I run a meeting that brings together technology managers from several different firms. The Digital Task Force is a group that gathers monthly to discuss topics related to technology use in Architectural firms.
The topic this time around was plotting. We discussed hardware, software and output. We had hardware equipment mentioned that ranged from an HP 700 monochrome plotter to Xerox and Oce high end machines. There were software tools discussed that you may want to look into, like equorum (formerly Byers) for batch plotting, Metaprint (used internally by OCB) and PlanWell for digital plot submission to Repro houses.
We discussed internal plotting efforts and the troubles that accompany them. It was felt that anywhere from 25-35% of plotting troubles were cause by end users forgetting some settings or being in to great a hurry. This caused re-plotting and drove costs up and speed down. The rest of the errors were attributed to hardware troubles and software difficulties.
We discussed a few software tools that track your plotting and allow you to bill your clients. There are many out there. Tracking your plots and billing the client is an option for some firms. Others may not use it.
Shipping your plots out of house may be a viable option. When doing so – send full size TIF files. These are most preferred by the repro firms. Full size files can be reduced in size by the plotters. The Metaprint software in use by OCB does pen weight corrections so that the half size reduced prints are not muddy. PDF files are the next best thing. Most firms are using PDF for sharing information. Reducing the resolution of the PDF helps in some of the reduction issues as well.
When using DWG based plotting be aware that the “Wipeout” command may not produce the desired effects on the plots as they do on screen.
Finally we discussed PlanWell. This is a service used by most repro houses that allows you to electronically submit TIF’s for plotting. Accounts are often free with the cost coming from the amount of plots you request. There is a feature for submitting online work orders. Some firms even deliver the completed plots to your office.