Big Tools for Big Jobs: Wide-Format Scanners and Printers Make Small Work of Large Projects (Cadalyst Labs Review)31 Aug, 2008 By: Ron LaFon
Even in today's digital world, not all files are fully useful in digital format, and at times must be output to paper for information sharing, markup, or portability to the field.
A significant number of original drawings, blueprints, and maps are at risk because they've never been transferred to a digital format. These paper documents represent a substantial amount of time, money, and resources — and protecting them could be vital to your organization. Scanning these wide-format originals into digital masters for long-term security is a top priority. At the same time, we face the reality that even in today's digital world, not all files are fully useful in digital format, and at times must be output to paper for information sharing, markup, or portability to the field. That's when you must call on a wide-format printer to produce paper documents at sizes far larger than a typical desktop printer can produce.
This Cadalyst Labs roundup surveys a variety of wide-format scanners and printers currently available and the factors to consider when purchasing these devices. We present here a broad array of high-quality, wide-format devices offering options that are greater than ever.
What We Requested
When we invited companies to participate in this roundup of wide-format scanners and printers, Cadalyst requested that the selected devices support at least D-size paper (24" x 36") and were released after January 2007. In the case of printer/plotters, we allowed any printing technology appropriate for CAD and GIS applications, such as ink jet, thermal, or LED. Each vendor could submit a maximum of three scanners and/or three printer/plotters. The vendors also supplied (and verified) the detailed data included in the feature tables you can find at www.cadalyst.com/0908scanner-table and www.cadalyst.com/0908printer-table.
What to Look For
Keep in mind that this article is a survey of products. I've had direct experience with various models from nearly all vendors included here and can attest to their quality and engineering in general, but I did not conduct a hands-on review of products this time around. And although this roundup certainly doesn't cover every wide-format device on the market today, we hope it offers a good overview of the features and capabilities available in the latest hardware. High-quality choices are available to meet your immediate needs and provide room for growth.
SmartLF Cx 40c, Cx 40e, and Cx 40m
Prices: $7,995, Cx 40c; $8,995,
Cx 40e; and $6,495, Cx 40m
SmartLF Cx 40 scanners are designed to provide fast, high-quality scans, copies, or file distribution of large-format maps, engineering drawings, blueprints, site plans, architectural renderings, and other technical documents, making them a good choice for AEC, MCAD, and GIS professionals.
Colortrac s SmartLF Cx 40 scanners feature 2 + 4 all-wheel-drive Active Paper Transport for handling delicate originals with care.
Colortrac offers a broad range of wide-format scanners and regularly expands and updates its product line. The Colortrac SmartLF 40" scanners use deep-focus contact image sensor (CIS) technology for compact design, reduced weight, and low power consumption. All scanners in this series feature 2 + 4 all-wheel-drive Active Paper Transport (APT) for handling originals with care. APT applies a constant but minimum force, while achieving the required traction and accuracy. Access to the scan glass and pressure rollers for cleaning is quick and easy through the hinged APT.
For this article, Colortrac submitted three wide-format charge-coupled device (CCD) scanners. Colortrac uses the "m" in a model name to indicate monochrome, the "c" for color, and the "e" for express color. The three Colortrac scanners discussed here have a base scanning resolution of 600 dpi, with an interpolated resolution of 3,600 dpi and an accuracy rating of ±0.1% ±1 pixel. All three scanners also use simple and Intelligent 2D Adaptive Thresholding (IAT) methods and support JPEG, JPEG 2000, TIFF, PNG, and PDF file formats. Color models support ICC printer profiles.
SmartLF scanners feature USB 2.0 connectivity and are plug-and-play devices. SmartLF scanners can be upgraded from monochrome to color on-site, making them a good choice for users who need monochrome scanning now but might need to add color scanning down the road.
Each of the three scanners measures 54.8" wide by 6.7" high (140 cm x 17 cm) and weighs 73 lb. They work with both Windows XP and Windows Vista. Each model supports sheets as large as 44" (111.8 cm) wide and can scan an area 40" wide. Media as thick as 0.079" (2 mm) is supported. Warranty coverage is two years for return-to-base coverage and includes parts and labor. An optional stand for all models is $400.
Each Colortrac SmartLF scanner includes high-quality software. Colortrac aims to appeal to the broadest cross-section of users by combining wide-format scanning and copying in a single program with a minimal but highly effective set of operator controls and universal Windows printer compatibility.
The Colortrac SmartLF Cx 40c can scan in monochrome at 1.0 ips and in color at 0.12 ips at 600 dpi (based on 36" x 48" E-size media). The speed rating at 200 dpi (D-size portrait) is 9 ips in monochrome and 0.75 ips in color. It scans in 256 levels of gray in monochrome and 16.7 million colors for color scans and is priced at $7,995, including the software.
The Colortrac SmartLF Cx 40e scans in monochrome, grayscale, and express color (fast) modes. Its speed rating at 200 dpi (D-size portrait) is 9 ips in monochrome and 0.49 ips in color, four times as fast in color as the Cx 40c. It is priced at $8,995, including software.
The SmartLF Cx 40m, a monochrome and grayscale scanner, can scan in 600-dpi monochrome mode at 1.0 ips (based on E-size media). At 200 dpi, this model can scan a D-sized portrait sheet in 4 seconds at 8-bit color depth. It is priced at $6,495, including the software.
Contex HD3650 (Base and Plus), HD4230i (Base and Plus), and SD4410
Prices: $15,900, HD3650 Base; $17,900, HD3650 Plus; $16,900, HD4230i Base; $18,900, HD4230i Plus; $8,250, SD4410
IDEAL has been one of the largest U.S.-based distributors of Contex wide-format scanning and imaging devices since 1988, so it came as no surprise during the course of writing this article that Contex acquired IDEAL. IDEAL reports that it plans to maintain its focus on large-format solutions and, in addition, to explore other markets and products that are in keeping with its core mission.
The Contex HD4230i can accept media as wide as 42" and as thick as 0.6" for scans in color, grayscale, and monochrome.
Contex develops solutions for technical, graphics, GIS, and specialized applications, focusing on quality image reproduction and archiving. Contex wide-format scanners are noted for their high quality and ruggedness, which has made them popular with many government agencies.
For this article, Cadalyst looked at three Contex wide-format scanners: the HD3650 and HD4230i, both of which are available in base (standard) and Plus editions, and the SD4410. The HD3650 Plus and the HD4230i Plus differ from their base editions by providing higher interpolated resolutions. Both scan at 600 dpi, with the base models offering an interpolated resolution of 1,200 dpi and the Plus editions offering an interpolated resolution of 9,600 dpi. The Plus models also have faster scanning speeds. The SD4410 by default scans at 1,200 dpi and interpolates to 9,600 dpi.
All three scanners have an accuracy rating of 0.1% ±1 pixel, and each offers despeckling, deskewing, and hole filling. Warranty coverage for all three devices is two years, with the first six months also including on-site coverage. Other coverage plans are optional.
The Contex HD3650 and HD4230i both offer support for more than 50 file formats, scanning in either 256 shades of gray or 24-bit color. The scanners actually scan in 48-bit color and pass the best 24 bits to the attached computer. Connectivity options vary among the three wide-format scanners; the HD3650 and the SD4410 use high-speed USB 2.0 with xDTR, and the HD4230i connects via standard USB 2.0, Ethernet (LAN), or remote HTML control. Each of the devices supports Microsoft Windows XP, Server 2003, and 32-bit versions of Vista. Optional scanning software for all scanners is $700, and an optional stand is $890.
The Contex HD3650 is a 36" scanner that can scan in color, grayscale, or monochrome. Scanning speeds for the HD3650 base model in Turbo/400 mode are 1.5 ips in color and 12.0 ips in monochrome. The HD3650 Plus has a Turbo/400 scanning speed of 3.0 ips in color and 12.0 ips in monochrome. Both the base and Plus editions accept a maximum sheet width of 44" with scan widths limited to 36". Both accept originals as thick as 0.6". Pricing is $15,900 for the HD3650 base model and $17,900 for the Plus edition.
The Contex HD4230i also scans in color, grayscale, and monochrome, but it is a 42" device. Scanning speeds for the HD4230i base model in Turbo/400 mode are 0.6 ips in color and 12.0 ips in monochrome. The HD4230i Plus offers a Turbo/400 scanning speed of 1.0 ips in color and 12.0 ips in monochrome. Both versions of the HD4230i accept 44"-wide sheets with scan widths limited to 42". The HD4230i accepts originals as thick as 0.6". It is priced at $16,900 for the base model and $18,900 for the Plus model.
The Contex SD4410 is a monochrome-only scanner and offers native resolution interpretation to 9,600 dpi. It scans at an optical resolution of 1,200 dpi and accepts a maximum sheet width of 47", scanning a 44" width. Unlike the other two Contex scanners, the SD4410 accepts originals as thick as 0.04". Scanning speed in monochrome Turbo/400 mode is rated at 10.0 ips. Pricing for the Contex SD4410 is $8,250. An optional stand for this printer is $600.
Océ TCS4XT Scanner
Océ North America
Océ is an international provider of an extensive range of digital document management equipment, as well as a noteworthy range of digital scanners and printers.
The Océ TCS4XT can scan in black-and-white at 10 linear feet per minute, which can be upgraded to a maximum of 16.4 linear feet per minute, or in color at 3.5 linear feet per minute, upgradeable to 13 linear feet per minute, at resolutions as high as 150 dpi.
Océ North America submitted a single wide-format scanner for this article, the Océ TCS4XT scanner. This 36" monochrome and color scanner accepts 8"-to 40"-wide originals, scanning an image 8" to 36" wide. Originals as thick as 0.6" are supported. Optical resolution is 575 dpi, which is interpolated to 600 dpi. Although the TCS4XT scanner is compatible with ICC color profiles, it doesn't use them directly. On scan-to-copy operations, for example, Océ software handles the color conversion but does not use ICC profiles; on scan-to-file functions, the file is stored in a way that allows the workstation application to use ICC profiles (sRGB). Supported file formats are TIFF, PDF, CALS,and JPEG.
The Océ TCS4XT scans in black-and-white at 10 linear feet per minute at 600 dpi, a rate you can upgrade to a maximum of 16.4 linear feet per minute at resolutions as high as 200 dpi. When scanning in color, the speed is rated at 3.5 linear feet per minute at 600 dpi, which is constant across all scanning modes; this is upgradeable to a maximum speed of 13.1 linear feet per minute at resolutions as high as 150 dpi. Thresholding is automatic with Océ Image Logic technology. Device accuracy is rated at 0.1% ±1 pixel.
The TCS4XT has an Océ Power Logic controller with embedded Windows XP and connects via FireWire. To support thick-original scanning, the Océ TCS4XT features a flat 10" feeding table in front of the scanner; a flat, retractable 30" receiving table in the rear; and a lever in the top cover to adjust for originals thicker than 0.12". Pricing for the TCS4XT is $17,995 and includes a built-in stand. Software is optional, and multifunction configurations are available. Warranty coverage is 90 days; other coverage plans are available.
ImagePROGRAF iPF720, iPF8000S, and iPF9000S
Prices: $4,795, iPF720; $5,995, iPF8000S; $14,995, iPF9000S
The Canon imagePROGRAF iPF9000S is a thermal aqueous ink-jet printer that can accommodate media as wide as 60" and as thick as 0.8 mm at a maximum output resolution of 2,400 x 1,200 dpi.
The Canon imagePROGRAF iPF720 is a thermal aqueous ink-jet printer that can handle sheets as wide as 36" and as thick as 0.8 mm. It has a maximum output resolution of 2,400 x 1,200 dpi. Cartridges for black and individual colors hold 130 mL of ink. The iPF720 accommodates both cut sheets and media rolls and has a built-in paper cutter. It features 256 MB of RAM, an 80-GB hard drive, and USB 2.0 or 10/100Base-T/TX connection. (An optional IEEE 1394 FireWire connection is available.) A Canon printer driver for Windows and an AutoCAD HDI driver are included. The speed rating for normal output is 1 minute, 40 seconds for a 841 cm x 1189 cm (33.1" x 46.8") A0 sheet (337 ft2 /hour). At $5,395, the iPF720 is the least expensive of the three Canon wide-format printers featured here, and that price includes a one-year limited warranty.
The second printer is the imagePROGRAF iPF8000S, also a thermal aqueous ink-jet device. The iPF8000S handles sheets as wide as 44" and as thick as 0.8 mm with a maximum output resolution of 2,400 x 1,200 dpi. It has larger ink cartridges at either 330 mL or 700 mL for both black and individual colors and accommodates cut sheets and roll media with a built-in paper cutter. It offers a normal quality speed of 3 minutes, 10 seconds for A0 size plain paper (180 ft2 /hour). The iPF8000S includes a Canon printer driver and print plug-ins for Adobe Photoshop and Canon's Digital Photo Professional. It features 384 MB of onboard RAM and, like the iPF270, connects via USB 2.0 or 10/100Base-T/TX, with an optional IEEE 1394 (FireWire) connection. The Canon iPF8000S is priced at $5,995, which includes a one-year limited warranty.
Canon's imagePROGRAF iPF9000S is a thermal aqueous ink-jet device that can handle sheets as wide as 60" and as thick as 0.8 mm at a maximum output resolution of 2,400 x 1,200 dpi. Like the iPF8000S, the iPF9000S offers two ink tank sizes — 330 mL or 700 mL — for both black and individual colors. It accommodates cut sheets as well as rolls and incorporates a built-in paper cutter. Output speed at normal setting is 3 minutes, 10 seconds for an A0 size plain paper sheet (211 ft2 /hour). Connectivity options, as with the other two Canon devices, are USB 2.0 or 10/100Base-T/TX, with a FireWire IEEE 1394 connection being an optional extra. This model features 640 MB of onboard RAM and ships with a Canon printer driver for Windows and print plug-ins for Photoshop and Digital Photo Professional. Producing the largest sheet size of the three Canon wide-format printers in this roundup, the imagePROGRAF iPF9000S is — not surprisingly — the most expensive at $14,995, with a one-year limited warranty.
All three Canon wide-format printers use GARO, a proprietary Canon printer language, and all three offer the option to print lower-quality but faster draft versions. Power consumption for the iPF720 is 140 W or less, 5 W or less on standby mode (10 W or less with FireWire IEEE 1394), and 1 W or less with power off. Both the iPF8000S and iPF9000S have a maximum power consumption of 190 W or less, 5 W or less in standby mode (10 W or less when IEEE 1394 is mounted), and 1 W or less with the power off. Canon USA offers a full line of products from 13" x 19" to 60"-wide output, with the imagePROGRAF line incorporating a 1.07" print head that has 7,680 nozzles.
Designjet T610 Printer Series, T1100 Printer Series
HP is no stranger to wide-format printing, and the company offers a number of innovative devices. For this article, we looked at the HP Designjet T610 Printer Series and the Designjet T1100 Printer Series. (Covered later in this article is the Designjet T1100MFP multifunction printer–scanner–copier.)
The Designjet T610 printers incorporate 128 MB of RAM and connect via a single high-speed USB 2.0 certified port, an EIO Jetdirect accessory slot, or optional HP Jetdirect print servers.
The HP Designjet T610 thermal ink-jet printers can handle sheets as thick as 31.5 mil in widths ranging from 8.5" to 24" and rolls in widths ranging from 11" to 24"; the 44" models handle 8.5"-to 44"-wide sheets and 11" to 44" rolls. An automatic paper cutter is built in.
The Designjet T610 printers can output at a maximum resolution of 2,400 x 1,200 dpi (optimized) at a speed of 30 ft2 /hour (2.8 m2 /hour) in best-color mode. They incorporate 128 MB of RAM and connect via a single high-speed USB 2.0 certified port, an EIO Jetdirect accessory slot, or optional HP Jetdirect print servers. HP-GL/2 and HP-RTL Windows drivers are provided, as is an optimized Windows driver for AutoCAD 2000 and later. Support for Citrix MetaFrame environments is provided, as is an HP PCL3GUI driver for Mac OS X. Supported printer languages are HP-GL2/RTL, CALS/G4, and HP PCL3GUI. The Designjet T610 models start at $2,595.
The Designjet T1100 Printer Series includes thermal ink-jet printers that accommodate sheets as thick as 31.5 mil. The 24" models accept 8.5" to 24" sheets and 11" to 24" rolls; the 44" models can handle 8.5" to 44" sheets and 11" to 44" wide rolls. An automatic paper cutter is included. The T1100 models output at resolutions as high as 2,400 x 1,200 dpi at speeds of 30 ft2 /hour (2.8 m2 /hour) in best-quality mode.
Connectivity options include a single 10/100/1000BT Ethernet RJ-45 port, one high-speed USB 2.0 certified port, one EIO Jetdirect accessory slot, and an optional HP Jet-direct print server connection. Standard memory is 256 MB, and the hard drive stores 40 GB.
The Designjet T1100 supports HP-GL2/RTL, CALS/G4, and HP PCL3GUI formats; the T1100ps model supports Adobe PostScript, Adobe PDF 1.6, HP-GL2/RTL, CALS/G4, TIFF, JPEG, and HP PCL3GUI formats. Printer drivers are provided for a variety of environments and applications, including HP-GL/2 and HP-RTL Windows drivers, an optimized Windows driver for AutoCAD 2000 and later, support for Citrix MetaFrame environments, and HP PCL3GUI driver for Mac OS X. The T1100ps includes HP-GL/2 and HP-RTL Windows drivers, PostScript Windows drivers, an optimized Windows driver for AutoCAD 2000 and higher, support for Citrix MetaFrame environments, and a PostScript driver for Mac OS X. Pricing starts at $3,595.
Both HP wide-format printers accept two sizes of ink cartridges: 69 mL (photo black, cyan, magenta, yellow, and gray) and 130 mL (matte black, photo black, cyan, magenta, yellow, and gray). Power consumption for both series is a maximum of 200 W, with 0.1 W in Off mode and 27 W in Powersave mode. Both are covered by a one-year, next-business-day on-site service warranty; three-, four-, and five-year warranty extensions are available.
For more information about other printers in the Designjet T610 and T1100 series, see the company's Web site.
Océ ColorWave 600, Océ CS2224, Océ CS2236
Océ North America
Prices: $69,930, Océ ColorWave 600 Printer; $2,645, Océ CS2224; $3,995, Océ CS2236
The first of the three Océ products in this month's printer/plotter roundup is the newly introduced Océ Color-Wave 600. The printer uses Océ CrystalPoint technology, which the company describes as a cross between LED toner systems and ink-jet technology that reportedly offers no ozone emissions, no odor, and minimal waste disposal. It produces water-fast prints that can be used outdoors and for markups, with toner crystallization that ensures strong adhesion to any media. It also avoids toner feathering, so you get sharp lines, and prints are direct dry, so they can be handled and stacked immediately.
The Océ CS2224 thermal ink-jet printer can output a D-size sheet print at 2,400 x 1,200 dpi at maximum quality in just 48 seconds.
The Océ ColorWave 600 accepts 500 grams per color of Océ TonerPearls solid toner and outputs as much as 1,575 ft2 /hour in best mode at a resolution of 1,200 dpi. It handles media as wide as 42" and as long as 9.8'. (Longer lengths can be printed without guarantee for the side margins.) It will accommodate one to six 650' rolls, and it incorporates a built-in paper cutter. The Océ ColorWave 600 has a built-in Océ PowerM controller that communicates via a standard RJ45 interface. It has 1 GB of RAM, with an additional 1 GB available as an option, as well as an optional 80 GB–480 GB hard drive. A Windows driver and a PostScript Level 3 driver are standard.
Power consumption is 425 W in active operation, 250 W in Ready mode, 55 W in Sleep mode, and 0.15 W in Off mode.
The purchase price of the Océ ColorWave 600 printer is $69,930. It also is available for $2,349 per month in a lease agreement that includes the printer, maintenance, toner, and 1,000 SmartClicks, which are a measure of your print volume. SmartClicks consumed are automatically recorded in the printer controller.
The second wide-format printer from Océ is the CS2224, a thermal ink-jet printer capable of handling 24"-wide sheets as thick as 0.8 mm. It can accommodate one roll of media and has a built-in automatic paper cutter. Cut sheets are fed from a cassette. Output is 2,400 x 1,200 dpi at maximum quality, taking 48 seconds to produce a D-size sheet print at the highest quality. Communication options are Ethernet 10 BaseT/100 BaseTX or high-speed USB 2.0. Standard printer drivers for both Windows and Macintosh are provided.
The CS2224 has 256 MB of onboard RAM. Supported printer languages are HPGL, HPGL2, and HPRTL, with PostScript being optional. The CS2224 supports 130-mL ink tanks. Power consumption is 100 W or less during standard operation, 5 W or less in Sleep mode, and 1 W or less in Standby mode. Purchase pricing starts at $2,645 and includes one year of warranty coverage (extended warranty plans available).
The last of the three wide-format printers from Océ is the CS2236, which also is based on conventional thermal ink-jet technology. The CS2236 is the largest of the three Océ printers in this roundup, supporting both single sheets and single media rolls as wide as 36" and as thick as 0.8 mm. This model also uses 130-mL ink tanks. It outputs at 2,400 x 1,200 dpi resolution and can complete a D-size sheet print in 48 seconds at the highest-quality settings.
The Océ CS2236 comes with 256 MB of onboard RAM and connects via Ethernet 10 BaseT/100 BaseTX or high-speed USB 2.0 ports. Standard printer drivers for both Windows and Macintosh are included. Printer language support includes HPGL, HPGL2, and HPRTL with PostScript being optional. Power consumption for the Océ CS2236 is rated at 140 W or less during standard operation, 5 W or less during Sleep mode, and 1 W or less on Standby mode. Pricing is $3,995 and includes one year of warranty coverage; additional warranty coverage options are available.
Designjet T1100MFP Printer–Scanner–Copier Series
The HP Designjet T1100MFP (multifunction printer) series includes thermal ink-jet printers that also can scan and copy large-format drawings, maps, and other images in one integrated device. The models can handle 300' rolls and cut sheets as long as 5.5' with a maximum media width of 42" and a maximum thickness of 0.6" (15 mm). An automatic paper cutter is included. Output is rated at 2' per second (51 mm/second) for color and 6" per second (152 mm/second) for black-and-white; color images print at 445 ft2/hour (41 m2/hour) on coated media in fast mode and 30 ft2 /hour (2.8 m2/hour) on glossy media in best-quality mode. Supported print resolution is 2,400 x 1,200 dpi (optimized).
The HP Designjet T1100MFP Series thermal ink-jet multifunction printer–scanner–copier can handle 300ft rolls and cut sheets as long as 5.5ft with a maximum media width of 42in.
Printer language support includes Adobe PostScript 3, Adobe PDF 1.6, HP-GL2/RTL, CALS/G4, TIFF, JPEG, and HP PCL 3 GUI. Connectivity options include one 10/100/1000BT Ethernet RJ-45 port, one high-speed USB 2.0 certified port, and one EIO Jetdirect accessory slot. Scanner connections include one 10/100BT Ethernet RJ-45 port, one high-speed USB 2.0 certified port, and one FireWire port.
Memory includes a 600-MHz Intel Centrino mobile with 256-MB memory and a 40-GB hard disk in the printer and an Intel Pentium 4 2.8-GHz controller with 1 GB of memory and a 40-GB hard disk in the scanner. The model accepts two sizes of ink cartridges: 69 mL (photo black, cyan, magenta, yellow, and gray) and 130 mL (matte black, photo black, cyan, magenta, yellow, and gray). It consumes a maximum of 330 W of power, with 1.69 W in Off mode and 44.4 W in Powersave mode.
The Designjet T1100MFP is priced at $20,995 and includes a one-year, next-business-day on-site service warranty; three-, four-, and five-year extensions are available.