Your old plotter has served you well for years. But, how much is that old technology holding you back? Probably more than you think.
Companies generally are pretty good about keeping their IT assets up to date. But surprisingly, this is usually constrained to server, workstation and software assets.
Unfortunately, companies often tend to overlook upgrading their wide format equipment with the same level of importance as other technology. Is this the case with you?
Face it; it may be time to upgrade and buy a new plotter. Otherwise, it may be costing you much more than you think. Here's why.
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Paper is still relevant in construction
Despite large strides in construction technology advancements, paper is still the most used medium of communicating industry information.
As a whole, AEC (architecture, engineering, and construction) has seen more change in the past few years than the previous fifty. Digital workflows, mobile devices, and UAVs have all contributed to a paradigm shift in project workflows.
Collectively, printing has decreased across the board, but it still remains a vital part of the process. There is a lasting benefit to have a printed set of drawings.
Some people simply want the "whole view" perspective of full size drawings. As wonderful as digital displays are, it can be hard to take in the whole scope of a sheet on a small screen.
Others have been using paper forever and are simply comfortable with the process and want to stay with what is familiar.
Paper plans also remain highly portable. They can easily be carried to remote locations where wireless signals are not available. Face it, if you can't get a signal, then cloud-based file applications are worthless.
Plus, printing color plans adds a new dynamic to better communicate data accurately.
Given the price drop in equipment over the years, and more efficient printing processes, there is still a very strong case to be made to look for a new plotter to buy.
Your old plotter is not what it used to be
Just like any other computer system, time renders all technologies obsolete. Your plotter is no different.
For example, how many Windows 7, or worse Windows XP, workstations are still in use? Do you have a ten-year-old server in service?
I'm guessing "no."
So, why do so many companies expect to get top notch performance out of printer that is 10+ years old.
It's because your old plotter can no longer keep up with your company’s demand. It simply doesn’t have the “muscle” to handle today’s complex files and functions. Why would you expect anything different from your old plotter? You shouldn’t.
Today’s CAD and BIM applications generate extremely large and complex files that require more powerful file processing. If older plotters can still manage to print these types of files, it usually involves a long processing sequence as the image is rendered.
Legacy parts are not usually in stock
A major concern with using legacy plotter equipment is the availability of replacement parts. Since a plotter is largely a mechanical system, a component failure will eventually happen.
So, if your system breaks down and replacement parts aren’t available, you could be in a real bind.
Lack of inventory has a direct impact on the price of the parts. Since parts are no longer produced for end-of-life systems, the only ones available are after market parts.
You could be faced with paying inflated prices for a sub-standard replacement part in order to get your plotter repaired.
No upgraded print driver available for your latest OS.
This is a real issue that has come up repeatedly. It is commonly one of the first problems to present among legacy units when companies decide to upgrade operating systems. This is because there are not always updated printer drivers available.
We see this a lot with enterprise-wide implementations of Windows 10. There are just a bunch of old, legacy systems that don't have updated drivers for new platforms.
Think about it - plotter manufacturers are in the business of selling new plotters. Unless mandated by law, there is no financial incentive for these companies to spend development resources on legacy equipment.
Unfortunately, this situation has very limited solutions. The company either feels “forced” into an upgrade or they have to resort to another archaic process, like keeping a workstation with an old OS on the network as a shared resource to drive the legacy unit.
The high cost of down time.
Regarding the previous examples, they share a common thread, they waste time. Whether you are waiting for an after market part or your IT is frantically working on a “work around”, the lack of activity can be extremely costly.
Notably, digital workflows have become much more commonplace, so the actual need of printing construction plans is not as pressing as in years past. But, there are still plenty of cases where hard copies are needed, either for the field or a presentation.
If you can’t get your wide format documents printed then your business grinds to a halt.
Alternatives for this include outsourcing your printing to a print shop. But now, the problem is compounded; you have to pay those fees in addition to the charges for the plotter repair.
Have a plan - keep up with changes.
Wide format plotters and scanners should be updated at lease as often as the rest of the company’s IT assets. So, you might think about jumping into "buy plotter" mode.
A good way to ensure an upgrade path is to acquire equipment on a lease. This will give you a chance to “flip” equipment at the end of the term and get the latest technology available. Plus, there are some tax advantages that can be had by leasing gear.
Ultimately, it boils down to making sure that all your plotters, scanner, and other peripherals are compliant with the other hardware and software assets throughout your enterprise.
Remember, prior proper planning prevents poor performance.
Looking to get a new plotter? We can help.
Editor's note: This article was originally published in 2014, and updated in 2019.