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.
A single-footprint system with color scanning at an affordable price has been the biggest technological advancement, said Denisse A. Ypina, sales associate, Seiko Instruments USA, Inc., Infotech Division, Escondido, CA.
“Over the years, the demand for color input and output of documents has pushed the price down on new engineering copiers, which has shrunken the gap between black-and-white systems with color scanning and color inkjet systems,” she said. “Seiko I Infotech has responded to this demand with several new technologies.”
The current family of Teriostar printers includes integrated Parallel-Processing technology, which allows one file to be processed while another one is printed.
“This means double the productivity of old LED single-processing printers, allowing businesses to accomplish more in less time,” said Ypina. “Also, because many times the contractors only receive digital files, it is now increasingly necessary for them to print from their offices. These all-in-one devices make local printing quite convenient.”
Most devices now contain color scanners, which are important to capture field markups and to be able to easily send these marked-up documents digitally (usually in PDF form) to other project team members. However, according to Fitt, this trend has actually hurt reprographic business’ profitability because the large bid sets that used to get paid for by the general contractor and shipped out to the subs no longer exist.
“The subs receive the digital files and can print them in their offices or go to the reprographer of their choice,” said Fitt. “This has forced many reprographers to pursue this decentralized print volume and call on subs or resell printers into these accounts. Either way, it’s an increased sales cost to them to obtain smaller-sized jobs.”
On the other hand, Rich Gigl, vice president of marketing, KIP America, believed products such as the KIP Color 80 have greatly improved both the productivity and profitability for reprographic shops.
The KIP Color 80 prints five “D” size prints per minute regardless of media, quality setting, or coverage, meaning it offers “while-you-wait” printing and color copying.
“In the past, many repro shops turned down large volume color (or mixed mono/color) work because it was too costly, too time consuming or it turned off the customer because they had to return one to two days later to pick up the job,” explained Gigl. “Now, print-for-pay organizations can complete the job while the customer waits.”
Recently, a prospective customer came to KIP with a big problem. The customer came in on a Wednesday at 3 pm with a task that they said was impossible for them, even though they were running five high-speed solid inkjet printers. They had 49 originals (six black and white, 43 color) and needed five sets of 36”x48” and two sets of 24x18-inches by noon on Thursday.
“They estimated it would take them 30 to 40 hours of printing on one printer or 20 hours if they used all five printers—mainly because their printers weren’t capable of both collating and stacking this many prints,” explained Gigl. “They e-mailed a link to the job to our office and after a couple test prints, we began the printing…98 minutes later we were done!” The average cost of toner, according to Gigl, was $0.025 per square foot.
Gigl said you can’t beat the savings (be it time or money) offered by these new devices. An average heavy coverage poster (around 105 percent coverage) costs less than $0.18 per square foot (including toner, service, heavy weight media at MSRP), about 10 to 20 times less than inkjet, according to Gigl. “Even if the costs were as high as inkjet or solid ink technology, the production value alone justifies the investment,” he stated. “Imagine the new customers (schools, theater organizations, retail establishments) that can now afford large-format color printing.”
The Xerox Wide Format 6622 Solution is another new product making a difference. The black-and-white digital printer with on-board color scanner prints 22 D/AI (24x36-inch) prints per minute and offers 600x1800 dpi printing and 600x600 dpi scanning options.
The scans can be viewed on a color touch screen user interface before being printed, helping to verify quality, avoid mistakes and reduce wasted prints.
“The key is our FreeFlow Accxes Print Server,” said Frame. FreeFlow Accxes offers color calibration with other network printers, enhanced management of print queues and the capability to scan documents to a mailbox on the print server, network FTP location or remote printer.
“Color has become extremely important,” said Frame.
Color My World
While color is typically not very important to the A/E accounts, except for presentations to project owners, color becomes extremely important on the construction side because color documents are more clear and concise and help reduce construction errors. However, as Fitt points out, contractors are limited in printing in color since most of the digital files they receive from A/E firms are in black and white.
“So, even those that want to print in color, many times can’t because the digital files are black and white,” she said
Fitt said Océ has been very active in trying to educate the market on the importance of color. “We have a full-time marketing employee whose primary role is educating the market on this important trend,” she said, adding that the company has developed marketing deliverables such as a color blog site (www.colorforconstruction.com) and industry research and a whitepaper defining the value of color in construction documents.
“We have also brought to the market an innovative new color printing technology called Océ CrystalPoint that makes the printing of high-quality, large-format color documents more cost effective (able to print onto uncoated plain or recycled paper), more productive (up to four D-size print/minutes with instantly dry, no-mess toner printing), and more usable in outdoor environments (print on Tyvek for water fast, durable prints),” said Fitt.
At the top of the list of color advancements is providing color reproduction capabilities for CAD/GIS drawings at a low cost and with a big improvement in both quality and throughput, according to Vilanova.
“This is particularly true with the launch of double-swath technologies that print swaths from the top and bottom printhead arrays at the same time, ensuring high print quality at high printing speeds,” he said.
As color becomes more prevalent in many technical design offices, Vilanova believes it plays a dual role in construction projects. One-color codes are used in the description of technical modules. “For instance, in detailing hot and cold water pipes,” he explained. “Color codes are a safety measure to make sure that the proper information is prescribed in the project.”
Additionally, two-color printing is used in high-quality presentations and renders to communicate the project to the end customers. “Full-color presentations with impact are key in winning new projects over competitors,” he declared.
“The trend toward color is becoming more evident as more companies are producing documents with color to differentiate job functions,” agreed Hunter.
Ypina adds that color in construction documents allows subcontractors to view layers of plans in different colors on one document versus using multiple sheets.
“Also, being able to carry these color documents to the field is most beneficial,” she said. “We have color scanning in our product to support these changing market requirements.”
One of the biggest problems with color in construction has also been addressed. “Inkjet prints are not water fast and fade quickly in the rain, sun and heat," explained Gigl. “However, new technology has addressed this issue as well. Printed documents can now be UV lightfast and waterproof.”
In situations where customers require something more durable, Gigl said products like the Color 80 support Rite-in-the-Rain; an acrylic coated bond that is very inexpensive.
“If more durability is required, then the weatherproof film makes an incredibly strong GIS map or CAD document,” he said. “KIP has repro shops with the Color 80 that provide maps on weatherproof film to the local power companies after storms, giving them a durable print that survives in the wind and rain.”