In 1597 Sir Francis Bacon declared that "knowledge is power." Back then, he was only armed with a handful of books. Today, if you want to gain a mountain of knowledge to empower your business, you should tap into the information monster that is GIS.
GIS stands for Geographic Information System. This is a computerized system that blends images and data from cartography, statistical analysis, and database technology.
In layman's terms, GIS is a way to visually represent data on a map or aerial photo. Then you can filter that data to produce a type of visual report. Some good examples of this are:
- Mapping high crime areas for city planners and police forces
- Displaying election results by region
- Visualizing rainfall and watershed information
Really, what makes GIS so dynamic is the fact that it can serve a wide range of industries and disciplines including:
- Spatial Analysis and Research
- Land Surveying
- Oil and Gas Exploration and Production
- Public Utility Management
- Urban Planning
- Landscape Architecture
- Plus many more!
The GIS system is controlled through software applications such as ArcGIS and ArcView, both created by ESRI. Though computer-based, GIS is a basically a map at heart. So, no matter how much slicing and dicing you do on screen, you are going to want a hard copy of your work sooner or later.
So, what is the best plotter for printing GIS maps? Rather than focusing on a particular band, consider some physical and technical aspects to meet your needs.
- Printing Width of Plotter - Remember, you will be printing maps. The larger the better. Most companies will need at least a 44 inch printer to print 40x40 aerials. Plus, big maps are just plain cool.
- Processing Power - GIS files can be HUGE. Sometimes they are in the GB range. So, you better have the processing power to chew through those large files.
- On board Hard Drive - Be sure your unit has one. This will help greatly with file spooling as well as help you relieve stress on your network resources. It is not uncommon to find plotter with 80GB or larger hard drive now.
- RAM - Random Access Memory is important, but sometimes it can be a bit of "smoke and mirrors" spec. An example of this is HP claiming to have 32 GB of "memory." If you dig deep, you will see that this is not actually RAM but rather a partition on the hard drive - in essence, a swap file. As a rule, as long as you have a hard drive on the plotter, 256 MB RAM is usually enough.
- Pigment Inks - Generally, GIS images can be displayed for a while. If you use a printer with regular dye based inks, then the image will begin to fade rather quickly. Dyes are affected by both ultraviolet light and oxygen. On the other hand, pigments are fade and scratch resistant. They will give you much better quality and durability.
The thing to remember when looking for a GIS plotter is to get something that will perform best for your needs. Paying a little more upfront may save you many headaches down the road.
Photo credit: windenergy.org