Reviewer's Report Card30 Sep, 2000 By: Evan Yares
Inkjet, thermal, and LED plotters reviewed
Reviewers note: Grade inflation? Todays 4-star rating would have been 5 stars three years ago. Still, its a problemhow do you distinguish between a great product and an insanely great product? The large-format inkjet CAD plotter game is tough. So tough that CalComp, a major division of Lockheed, fell on its sword trying to compete. So tough that Mutoh, which makes inkjet printers for industry giants such as Epson and Kodak, doesnt even try to sell into the CAD market in the United States. So tough that Xerox and Océmultibillion-dollar companies that sell tons of expensive large-format LED printersquietly demur rather than take on Hewlett-Packard.
Who can compete with Hewlett-Packard? Only Canon has the technology in-house. ENCAD, a feisty company if there ever was one, relies on Lexmark as its technology partner. Both could make the ultimate CAD plotter, if they wanted toits not like they dont know how. Speaking of ENCAD, we invited the company to send a plotter for this review, but it declined.
So what is the ultimate CAD plotter? You could say that a Xerox Max200 (at nine E-size prints per minute) or an Océ 9800 (at eight E-size prints per minute) are pretty ultimate. But they cost upward of $150,000 each. No, the ultimate CAD plotter, in my book, is easy to describe: one E-size print per minute at 600dpi, final quality, black-only, with an extended ink system, a full complement of features for unattended use, and an operating cost (including bond paper, ink, and maintenance) of about 46 cents per square foot. Also, it shouldnt cost more than $7,500.
Well, thats my opinion. For years, Ive been telling every major plotter manufacturer in the world that this is what they should build. Think Im right? Think Im nuts? Tell me. Youve got my e-mail address.