In most architects’/engineering/construction offices, the printer is just another tool that produces plans when required. However, as Laura de la Pascua from HP’s Designjet business in EMEA explains, there’s a new generation of printers designed to facilitate your work in ways never before possible.
What are the key things that these new printers can offer architectural/engineering/construction offices?
Briefly, in the case of the most innovative solutions, it’s the ability to copy and scan quickly with great detail and precision; the ability to share designs and changes with teams around the world using the ‘cloud’; the capability to print from a USB stick or laptop ports, without the need for printer drivers; and increased flexibility for the production of drawings, renderings and images.
What have been the major drivers for change within the architectural industry in recent years as regards printer technology?
Quite simply, the changing way in which we work. We all operate very differently compared to ten or fifteen years go and the need to do business away from the office and to stay connected when on the move is something that we all take for granted. The architectural industry is no exception to these practices. Technological innovations reflect these changing practices and the resulting demands made of architects. Yesterday’s grey boxes in the corner of the office are increasingly giving way to multi-functional, web-enabled devices that not only deliver full-colour printing, but can also scan and copy. As such, they are revolutionising the way architects manage their design workflow by matching today’s collaborative and mobile work styles.
What are the key requirements of users that have led to theses devices becoming more than just printers?
The needs of users are linked directly to the needs of clients, and an increasing focus on speed has meant that the need to produce and deliver content more quickly. Not long ago, two or three days might be considered an acceptable time to send plans to a client to review, who would then apply any necessary changes to the drawings and send them back to the architect to incorporate the modifications. The fast pace at which we now live gives rise to an expectation for immediate action. To enable this, architects need to be able to work wherever jobs takes them; they expect to be able to print on the road or at a client’s site by using the cloud, without the headache of installing multiple drivers. Additionally, the ability to share print-ready files in one click with those in offices or at construction sites is considered now as a basic right.
How have these demands influenced the design of the latest large format printers available on the market?
The in-built functionality of the most recent introductions addresses the needs I’ve mentioned and definitely makes such devices a more integral part of the user’s whole operational set-up. The market’s latest e-multifunction printers in particular are geared towards enabling AEC, GIS, and MCAD professionals to do more in less time through faster setup times, minimised manual operations and increased processing speeds. This means that architects and design professionals can easily scan sketches and hand-annotated drawings, before uploading to the web and sending to clients or remote teams. At the same time, it allows these users or visiting colleagues or clients to print files directly from a USB stick, mark up any necessary changes and then re-scan and share via the web.
You present a strong argument for the way multi-functional printers improve the way people work, but do they help the all important bottom line?
Firstly, I think that improved methods and design practices contribute to better managed projects and ultimately satisfied clients, so the ability to maintain business is crucial to longer term prosperity. Secondly, and something that I learned when visiting a customer recently, is the way in which such an investment evidences cost-effectiveness very quickly. This customer had been outsourcing the scanning of large format designs to a document management company, but this invariably added time and financial cost to every project.
Finally, what parting advice would you offer those considering an investment in large format printing hardware?
I think that any acquisition of new hardware or software needs to fit the objectives of the particular company and along with functionality and reliability, the need for cost-effectiveness is vitally important. Anyone contemplating such an investment should choose wisely, consult the expertise of an established and reputable supplier and arrange to see one or two print devices in action. Certainly, having spoken to those operating our own new HP Designjet T2300 e-multifunction printer, the consensus is that anything that helps their teams perform more effectively and collaborate more efficiently is a worthy investment. Indeed, the T2300 is attractively-priced at 11,000 € and in most countries we offer a 0% finance option and trade-in programme, which makes the investment even more cost-effective.
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