Printing in the AEC industry
For years people have been predicting the demise of the printed drawing. They have forecasted that drawings would be outmoded by phones, tablets, and virtual reality (VR) glasses. All of these technologies have arrived on the market. And while they have their place—so do drawings. Go to any construction site today, and you’ll see a stack of drawings. In many ways the drawing has been unfairly targeted. The sheet of paper remains a universally understandable method of communication. There are no batteries or Internet signals to worry about. There is no interface to learn. The reality is that there is no pressing need to get rid of drawings—and it doesn’t look like they will be replaced anytime soon. In fact, with the steady advance in printing technology, drawings remain as useful and as accessible as ever.
The reprographic industry is a mature and highly competitive market. Over the past couple of years, many reprographic companies have faced tough competition in terms of price, quality, and customer service. One particularly noticeable trend in the AEC industry has been the move from black-and-white to color drawings. Today, color is increasingly becoming a prerequisite. In part, this can be attributed to the widespread adoption of CAD, and the fact that architects have become more comfortable communicating in color. Color drawings aid communication and readiness, which makes project comprehension easier for everyone involved.
Color printing certainly isn’t new. In 1991, HP introduced the DeskJet 500C, which was HP's first 300 dpi color desktop printer. In years since, the technology of color printing has advanced significantly, but it has never been able to match monochrome printers in terms of speed and price. As a result, most AEC firms utilize two types of printers: LED printers for monochrome printing and inkjet printers for color printing. Considering that the AEC firms often need both large-format and small-format printers, quite often they end up owning several different combinations of machines, which isn’t very efficient. It means having different printers to maintain, interfacing with different software, and mistakenly sending drawings to the wrong machine.
HP’s PageWide Technology overcomes the traditional division between color and monochrome printers. HP PageWide Technology uses tens of thousands of tiny nozzles on a stationary print bar rather than a scanning printhead. The reliable drop ejection process reduces print quality defects from ‘nozzle outs’. Automated printhead servicing and calibration, including nozzle compensation, enable consistent operation and minimal service intervention. Printers incorporating this technology can print at twice the speed of LED printers. This means both monochrome and color can be produced faster and more efficiently. In fact, with HP PageWide Technology, AEC firms can produce color prints at the same cost as black-and-white drawings.
Of course, many AEC firms outsource their reprographic work to specialists. While they may not be aware of the machines printing their drawings, they will certainly be aware of anything that can speed up printing times and reduce cost. Those who do outsource still often maintain a few printers in their office just in case they need to quickly produce one-off print jobs. So almost every AEC firm, whether or not they outsource their reprographic work, will be affected by developments in printing technology.
As AEC firms face tighter project completion times, they are also under increasing pressure to quickly produce high-quality prints. Automation is one of the key factors of a smoother and faster print process. Technology including end-to-end workflow software, combined with peripherals such as online folders, makes print management more efficient. Additionally, automatic detection and correction of corrupted PDFs, automatic selection of small- and large-format pages, and on-screen soft proofing can all help reduce job preparation time by up to 50 percent.
For AEC firms, gone are the days of the LED and inkjet printer sitting side-by-side. Innovative technology that can provide end-to-end solutions and that can deliver much more, in terms of faster turnaround times and with less labor involved, are just around the corner. Both color and monochrome prints will be produced at much lower costs than ever before. And this will make it easier for AEC Firms to meet increasingly high expectations.