Océ’s new full colour wide format printer offers production level features in a compact footprint, writes Greg Corke.
An Autumn 2009 Océ introduced the PlotWave 300. This was the company’s first truly compact wide format multi-function printer and was the first in a new generation of machines that will eventually replace its long-standing TDS and TCS families. Now, at the start of 2010, the Dutch company has introduced a colour version, the ColorWave 300.
The ColorWave 300 bears many similarities to the PlotWave 300. It offers concurrent scanning, printing, and copying, features the same intuitive scroll and click control panel, and supports up to two media rolls. It also provides an optional top document stacker, and can print and scan documents using a USB memory stick. However, the one big difference between the two systems is, of course, the print technology.
Waves of ink
While the monochrome PlotWave 300 features Océ’s patented ‘radiant fusing’ print technology, the ColorWave 300 uses a tried and tested colour inkjet engine, which is taken directly from its predecessor, the TCS 500.
The technology is geared up for production-level colour linework, occasional photo output and mixed line and image documents. The quality of linework, text and shading is impressive and while the output of full colour renderings or photographs is not in the same league as photo-quality printers from the likes of Canon and HP, it is still more than adequate for occasional use.
Océ claims A0 print speeds of 41 seconds for black and white and 63 seconds for colour. This is for ‘draft’ linework, but it is certainly no slouch when outputting mixed line and image documents. Here, to maximise throughput, the PlotWave 300 utilises a technology called dynamic switching. This automatically manages the speed of the print head as it moves over each part of a drawing, accelerating for linework and slowing down for colour.
To help facilitate longer uninterrupted printing, the Colorwave 300 boasts four 400ml ink cartridges in cyan, magenta, yellow and black. As the ink is held in a reservoir before it hits the print heads, cartridges can be changed in the middle of a print job without affecting output, which is a nice feature.
When loading Océ media the system will automatically recognise paper type and adjust print settings accordingly. It will also auto-align the media if it has been loaded slightly skew. With its two paper rolls, media can be changed on the fly, in the middle of a print job, which backs up its production level credentials.
A unique feature of the ColorWave300 is the optional top delivery tray. Available for Spring/Summer 2010, it will enable up to 50 drawings to be stacked at the top of the machine. According to Océ, it will not add any significant bulk to an already compact machine and works by first holding the prints at the back of the machine to dry, then using rollers to straighten the curved media, and finally blowing air between each print to stack them without sticking.
The compact footprint of the ColorWave 300 is made possible by stacking the scanner directly on top of the printer. This is in contrast to Océ’s TDS and TCS range, where the scanner is a separate unit. The slimline scanner uses multi-camera Contact Image Sensor (CIS) technology and like all of Océ’s wide format scanners, Color Image Logic technology. In short, this automatically recognises the type of document, compensates for background noise and adjusts levels accordingly to maximise the quality of text, line and photo prints.
For day-to-day operation, the ColorWave 300 can be controlled via a scroll and click control panel, which is attached to the top right hand corner of the machine. From here one touch scanning and copying is possible using four customisable templates. These control variables such as resolution, file format and save location or whether the document to be scanned as a colour photo or line drawing.
The scroll and click control panel also comes into play when printing from or scanning to a standard USB memory stick. A unique capability for the large format sector, it is straightforward with the system auto-sensing the size of the drawing, then scaling it to fit or auto-rotate to fit the loaded media. Scanning is equally straightforward and it is clear that a lot of attention has been paid to keeping the interface simple for even novice users.
In a networked environment print jobs can be sent directly from AutoCAD or any Windows-based application and multiple drawing files can be submitted using Océ’s browser-based Publisher Express tool. The whole system is managed from a Web browser using Océ Express WebTools and this includes job management, ink and media monitoring, and network configurations.
For more control over document distribution, particularly over multiple networked print devices, Océ offers an optional software called Reprodesk Studio. Features include batch print PDF, document accounting, automatic job distribution to the most suitable printer (e.g. colour or monochrome), and advanced queue management. While a major focus for Reprodesk Studio is about sending documents to print, the software is equally adept at electronic distribution.
The ColorWave 300 is the latest in a new generation of multifunction wide format devices from Océ that are specifically designed for companies where floor space is in short supply. Not only does the scanner and printer have a small footprint, but the optional top delivery tray will stack documents efficiently without adding to its horizontal bulk.
While this new ‘compact’ configuration will not suit everyone, busy print rooms or for those that require optimum scan quality with a single camera full depth scanner have many other options to draw from within the Océ range.
In terms of positioning, the ColorWave 300 can fill multiple roles, each of which depends largely on print volumes. It can certainly reduce the need for colour outsourcing, and work comfortably alongside a volume monochrome printer. In the case of a smaller architectural practice, it can be used as a one-stop-shop for production printing.
Demand for large format colour documents continues to grow, and the benefit of mixed line drawings and renderings for better communication of design intent should not be underestimated.
However, the major barrier to adoption continues to be price per print, which is significantly more than output from monochrome printers. With volumes and document types varying greatly from company to company, this can only really be quantified on a case-by-case basis, but by taking a closer look at the cost of this technology and weighing it up against the practical benefits it should soon become clear where this technology can fit into your workflow.