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How much do you use large-format printers and/or plotters?

September 10, 2003
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How much do you use large-format printers and/or plotters?

In August, the Point of View topic was printers and plotters. There were 18 respondents to this poll, of which 14 were land surveyors, none were engineers only and four were both engineers and surveyors.

Of the respondents, 14, or 78 percent, used or outsourced the use of a large-format plotter or printer. The remaining 22 percent did not. HP was the most popular brand of plotter in use, with 17 of the 18 respondents reporting using it. The other mention was Protracer. Popular models were the HP Design Jet 500 (42” color), the HP750C, the HP650C, the HP5500PS, and the HP250C.

Half of those responding said that their printer/plotter was state-of-the-art; 39 percent reported theirs as being older but working fine for their needs; and 11 percent reported that theirs was older and in need of updating.

Fifty percent of respondents said that they did all large-format plotting in-house. Another 22 percent said that they did some in-house plotting, 11 percent reported contracting out large-format plotting, six percent said that they did a lot of their in-house printing and another 6 percent said that they have no need for large-/wide-format plotting.

Most respondents (83 percent) said that they would spend less than $10,000 on a large format printer or plotter. And the other 17 percent said they would spend between $10,000 and $25,000 on one. No respondents said that they would spend more than that.

All of those responding said that their printers/plotters were inkjets. Most (56 percent) use a color plotter/printer, about 17 percent use a black and white printer/plotter and 28 percent use both.

The responses were even for 24” and 36” printers, 39 percent each used one or the other. The remaining 22 percent used larger than a 40” plotter.

The good news was that most (67 percent) never had to get their plotter serviced and 17 percent had to get their plotter serviced less than once a year. Another 17 percent reported needing service about once a year and none reported needing service more than that.

Scanners, a related type of technology, were used by 78 percent of respondents. The remaining 22 percent reported not using a scanner in their work. Not surprisingly, the numbers of those who thought a multi-function scanner/plotter device was a good idea were similar to the numbers of those who use or do not use scanners: 72 percent thought they would be a good idea and 28 percent did not.

Are paper plans a thing of the past? For almost half the respondents (44 percent) the answer may be yes, as they did 76-100 percent of their plans digitally. Another 11 percent did 51-75 percent of their plans digitally and 28 percent responded using only 1-25 percent digital plans. Still, most plans are not delivered digitally. Only 6 percent delivered 76 to 100 percent of their plans digitally, 33 percent delivered 51-75 percent of their plans digitally, 6 percent reported delivering 26-50 percent of their plans digitally. Fifty-six (56) percent reported delivering 0 percent of their plans digitally.

Hard copy maps being phased out completely is not something that surveyors are predicting according to the results of this poll. Eighty-nine (89) percent of respondents say that there will always be a need for paper maps. No one saw hard copy maps as already being phased out and about 11 percent thought that this would happen in the future, but not for awhile.

Speed was the most popular feature chosen as most important with 44 percent of the vote; color representation followed with 22 percent and the ability to handle wide media also took 22 percent of the votes.

Sixty-seven (67) percent of respondents thought that the trend toward using more digital media was helpful to the surveying industry, the other 33 percent saw it as being harmful. Some thoughts on this question are represented in the following comments:

“That will depend (as usual) on the lawyers’ and judges’ determinations. I see the point where filing maps will be done digitally and hopefully the people in charge will know how to use them.” -- Stephen J. Hubertus, NY and PA land surveyor

“[It is] helpful for transferring information in a clear format, and especially useful if on State Plane Coordinates. It is still easier to look at hard copies! There should always be a hard copy of every project. It is much easier for office personnel to make a copy from a hard copy than to be trained and take the time to open a digital file to plot.” – P. Kules, VT land surveyor

“It gets the job done faster. We will always need paper. The technology is changing very fast. Only paper is permanent. Do you remember DOSS? Many of our digital records are in DOSS.” -- Randall G. Kale, NC engineer/land surveyor

“[Digital maps] take less space to store. [They are] easier to distribute quickly via email.” -- Rob Mellis, FL land surveyor

“We are getting away from the document we can “hold in our hands by the four corners” and are becoming dependent upon interpreting what we see on a monitor.” -- Shawne Walker, TX land surveyor

“Paper always has been and always will be the material of choice for most of my clients. They want/need to touch and feel something in order to feel "good" about paying for my services.” -- Ian Wilson, CA land surveyor

“The efficiency derived from digital sources is in the interests of client, regulatory authority and the public. One should always review hard copies. The average surveyor in the field, property owner, contractor on the construction site or other users cannot turn off layers or levels and zoom in. Errors are often more apparent on a hard copy than on a screen. (I have even created a black and white color table on my computer screen.) "Following the footsteps" and retracing actions includes review and production of hard copies.” -- Richard J. Homovec, NC PLS

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