Epson has launched two new large-format printers in an effort to win over the engineering sector with its piezo printhead technology.
It might have been expected that the Japanese brand would go after HP at the top of the market, with an all-singing, alldancing, multi-function printer/scanner.
However, Epson seems to be modestly aware of where its technology could 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 either a desktop or floor-standing model, both utilising Epson’s excellent piezo printhead technology.
Its accurate nozzles are fired by piezoelements that apply a voltage to ink, as opposed to the more familiar thermal inkjet technology, meaning fewer heating and cooling stresses applied to the printhead.
The latest PrecisionCore MicroTFP model is capable of firing through an A1 CAD line drawing print in 31 seconds. Plus, from the perspective of running costs, Epson states that the printhead will last the lifetime of the machine, so there’s one less potentially expensive consumable to worry about. The technology has other benefits, too: the ink used is not the typical dye-based ink, but a pigment ink.
While a four-colour set-up means there’s no gloss or matte black for your fancier marketing posters, it makes way for Epson’s UltraChrome XD2 ink, which is doggedly smudge-proof 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 purposes or for plans pinned up for long periods in design offices, damp site cabins or on outside boards, that’s a big benefit.
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. The results are accurate and the colours bold and realistic.
Both printers sit fairly discreetly on any large desk, while the purpose-built stands and overall office installation can easily be managed by the user. It’s 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, provides a clear and easy way to navigate without instruction.
Both machines have ink cartridges of relatively modest capacity for their size (up to 50ml colour and 80ml black) and can 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 inches) or A0 (36 inches).
This variety, coupled with some rather blunt product design, means that both the new models are meant to be used as workhorses, and not merely take up valuable space as decorative office furniture.
That said, these are not the most advanced printers on the market, and they certainly lack some of the features of competing HP printers, such as 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 touchscreens.
Both models are marketed as being designed for users “looking for a compact printer that fits neatly in their workspace”, and they certainly deliver on that promise.
For any design or engineering 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 plotters will hardly break the bank, while at the same time offering prints in great detail.
The SC-T3100 retails at £875 and the SC-T5100 retails at £1,295.