Printing: Inkjet versus laser

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In the large format print market the battle between inkjet and laser technologies continues to rage, but specialist print reseller, City and West End Solutions, believes inkjets are emerging as the number one contender.

HPÝs DesignJet 4500 series is changing the way people think about wide format inkjet printers by not only adding performance, but bringing a suite of remote management tools to the table.

In todayÝs CAD, Engineering and reprographics market, now more than ever is there a need for accurate hard copy prints combined with speed, cost and ease of use. This demand has led to the battle of the heavyweights in large format printing; large format digital inkjet versus high-end laserjet. The choice of hardware, software and third party media is now so vast and developments in technology have progressed so far that confusion to the customer abounds and can cause not only frustration, but loss of money ± ouch!

Specialist Value Added Reseller City and West End Solutions has been witness to the many changes in this market for over 30 years and is proud of the fact that it has rolled with the punches and is still providing solutions in large format print for its customers today. The company has strong views on the conflict for the title and why one in particular is emerging as the number one contender.

Round One

Doug Gilbertson, Managing Director of City & West End explains, ýHistorically digital inkjet and in particular, large format digital inkjet was perceived as being extremely expensive and difficult to operate, whereas this view has gradually been displaced and the reality is that large format inkjet printers are in essence the same as desktop inkjets ± but bigger. The view was further advocated by the then use of LED laser printers which were the de facto standard and tied companies in by using Ùclick chargeÝ contracts.

ýThe main developments in large format inkjet technology are not just the sexy product features like unattended printing or multiple remote printing that has made it the favourite of the CAD industry but colour, cost and control. Colour was a massive step forward. LEDs were limited in that amendments on building plans, for example, could not be immediately distinguished whereas on an inkjet all amendments could be colour coded. Looking past the obvious printing needs like the production of plans etc, there were also other big advantages. As markets got fiercer in the building trade, then securing contracts became paramount and being able to produce rendered images of the finished building, incorporating digital photos of the site and many other visual possibilities gave companies the WOW factor.¯


Large format inkjet has also outclassed the laserjet in terms of control now too. Traditionally the large format LED printer, usually of tank-like proportions, were housed in their own Ùprint roomsÝ in a central location, producing hundreds of copies which then had to be distributed by courier. The evolution of CAD and the Internet has meant that there are more printers in-house and even on-site resulting in less room for error when it comes to obtaining the latest plans as they can be downloaded and printed instantly.

The counter-punch

Leading manufacturers such as Hewlett Packard and Canon have designed large format inkjet printers to be as quick as the laserjets with the added advantage of colour, but have also kept the end-user in mind with regards to control. Other manufacturers such as Epson have also produced large format printers but the output is more photo-quality images as in the past they were so much better integrated with Mac environments and have not strayed far from this niche.


ÙPrint management functionalities enable more control for IT or the departments running the printers as the hardware can calculate square metre production, ink usage and speed. Consequently production costs can be calculated and it has been found that large format printing is now cheaper than ever ± and more accessible.Ý Doug Gilbertson continues, ÙUnattended printing or Webaccess in HP language if youÝre using a HP large format printer, means that you can dial in via the server to the printer from anywhere, to send your job to print. Not only that, the printer can broadcast back to the user information such as current status, how much ink is left, printer errors or even if there is a paper jam. Technology has not yet advanced to enable the printer to change a roll of paper though ± although with the Designjet 4500 you can have up to three rolls of different paper queued up and ready to print, simply by selecting the roll you want ± just like a different paper tray!Ý

Scoring Hit

Further fancy footwork through the latest software can also enable the user to print simultaneously, globally if need be. An example could be illustrated by a book or record cover design being sent to 12 printers in 12 sites across the world and every single print would be identical and output fully controllable from a central location. To achieve this you would need to have compatible software and getting the correct one for your print needs is where solutions providers enter the ring.

Doug Gilbertson continues, ÙAlthough the inkjet large format printers are easy to use having someone with specialist knowledge to help with installation, training and initial set up, ensures you get printing as soon as possible. Software can also be tailored in some cases to suit your specific business requirements.

In addition to the hardware, there is also a vast amount of media available for large format including custom profiled material and third party media. There is such an array out there it can be confusing and not cost effective if you end up using the wrong one.Ý

Although not a knock-out finish between laser and inkjet, it is clear that for cost, quality and speed, the prize-fighter is certainly inkjet in the Red CornerÍ


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