From CAD User AEC Magazine Vol 25 No 01 - JAN/FEB 2012
David Chadwick looks at Epsonís flexible range of printers for the CAD/GIS markets
I have known Epson for many years, having sold some of the very first Epson printers to arrive in the country (the TX and MX70 series), seen their first foray into colour printing, and have recently been evaluating the Epson Stylus Colour Pro 3880 for the fine art market, producing stunning prints on special Epson paper.
Epson is, of course, already associated with the graphics market, producing a range of printers from wide format for poster production through to smaller proofing printers that are capable of reproducing the finest tones and freshest colours for that most demanding of markets - fashion magazines.
The demand for professional colour for CAD and GIS output is fast catching up with the graphics market, though, with architects, designers and map-makers looking for photo quality output, higher colour accuracy, more precise architectural and design illustrations and more realistic 3D renderings. Epson technology, therefore, should be considered an alternative solution for companies seeking truly professional quality output in all areas.
The key features of Epsonís latest technology is its Micro Piezo TFP printheads, which delivers very high resolution printing to produce ultra fine text and linework in drawings, and its Ultrachrome HDR and K3 ink sets - pigmented inks with high density delivering enhanced colour stability and accurate colour reproduction on a wide range of media.
Micro Piezo printheads
Micro Piezo technology fires tiny variably-sized droplets of ink through micro-fine nozzles, made possible by the electronic excitation of quartz crystals within each printhead. This achieves 1400 x 1400dpi resolution (standard is 770 x 770dpi resolution - average for CAD printers) with extremely accurate dot placement. Adding a RIP (raster image processor) boosts the resolution up to to 2880 x 2880dpi. The end result is consistently high standards of detail, sharp, grain-free images and vibrant colours.
The Ultrachrome Inksets come with up to 11 different colours, increasing the standard CMYK to provide a greater tonal range and higher colour accuracy. Besides two blacks - gloss and matte - Epson adds further colours and tones, enabling, for instance, the latest 17inch Stylus Pro 4900 to achieve a very wide colour gamut and an incredible 98% Pantone match.
The printers don't just come with pretty colours either, as throughput is as important to the graphics market as a printerís colour capabilities. Clients running against tight deadlines can output A2+ prints at up tof 46Sq M an hour, and have a variety of paper handling features - different feeds and cassettes - able to optimise throughput for all media types and sizes. The graphics background also means that a very wide and range of weight of media can be used, including presentation media in roll and sheet format, backlit and tracing paper, plain paper, and poster board up to 1.5mm thick in matte and gloss finishes. I was able to feed single sheets of 300gsm cold press paper (with rough coated finish) through the Stylus Pro 3880 with no problems.
Stylus Pro printers
The 3880, much as I have enjoyed using it, is still being sold as a top quality graphics printer, and has been available for a couple of years. This year's models, deemed by Epson as being ideally suited to the CAD/GIS markets, include a choice of seven further printers, ranging from 17 inches in width to 64 inches for the ultimate mapping experience.
The 17 inch range includes the Stylus Pro 4880 and 4990. At 24 inches there are the Stylus Pro 7700 and 7890. Two printers, the Stylus pro 9700 and the 9890 are available at 44 inches - and the 64 inch printer is the Stylus pro 11880.
The main difference between the printer ranges is the number of inks, hinting at the focus of each printer. The Stylus Pro 4880 has an 8 colour inkset, compared to the 4990's 11 colours. That includes Cyan and Yellow, Matte Black and Photo Black, Vivid Magenta, a feature of the Ultrachrome K3 inks, Light Cyan, Light Black and Light, Light Black - the same combination, incidentally, as the 11880. The Stylus Pro 4990 has three extra inks, including Vivid Light Magenta. Users can choose either for CAD/GIS, depending on their requirements.
The 17 inch print format, A2+, is an ideal size for on-site printing - distribute and print - when all that is required is to print up to the minute details for a specific job,and that it can fit into the site prefab office. In the 24-inch range, the 7700 uses a 5 colour K3 inkset - just C,Y, Vivid magenta, and Matte and photo Black. It's a pretty nifty printer, though, for fast drawing production - printing at 40 sq metres an hour off its 24-inch roll. The 7890, on the other hand, has a 9 colour inkset, adding Light Cyan to the 4880 inkset.
The 1440 x 1440dp Stylus Pro 9700 has a 5 colour inkset, whilst the 2880 x 1440, 9890 a 9 colour UltraChrome K3 inkset - making the latter, perhaps, more suitable for high defnintion printing.
Yet another differentiator is each printerís margin printing capability. Some printers are capable of printing edge-to-edge, along the sides, or top to bottom - great for posters - or can print full-bleed images suitable for proofing. The 11880, on the other hand, superb for very wide format photo images, seemingly retains a 1.3mm margin around all edges. At the other end of the scale, sheet printing on photo media can be as small as 4 x 5 inches. It pays, therefore, to define your requirements before choosing
Epson Printer drivers
Epson printers slot straight into CAD printing networks, with interfaces for all popular packages - AutoCAD, Microstation, ESRI, VersaCad, ArchiCad, Abaqus, etc., and the Stylus Pro 7700 and 9700 also support AutoCAD's Heidi Device Interface (HDI).
You can keep track of how much each Epson printer is costing your company using the MyEpsonPrinter solution, which keeps track of both ink and paper usage, allowing managers to allocate printing costs to departments or projects, and to provide printer sitreps from remote locations.
Epsonís flexible range of printers offer high quality and durable colour, backed by Epson's well-deserved reputation in the colour printing market. The printers are robust, easy to use, have minimal maintenance requirements, and are suitable as stand alone or networked printers in high-throughput roles.
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