Reprographics printing means many things to different people

Reprographics 15 years ago and reprographics today are very different. Reprographics today includes more inkjet but still is based on monochrome toner printers. Reprographics today can be page size or more often wide-format. But do not forget the background of reprographic shops: blueprints and diazo printing technology, and primarily monochrome: not full color at all.

I tend to view reprographics as CAD, and comparable drawings or renderings which can do okay in dye ink. Dye ink jets easier than pigmented ink. Dye ink has slightly better color gamut. But dye ink deteriorates in really humid climates, and colors do not last long in the sun. However for many reprographic applications, dye ink is fine.

You can also consider reprographics printing as being fast production at good quality but with priorities mainly for speed and low-cost-per-print. So you can use an HP Designjet Z3200 for reprographics but this is a giclee or fine art printer, not a reprographic printer.

Reprographics generally implies printing on plain paper. Plain paper costs significantly less than coated media that is required by most wide-format inkjet printers.

So any ink that can print well on uncoated stock has potential.

Fifteen years ago, reprographic was synonymous with a Blueprint shop

Considering that the concept of blue prints, diazo and even electrostatic wide-format printers disappeared long ago, it is remarkable how many printshops still feature the word reprographics in their corporate name.

But 15 years ago reprographic printing was a way of life. Cygnus even published a reprographics magazine (Modern Reprographics). But as reprographics shops went out of business, and as everyone woke up to realize there was not much “modern” about reprographics, Cygnus had to rename this as a wide-format imaging magazine. Unfortunately for them, Digital Output and other magazines already were previously established in the signage, giclee, and photo printing niche.

A reprograpic shop also provides scanning services. Contex is one brand of wide-format scanners, but there are others. Canon and HP rebrand scanners from the basic brands.

Reprographics printer trade shows (expos)

IRgA is correct when their slogan is “Built on Blueprints.” However their nice trade show deteriorated to the point there was almost nothing left. So cleverly they now co-locate with ISA (since 2011).

What is sad is that (in mid-September 2011) you learn that IRgA intelligently decided not to have any more trade shows under their own name. Not enough interest or demand for pure reprographic workflow vendors. Today is mult-tasking: doing more than just repro work in a printshop.

IRgA stands for International Reprographic Association.

Applications for a reprographic print shop 

  • CAD drawings

  • Engineering drawings

  • Renderings (color or B&W)

  • Trade show displays and graphics

  • Convention and lecture graphics

  • Wide-format scanning (basic scanning, not needing a Cruse)

To survive, and prosper, reprographic shops now include more kinds of signage.

The first wide-format inkjet printers for reprographics were Encad

While HP was still making pen plotters, Encad was already selling wide-format printers. Be very leery about buying any used Encad printer, as even new they had infamous quirks. Here are a few models:

Encad Chroma24
Encad T-200

Encad’s remnants were bought by Kodak. Typically, Kodak was not able to keep any wide-format enterprise afloat, and Kodak finally dumped the remains of Encad several years ago.

Many years ago the following printers were used in reprographics

HP was so into pen plotters that it took a long time for their  management to understand the potential of wide-format inkjet. Still today HP managers use the word “plotter” to describe wide-format printers.

But Encad became successful selling wide-format inkjet (the FLAAR reviews began circa 1997-1998.

HP Designjet 450C, 24” and 36”
HP Designjet 650C, 24” and 36”
HP Designjet 750C, 24” and 36”

The early model Designjet were not very fancy, and it was not until Encad sales rose even higher that then HP woke up by about 2001, making their Designjet printers available to FLAAR to review and to compare with the Encad system.

In more recent past years reprographic printers from HP included the

HP Designjet 500, entry level (a polite way to say low-end)
HP Designjet 800 was better than the model 500
HP Designjet 1050C, had banding issues.
HP Designjet 1055CM, had banding issues.

Nowadays, in 2011, the models from HP which can do reprographics include

HP Designjet T510

HP Designjet T610

HP Designjet T770

HP Designjet T790

HP Designjet 815mfp, a printer with wide-format copier

HP Designjet T1100

HP Designjet T1100mfp, a printer with wide-format copier

HP Designjet T1200, HP Designjet T1200PS

HP Designjet T2300

HP Designjet 4000 (not very successful)

HP Designjet 4500 (to replace the model 4000)

HP Designjet 4500mfp, a printer with wide-format copier

New HP Designjet models for the reprographic industry include

HP Designjet T1120 SD, printer with scanner

HP Designjet T2300e, HP Designjet T2300e PS, printer with scanner

HP Designjet 4520mfp, printer with scanner

Canon reprographic printers for CAD

Canon had a slow beginning in the world of wide-format; they used technology from Selex. These were so rudimentary we did not evaluate them. But then Canon gained enough experience to produce some more acceptable printers, and then we began to evaluate the newer models. Of the many imagePROGRAF printers, here are some that are more for reprographic applications:

Canon iPF500
Canon iPF610
Canon iPF610
Canon iPF710
Canon iPF720
Canon iPF755

Mutoh has tried to enter the reprographics market

Mutoh DrafStation, successful because it is good albeit basic
Mutoh RJ-800C, not very successful

Epson has tried to enter this reprographics market

Mutoh succeeded because their DrafStation is used as a dye-sublimation printer and a low-bid signage printer. But the Epson models that Epson attempted to sell in Europe as 4-color CAD printers were never successful.

Epson Stylus Pro 4400
Epson Stylus Pro 7400
Epson Stylus Pro 9400

About every two or three years somewhere in Epson Europe attempts to offer a 4-color model as a CAD printer. I don’t list the model numbers because they were so unsuccessful that I can’t remember their actual  names. Plus these are rarely attempted in the USA (since most architects are spoiled by HP printers and don’t want to put up with Epson piezo printhead quirks).

Years ago Seiko I Infotec Inc. offered oil-based printers

We actually have evaluations of these oil-based printers.

Seiko IP-4500MK-II
Seiko IP-4010MK-II

But they were “before their time” and the first models produced what is most politely called curious quality.

Years ago Xerox also offered oil-based wide-format inkjet printers for reprographics

These were okay for basic reprographic but not adequate for color photographs. The Xerox publicity team made too many overly enthusiastic claims for what these printers were supposed to do. Plus, everything about the printer was so overpriced I could hardly believe that any printshop would pay such a price (you could get the same if not better RIP software for much less, for example). The unrealistic claims, and excessive prices, resulted in FLAAR reviews which reminded people of the reality.

XES Xpress
XES ColorgrafX X2

Eventually XES gave up and disappeared.

Toner-based printers: KIP

The main KIP printers are their
K3100 series
K5000 series
K7000 series
K9000 series, such as KIP 9900 wide-format
But today their top model produces lovely color photographs. This is the KIP Color 80 reprographic printer.   Photos of this available from sign expos the last two years.

Oce reprographic printers

Oce TDS400, scan and print system, LED electrophotography, toner

Oce 9300, looks like a wide format inkjet, but is laser

Oce 9400, 9500

Oce PlotWave 300
Oce ColorWave 300
Oce ColorWave 600
Oce Color Stream, various models.

Seiko printers for AEC

Seiko Teriostar LP-1020.

Seiko LP 1030

Seiko LP 2050

Xerox printers for architecture, engineering, construction

Xerox failed twice trying to get into wide-format inkjet printers for reprographic applications in AEC. But they still make toner machines for reprographic purposes since Xerox is still a respected brand name.

  • Xerox 8840, 8845

  • Xerox 5080, black laser toner

  • XES Synergix 8850 and XES Synergix Scan System

  • Xerox 6204

  • Xerox 6604, 6605, 6279, etc.

Additional considerations

Wide-format inkjet does require intelligent thought to operate. These are not plug-and-play machines. Yes, you can print okay without knowing ICC color profiles and color management jargon, but you can do a better job with wide-format inkjet devices if you understand color management.

You can print with wide-format with an idiot-proof RIP, but it sure helps if you actually understand what a RIP is and how it can assist you improve your output (and lower your ink costs with ink limit settings).

So toner-based systems tend to be a tad more idiot proof, in part because there is no color science involved.


First posted October 5, 2011.