Written by Ben Noebels

Colorful explosion

After a lifetime placing wide format equipment, we are truly on the cusp of something evolutionary — affordable and fast full color technical documents with none of the hassles of paper curl and watching ink dry that plagued previous machines.

Back in the earlier days, color printing was your choice of using either black line or blue line diazo paper. Now, color printing means anything from spot color on a sheet (such as a detail in a complex drawing or a customer’s logo), to color line(s), to full color drawings. What held us back from any mass use of color has been the high cost of color prints, lengthy time to print color, long dry time (if the process was ink), limited media capacity at the printer, stacking (or rather, until recently, a lack of stacking), and small ink capacity at the printer.

Fortunately, technology has gotten to the point where printing technical documents in color can be accomplished at truly remarkable speeds and with a very affordable unit cost. Prints come out dry to the touch, they stack flat and, for all intent and purposes, are ready for use immediately from the printer.

Aside from the obvious aesthetics of looking at color, using color in technical prints conveys much more information than the same drawing printed in monochrome. How many of you have seen a highly paid employee tracing a monochrome print with color markers so that they could more easily see and understand the information presented? This happens every day in the real world. Monochrome prints are being colored over so that the important information can be easily read.

Imagine how much easier it would be for an estimator to count widgets and issue a bid? Color in prints help reduce errors. Color improves your cognitive abilities and more clearly communicates information to a wider audience than a monochrome print.

A quick search on the web will lead you to a plethora of studies on the benefits of using color. Two key benefits you should come away with is that color greatly improves retention and reduces search time. And color improves cognitive abilities in almost all people.

One highly quoted white paper (Lyra Research Inc., Color Construction Documents; A Simple Way to Reduce Costs, April 2010) stated that every dollar spent on color construction prints will give back $4.00 in savings on any given project. Lyra Research went on to say that between 10 and 30 percent of all project costs can be attributed to waste activities, such as overruns due to inaccurate coordination scheduling, wasted labor and management time, and wasted materials and unnecessary litigation.

We now have studies that show how beneficial using color in technical documents can be from a productivity or work perspective. And now, from a finance perspective, we see that using color will save you 4:1. Color can save you money! Amazing!

From an equipment side, one of the newest printers out is the HP PageWide XL Printer Portfolio, which consists of four systems capable of producing from 8 to 30 D-size color prints per minute! One of the unique features of the PageWide XL is its HP 841 printhead. This printhead has an average life of 32 liters of ink! That is a huge amount of ink; 8.4 gallons to be precise.

Media capacity is also quite good. Your PageWide comes with a 2 rolls drawer. The PageWide 4000, 4500 and 5000 XL can be upgraded to a max of 4 rolls. The top end HP 8000 XL can be fitted with up to 6 rolls of media supply, providing you with up to 11,700 sq/ft of media. At a print speed of 30 D-size color prints per minute, you will need 6-rolls of media... because all 11,700 sq/ft will be gone in about 6.5 hours!

All in all, it is a wonderful time to have productive and inexpensive wide format prints for the market. Interested in learning more about color or seeing how Thomas Printworks can help you? Contact us today.

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