Uzanto just bought a bad-ass large-format printer for printing the data visualizations that come out of MindCanvas. When I say large-format, I mean large-format: the Designjet 130 we bought can print on paper that’s 24″ by 64″. It’s a beast! I guess I hadn’t really realized how big the printer would be until it arrived in the mail. This isn’t the kind of printer you have at your desk. This is the kind of printer that has it’s own desk.
The printer was expensive ($1300), but it’s already paid for itself in terms of results: for exploring large, interrelated data sets, there’s nothing better than a really big piece of paper that you can tack up on a wall. The visualizations that we print have thousands of datapoints and are in various colors (very Tufte, actually). Printing the deliverables using a print shop isn’t an option: it takes too long. Our goal with the MindCanvas service is to do an entire research project in 7 days, so we don’t have time to wait for proofs at Kinkos!
Wow, the visual impact of the prints is stunning! It’s not just the size, it’s also the vibrant color and overall sheen (especially when printed on high-gloss paper).
Despite what HP tells you, you can buy paper from any vendor and it will work just fine. Don’t believe the hype! The HP paper costs like 5$ a sheet, and I was able to buy 100 sheets of high-gloss 25”*19” paper from the good folks at Kelly Paper for only 25$.
Industrial-strength solutions tend to be a lot less user-friendly than consumer ones (think of an Apple PC vs a SUN workstation, or a car vs. a bulldozer). The same is true with large format printers. The thing took half a day to set up, and was a lot more complex than I had anticipated.
In general, when you’re printing, it’s a good idea to hover over the machine and make sure it’s ok. Sometimes it will randomly form-feed a (25″ * 19″) sheet before starting to print. Sometimes a print will fail to start for mysterious reasons. Configuring a print job (on your PC) so that it will print out on the right size for your paper is a little tricky (I’ve got it wrong several times).
The designjet 130 has a VERY loud fan, and makes disturbing industrial noises when it prints. It’s so big and bulky that it’s become a defining feature of our office. Will clients be intimidated or repulsed by it? Does it make our office look like Kinkos? The designjet 130 is an aesthetic nightmare, and really should be hidden in a back room if possible.