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From CAD User AEC Magazine Vol 24 No 05 - SEPT/OCT 2011
Phil Oakley, UK & Ireland country manager for HP Designjet printers, looks at how demands for faster response times and greater collaboration can no longer be met by the traditional large format printer in the corner of the office
While the production of plans, blueprints and design graphics are a key part of architectural, engineering and construction (AEC) companies' operations, the printing device itself - as long as it is functioning reliably - seldom receives much attention. In the past, this was not only acceptable but the way things were done - and it was far better and faster than the old chemical processes.
In today's world, demands for faster response times, more collaborative work, greater competitive awareness and more operations in remote locations, are paving the way for a new breed of multifunctional large format devices.
HOW WE WORK TODAY
Time is money - and this has never been more true than in the fast-paced world of the 21st century. It doesn't matter that the client is five hundred miles away and the construction site 10,000 miles away, the changes to the designs are needed now. The Internet and private networks have enabled collaborative and remote working, virtually in real time. Nonetheless, a number of technical issues have made the process less than perfectly smooth.
For example, it takes a close eye for detail and strict adherence to processes to ensure that the site, the customer and head office have the latest version of a design. Changes made in the field must be available to all parties, and delays and confusion can occur if any of the people needed are on the road or cannot access the relevant server for technical reasons.
Delays may also be caused by the process necessary to share handwritten notes or drawings on existing plans made on site, in the client’s office or at the company's headquarters. Handling such changes and annotations may require them to be sent to another department - or even out of the building to be scanned for FTP distribution.
Another minor, but real, irritation can arise when working with clients away from one's base. The client may wish to run a design on his printer, but your laptop doesn't have the right driver or necessary cables. Time is wasted on trivial IT matters that could better be spent advancing the project.
Solving these issues is exactly what the latest generation of printers can offer the AEC community.
COMMUNICATION DEVICES, NOT JUST PRINTERS
Cloud computing has become something of a buzzword, but for those working in AEC-related businesses, the cloud presents an important solution for project design management. The latest generation inkjet printers have the internal technologies that make them not just printers, but communication devices.
With the capability to receive data direct from a laptop via a USB cable, from a USB stick or by direct scanning to digital formats, some of the newest driverless printers can upload the latest designs and plans to the cloud, where they can be made instantly available to all those who need to see them regardless of where they are. This means that the new plan can be downloaded direct to another web connected printer, or via a computer, for printing out. Handwritten notes and drawings appear exactly as they were written and the project can proceed in the knowledge that the latest drawings are being used and that everyone who needs to see them can.
These printers can also be used for copying old plans - for example in planning departments where very old plans are all that are available - and can be used for creating a digital archive of deteriorating and vulnerable plans.
Driverless printer technologies that use USB sticks for transferring data eliminate the need for printer drivers,
and cables mean that plans can be produced on printers in other locations without delay. Such new printers are also able to handle papers for printing photos and high quality renderings for presentation and marketing purposes, delivering added versatility.
IN-HOUSE OR OUTSOURCED?
Another attractive feature of this technology is that it's not just designed for use by large companies. These printers present an ideal solution for smaller architects' practices, engineering or building companies who want to deliver a big result.
Bureaux wishing to add additional services are able to offer all the functions of these printers, receiving data either traditionally (FTP, CD) or via
a USB stick or USB connection from a customer's laptop. The same ability to share via the cloud is available, offering companies and people working on the project at remote locations to use bureaux services to receive plans and documentation. A recipient may collect the data via a USB device to take back to the site.
These advanced printers will become integral to the operations of tomorrow's AEC and bureaux activities. With display screens and easy operation, such innovative devices work more like a PC than a traditional output device and, like a PC, they become part of normal daily work, communicating reliably, printing, scanning, copying and sharing. www.hp.com
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