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GIS-CAD for Large Format Printers Print E-mail

Encad, HP, Canon, Oce, or Xerox Xpress? Which brand of CAD plotters should you select for printing GIS, maps, aerial photographs, AutoCAD drawings, 3-D computer generated renderings?

The advantage of the FLAAR evaluations is that we serve the architecture department at two universities where we are situated. Thus scores of architecture students are co-testers of the equipment. The architecture professors' opinions of the equipment and printed results also factor into our evaluation.

HP 800 printing architectural drawings
Printing architectural drawings of the students at Francisco Marroquin University.

Besides, the senior review editor, Nicholas Hellmuth, comes from a background of architecture. Hellmuth, Yamasaki and Leinweber was the name of his father's architectural company as he grew up; Hellmuth, Obata + Kassabaum, HOK Architects was the successor company, both founded by George Hellmuth. Today George W. Hellmuth and William Hellmuth both continue with HOK; architect Daniel Hellmuth works independently (as does Nicholas; he has no connection with HOK other than family heritage and the fact he studied architecture at Harvard).

During 1999, the top of the line large format color plotter for doing graphic design, architectural or engineering CAD drawings, GIS, maps, was the Hewlett-Packard DesignJet 1050 and 1055. The 1055cm has an internal built-in RIP. With the model 1050 you just add your own after-market RIP.

The HP 1055cm in our evaluation facility at the university has been popular with everyone on campus. As soon as the architecture department found out we had this new printer, the architecture professors and students began to make a trip to our office to use the new printer. They love its speed and precision. Eventually it suffered a banding problem so we moved to the HP 800 (dye ink) and HP 5000 (pigmented ink).

The school of architecture itself has an HP 500, but the students and faculty prefer to work with the 800 and 5000.

Architects elsewhere in the city wanted to abandon their own plotters of earlier generation and have their designs printed at the FLAAR facility (but we are too busy with our own work to take on such outside jobs).

What we like about the HP plotters is that the same printer which also does maps and drawings can equally well serve as a proofer or do photo-realistic museum quality prints. Shown at the top right is the HP DesignJet 1055 at DRUPA printer trade show doing proofs of newspapers, printing directly on newsprint, using the ColorBus RIP. At the left of the map, if you select PosterJet RIP then you get close to the same photo quality of an HP DesignJet model 2000, 2500, or 2800 which costs less. Nowadays an HP 5000 or 5500 would be optimal.

Canon, Encad, and Oce also offer printers for CAD, GIS, and aerial photographs. As soon as we add these printers to our evaluation equipment we will be able to discuss them with additional experience. In the meantime the HP DesignJet 800ps works well; the HP 5000 is even better. All the architects on campus are very happy.


This model is no longer available new, but you might find it as a used printer. Regardless of what brand and model, before buying any used printer, we recommend that you realize spare parts may be an issue for printers no longer manufactured. Plus, the main reason why a model is retired is because engineers have developed new (and hopefully better) printheads, ink delivery systems, substrate transport systems, etc. So what may have been an acceptable printer when it was fresh and new, may be not as viable today.

Plus undersand that there are so many old models that it is not realistic for us to update each and every web page going back so many years. So if you need personal assistance, to decide which used printer is worth the risk, you can hire Dr. Nicholas Hellmuth for a personalized consultancy. For more information, contact us at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it



Last updated: Jan. 30, 2003.
Previous updates: Dec. 20, Sept. 6, 2002.



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