The last decade has seen tremendous advances in the technology used to print full size architectural and engineering design drawings. The quality and speed of printers continues to improve while equipment prices and operating costs drop. This has given designers considerably more options when choosing the tools to commit their creativity to paper.

For architects, another trend has been the outsourcing of their large format printing to reprographers. Although this trend is now well established, most architects still find it convenient to be able to print full size drawings as check prints or for presentations. For this application there are many high quality inkjet printers available from Canon, Oce, HP and Epson. Typically these printers are used to print less than 1,000 square feet per month, and only a few sheets at a time. Many models have scanners as options enabling users to scan drawings to digital files or make copies.

While print volumes for architects have declined, engineers typically find it necessary to print multiple copies of larger drawings sets. LED (laser) printers are better suited for this role and capable of printing anywhere from 1,000 to 100,000 square feet per month, with differing degrees of paper handling efficiency for stacking and collating output. Most equipment in this category now comes standard with the ability to scan drawings in color to capture red lines and other notations. The primary manufacturers of large format LED printers are Oce, Ricoh and KIP, with Oce commanding the largest market share (41% of new placements in 2013).

A developing trend that could disrupt this pattern is the introduction of color devices capable of matching the speed of monochrome LED devices with very competitive operating costs. Most recently, Oce introduced the ColorWave 900, which can print design documents as fast as 12” per second (click here for a video demonstration)!

As equipment in this category becomes cost effective, designers will have the option to generate their plans in color, which will in turn aid in reducing mistakes in the construction process. This promises to be the “next big thing” in printing technology for the architectural, engineering and construction industries.

Brian Eastin,

Brian assists customers in choosing the right wide format printers and scanners to fit their workflow and increase their productivity and efficiency. Prior to working for us, he was in the engineering industry. He has 12 years of experience and started with RJ Young in 2005. Brian is from the Dallas, TX area and works out of our Nashville, TN office. In his spare time he coaches middle school football, is heavily involved in his church and the local community.