro shops in two ways. First repro shops can be “invited” directly to a BIM model and the stakeholders can either print on their devices, or print through this invited repro service. Additionally, more companies that formerly received documents on paper now have to do the printing themselves since they have direct access to the model.
“This allows repro shops to place printers directly in customer facilities,” said Vilanova.
All-in-one or single footprint devices are key because contractors typically have smaller office spaces, so the device’s small footprint fits quite nicely into these smaller offices, according to Fitt. These products print both black-and-white and color output and come with a color scanner attached on top of the printer.