By Olivia Cahoon
Part 1 of 2
Wide format multifunction printers (MFPs) are popular in the technical market. The ability to copy, scan, and print into one footprint makes these devices are ideal for architects, engineers, and construction (AEC). Looking to create hardcopy proofs of maps and blueprints in a limited amount of space makes owning a multifunction device advantageous.
Copy, Scan, Print
MFPs allow users to easily collaborate and share documents with customers. Intended for light production, MFP devices provide copy, scan, and print functions including added features like document sharing and storing. By combining multiple technical processes into one device, an MFP simplifies workflow and reduces the need for dedicated wide format printers in various locations.
According to Matt Kochanowski, product manager, Epson, users who incorporate MFP devices into their office gain the ability to print documents and properly analyze all of the data in their files. “Any file that’s printed can then be marked up and digitally stored using an integrated 36-inch wide format scanner, allowing the user to easily share documents with customers or other offices,” he explains.
Archiving tools grants users the ability to access digital files at any time. Editing features allow for quickly reviewing and finalizing the printing process by scanning marked-up documents and submitting them electronically. Scanning features also allow any document size to be accessible for mobile viewing.
“The major benefits of using a wide format MFP are that you now have the ability to do large format scanning, printing, copying, document management, sharing, and collaboration all in one large format system,” says Steve Blanken, GM, the Americas, Global Scanning Americas Inc./Contex. By combining all of the tools that technical professionals seek into one product, MFP devices save time and cost.
Evolution of MFPs
MFPs are used for a variety of purposes including point of purchase, display, and signage printing. While MFPs are designed to serve the needs of technical markets, they offer a low-production entryway into wide format digital printing.
According to Randy Geesman, president, Paradigm Imaging Group, Inc., a vast majority of large format documents were once B&W and copying was performed on large format machines. As demands for color drawings increased, a push for large format color MFP devices ensued.
Blanken agrees and says that as the large format inkjet market grew, large format scanner manufacturers connected their scanners to these printers and created large format color MFPs. “This is what accelerated the large format MFP market and today the devices are productive, affordable, and easily integrated into most information management systems currently in use,” he offers.
Bryan Martindale, HP DesignJet category and sales manager, HP, Inc., believes there is a distinct need for integrated scanners with a better footprint for mainstream use, mobility support, and security features. Features for direct printing from PCs or tablets are now available and offer collaboration to and from the cloud.
Furthermore, Kochanowski says the ability to implement and learn how to use an MFP is becoming much easier. MFP devices are generally compatible with most operating systems and design software.
In the AEC market, MFP devices serve a specific function that provides users with ease and efficiency. Architectural teams scan old drawings and plans at high quality to maintain accuracy. According to Martindale, with constant changes, teams need to consistently track these edits to synchronize all of the involved parties.
MFPs also facilitate effective methods of communication. Architects often work offsite and out of office. Team members also attend meetings offsite and studios require immediate outputs to connect hardware. To effectively serve these needs, Martindale says MFP devices allow customers to digitize their work, track changes, effectively communicate while working remotely, and reproduce documents as needed.
Because AEC companies must be coordinated during the design, approval, and construction stages, Geesman believes it’s essential that that this information is shared between parties. “Throughout the process, the ability to distribute copies of handwritten markups or changes is vital.” AEC workers need markups and documents that can be referenced easily at any job site—using an MFP device, these functions are accomplished.
Using an MFP, AEC businesses can quickly and accurately output work. “Rather than sending someone out to a reprographics shop, businesses save time and money by incorporating an MFP device in their office,” says Kochanowski. By working faster and more efficiently, AEC workers better serve customers.
Before selecting an MFP device, it’s important to consider desired document sizes. Geesman says most wide format MFP systems include scanners with capabilities between 25 and 44 inches wide and printed output between 24 and 44 inches wide.
Documents types like photography, blueprints, and maps should also be considered. “There are MFP systems designed for mostly technical documents, but some users may need a higher quality scanner and printer with their MFP system for more color critical documents like photography, renderings, or other more intensive graphic applications,” says Geesman.
Additionally, the number of documents for scanning is also important. Geesman says that if users need to scan or print a high quantity of documents daily, they should consider an MFP solution that addresses high scan and print speeds.
According to Kochanowski, the challenges of implementing an MFP into a work environment has significantly reduced overtime. In addition to lower prices, he says integrating an MFP to an existing environment is as easy as adding a standard desktop printer to a network.
Extending Beyond Maps
As quality advances on MFPs, the devices are used for other tasks like printing posters, banners, photos, and rigid poster board. “Many offices normally outsource this work to a print shop but can produce these same graphics using their MFP,” says Kochanowski.
Newer applications for advanced MFP solutions include the capture and reproduction of fine art, also known as giclée. Giclée printing requires precise detail and accuracy to reproduce specific colors and details. Geesman says this is where it’s important to have higher quality scanners as well as advanced software and color management.
In the AEC market, wide format MFP devices are vital for blueprint and map production while offering simplified processes by allowing employees to produce documents in house. Part two of this series features a roundup of available wide format MFP devices.
Feb2018, Digital Output