Epson’s new entry-level large format printers put the functional first, writes Stephen Holmes
Epson has launched two new large format printers in an effort to woo the AEC sector over to the benefits of its piezo printhead technology.
It might have been expected that the Japanese brand would go after HP at the top of the tree with an all-singing, alldancing, multi-function printer/scanner.
However, Epson seems to be modestly aware of where its technology can make the biggest impact – at the entry-level, targeting price conscious architects and engineers who simply need a fast, reliable, large format printer for small workgroups.
The 24-inch (A1) SC-T3100 has the smallest footprint of its class, and along with the 36-inch (A0) SC-T5100, is available as a desktop or floor-standing model, both utilising Epson’s excellent piezo printhead technology.
Its accurate nozzles, fired by piezoelements, which apply a voltage to the ink, rather than the more familiar thermal inkjet technology, mean there are fewer heating and cooling stresses applied to the Epson printhead.
The latest PrecisionCore MicroTFP model installed here is capable of firing through an A1 CAD line drawing print in 31 seconds. Plus, from a running cost perspective, Epson states that the printhead will last the lifetime of the machine, so it’s one less potentially expensive consumable to worry about.
The technology also has added benefits: the ink used is not the typical dyebased, but a pigment ink.
While a four-colour set-up means there’s no gloss or matte black for the fancier marketing posters, it makes way for Epson’s UltraChrome XD2 ink that is doggedly smudge and water-resistant.
We tried our hardest to smear the finest lines straight off the printer, and they refused to budge. Additionally, this ink is fade resistant – so for archiving or for plans pinned up for long periods in design offices, damp site cabins, or on outside boards these have huge benefits.
The inks are slightly more expensive than typical dye-based alternatives, but this cost is generally offset by not having to regularly replace the printhead, and the results are accurate and the colours bold and realistic.
Both printers seem happy sitting somewhat discreetly on any large desk, while the purpose-built stands and the overall office installation can easily be done by the user and is much simpler than putting together an average IKEA bookcase.
Users can print from CAD or PDF in a variety of ways – over USB, Ethernet or WiFi. Apple AirPrint is also supported for easy printing from iOS devices. When a WiFi network isn’t available or only exists in the form of a closed corporate network, users can connect directly to the printer using Wi-Fi Direct.
It’s also possible to print directly from a USB flash drive or other storage device using the in-built touchscreen, which although quite small by today’s standards is a clear and easy way to navigate without instruction.
Both machines have relatively modest capacity ink cartridges for their size (up to 50ml colour and 80ml black) and accommodate a variety of media – rolls up to 24- and 36-inches and up to 50 sheets of A4 and A3 paper through the auto sheet feeder with autoswitch, as well as cut-sheet papers up to A1 (24”) or A0 (36”).
This variety coupled with some rather blunt product design mean that both the new models are meant to be used as workhorses, not take up space as decorative office furniture.
That said, these are not the most advanced printers on the market, and they lack the features of competitor HP printers, like the ability to print remotely over the internet.
There’s no built-in scanner for either model, although the printers can be connected to third party document scanners, and offer auto enlarge controls via their touchscreen controls.
Both models are marketed as being designed for users ‘looking for a compact plotter that fits neatly in their workspace’, and they are certainly that.
For any AEC firm needing simple printing capabilities, especially for CAD drawings and renders that are likely to be exposed to the outside elements or used for archiving, then these will hardly break the bank while offering great detail prints.
The SC-T3100 retails at £875 and the SC-T5100 retails at £1,295.
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