Despite all the digital advancements in the AEC industry over the past few years, the concept of a completely paperless office just does not exist. There is still a need for paper plans, maps, and other large images.
So, a plotter is still very much a viable piece of equipment for any architectural, engineering, and construction offices. But there are more options now than ever. The choices can be daunting. So, this article will help narrow down the important aspects of how to buy a plotter today.
“Plotters” is a general term that encompasses everything from basic CAD plotters to large 60-inch photo printers. But, for this sake of this article, we are strictly focusing on technical plotters. These printing machines are meant for CAD line drawings, aerials, schematics, etc.
The first question you should ask yourself when you want to buy a new wide format printer is, “How much am I going to print?” Although this seems extremely obvious, it is incredibly important to be honest with yourself about this. Under-investing in your technology can cost you much more than you think. More on that in a bit.
Basic, entry-level, units are fine for just a few prints per day, but if your needs revolve around the need to support many different users or printing multiple sets of drawings per week, you need to level up the technology.
When generally assessing needs, it is good to think in terms of square feet per month. However, this can be broken down many ways – feet per week, sheets per week, rolls of paper used per month, etc. Whichever metric is used, it is best to ultimately break it down to a monthly square foot benchmark.
Canon plotters per your printing need
Very low volume – Under 2,000 square feet per month:
- Canon TA-20, TA-30, TM-200, TM-300, TM-305
Low Volume – Up to 3,000 square feet per month:
- Canon TM-200, TM-300, TM-305, TX-3100, TX-4100
Mid Volume – Up to 6,000 square feet per month:
- Canon TX-3100, Canon TX-4100, Canon TZ-30000
High Volume – Up to 10,000 square feet per month:
- Canon TZ-30000
Print Volume is NOT this only factor
Another thing to consider besides the monthly volume demand is your average batch size. This is the number of sheets printed at a time. Printing 50 drawings per day in 5 sheet batches, and 50 drawings all at once are two completely different scenarios.
If printing in large batches is part of your workflow, it can ultimately be more cost-effective, in the long run, to level up to a larger model to increase the output speed, number of paper rolls, or overall top-end capacity. This further helps determine the best plotter for your specific situation.
Scanning Your Plans
At least with Canon products, most large format plotters are available as either a plotter-only configuration or as a multifunction printer (MFP) with an attached scanner and controller PC.
Years ago, large format scanning was vital as companies needed ways to digitize large libraries of drawings either from flat files or hanging files. Today, most projects live in a digital environment, so the pressing need for archive scanning is simply not necessary. But having access to an onboard scanner certainly has its merits.
MFP configurations give you the convenience of making copies of your originals on the fly or digitizing them to quickly share information with project partners and owners. Having a scanner available can save you a ton of time with documenting RFIs and as-builts.
Pick the right width
Canon’s technical plotters are either 24”, 36” or 44” wide. The 36” models are the best selling and can accommodate all the standard architectural and engineering size up to an ARCH E – 36” x 48” sheet.
Pro Tip: A 24” plotter cannot print a 30”x42” sheet because it cannot hold 30” paper. However, a 24” plotter CAN print ARCH D size sheet in portrait on a 24-inch roll of plotter paper.
Meet the Different Canon imagePROGRAF Models
Canon iPF TZ-30000
The latest member of the Canon imagePROGRAF family. The TZ-3000 is designed to benefit a variety of CAD markets including architecture, engineering, government, manufacturing, and more. Built with productivity in mind, the imagePROGRAF TZ-30000 series delivers high-speed printing. It can print a D-sized (24” x 36”) drawing in as fast as 14 seconds, and up to 236 D-sized prints per hour.
- Fast print speeds (4 D size sheets/minute)
- Latest technology integrated stacker holds 100 sheets
- Informs you how much paper is left on each roll
- Learn more about the Canon TZ-30000
Canon iPF TX-3100 and TX-4100
These units combine the latest technologies in one single platform. These powerful systems provide fast printing and scanning of construction drawings, GIS maps, posters and more, for amazing results. High-capacity ink tanks help minimize the need to change ink often and provide a lower overall cost of operation.
- Available in 1 or 2 roll configurations
- Prints are fade proof and water resistant thanks to Canon TD pigment inks
- Intuitive operation greatly minimizes learning curves
- Learn more about the Canon TX Series
Canon iPF TM-200, TM-300, TM-305
Great all-purpose printers and MFPs for CAD and general-purpose printing. Besides printing architectural drawings, the TM Series is also perfect for making posters, signage and displays with the use of Canon’s LUCIA TD water resistant pigment ink and fine art papers.
- Incredibly small footprint enables the TM printers to be place just about anywhere
- WiFi connectivity make installing them a breeze either in the office or at a home office
- Ultra-quiet operation make the Canon TM printers a popular choice
- Learn more about the Canon TM Series
Canon iPF TA-20, TA-30
If you are new to wide-format printing or simply have a light workload, the Canon TA-30 might be a good fit for you. With excellent print quality, ease of use, and wireless connectivity, you can get started easily.
- Print more out of the box – it ships with more ink that other competitive models
- Low cost of operation
- Ships with the latest security features to help keep your data safe
- Learn more about the Canon TA Series