Tips on Buying Wide-Format Printers for CAD, Part 1: Determine Your Needs
Before CAD became our main design tool, we drew our creations on “the board.” Once drawings were complete, there was a physical product — the drawing itself. It was very likely a piece of vellum or mylar or perhaps just a simple sheet of bond paper. I have even worked with drawings on linen. These drawings could be presented to a client, approval board or municipality. All you needed were copies. That was easy — fire up the diazo and try not to inhale too many fumes.
When CAD replaced the drafting board, there was a fundamental shift in the drafting process. Engineers and architects no longer handed their master drawings to a designer, who handed it to a detailer, who perhaps eventually gave the approved drawing to a tracer or even to an inker. With CAD software there is no physical object to pass through the ranks. Everything is digital. We don’t get a physical sheet drawing until the design is over.
It’s not always easy getting your design on paper.
Each CAD program has its own methods of printing, but we all have similar hardware issues to address when we print from CAD software. When it’s time to get a new plotter (and when I say plotter, I mean wide-format printer), there are a few things to consider when buying the right one for you.
What Do You Need to Print?
Every company is going to have different printing needs. Different design industries will have different requirements as well. The first step in picking out the printer hardware is to determine what your firm prints. Create a list of what this new machine will need to accomplish. Start with the size of the drawings your company produces. List every size and frequency. Will any printing be outsourced or will multiple sheet sets be printed in house? This will help determine the tray and feed roll capacities. If multiple sets will be printed, then print speed will have to be considered.
Who Will Be Printing?
Think about the end users as well. Will multiple users be printing at the same time? This could clog up printing and frustrate staff. Depending on workload, two printers may be a wise choice.
Color or Black and White?
Perhaps a department needs the ability to produce color exhibits. Get one color printer for them and a black and white for everyone else. Or simply only use the color printer only for color prints.
Figure out what will be printed, who will print, when, and how often. Next we’ll talk about the types of printers and how to choose the right one for you.