Blueprint Printers Revolutionized - TAVCO

The Evolution of Blueprint Printers: From Diazo to Modern Inkjet Plotters

In the architecture, engineering, and construction (AEC) industries, the term "blueprint printer" carries a nostalgic connotation. 


This term harks back to the days of diazo process printing—a method dating back to the 1850s known for its characteristic smell of ammonia, ultraviolet light, and the creation of a negative image. 


What was Diazo?

The name 'diazo' is derived from diazonium salts, the crucial element in the chemical reaction that allows images to transfer onto paper or other media. The diazo process starts with laying a sheet of light-sensitive blueline paper over a master copy and exposing it to ultraviolet light. 


This light exposure would indicate where the master drawing blocked the light, indicating lines on the sheet. The final step of exposing the sheet to ammonia would complete the development of the image. The result was the impression of a line drawing and a void in the rest of the area. 


Despite its efficiency for its time, the diazo process had its limitations. While quick to produce, the prints were less sharp and durable than those created with modern technology. 


Also, the process required ammonia, proper ventilation, and technical blueprint paper that required special storage. The scent of ammonia also tended to linger on the sheets for long periods. 


Furthermore, environmental concerns over the use of ammonia led to a search for safer and more versatile printing technologies, eventually culminating in the advanced large-format inkjet plotters we see today. Digital workflows, inkjet, and toner plotters replace this dated method.


Diazo blueline blueprint

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What Replaced Diazo Blueprint Printers?

Around the late 1990s, as computers and CAD systems advanced, printing complete drawings on a large format plotter and making blueline hand copies became much more productive. 


This paradigm shift started a new evolution in how AEC companies produced their architectural drawings. A wide range of inkjet and toner plotters supported this demand. 


Examples of modern devices trusted by many companies are the Canon TM-300 seriesCanon TZ-30000HP DesignJet T-Series, and the HP DesignJet XL-3600 Lite Production MFP.


As digital printers, they are more dynamic and powerful than legacy blueline machines that could only make copies. Plus, inkjet plotters are much more environmentally friendly. They consume much less power, make very little noise, a do not produce any offending odors. 


What Types of Media Can Modern Inkjet Plotters Print On?

Unlike the diazo printers limited to certain paper types, today's inkjet machines can print on various media types, including paper, film, vinyl, and canvas


This kind of dynamic printing expands the role of a large-format plotter in the modern AEC office. In addition to printing bid sets, check prints, and drawings for the field; they are also utilized for marketing purposes. 


Today is just as easy to print stunning trade show banners, aerial photos, and other marketing materials as it is to produce standard black-and-white drawings.  


This flexibility allows professionals to select the best medium for their project needs, adding another layer of customization and quality to their work.


HP DesignJet blueprint printer in a modern workspace


Efficiency: Modern Blueprint Printers vs. Diazo Machines

Honestly, there is no comparison. Diazo blueline is an antiquated technology that no one uses anymore. Reproducing diazo drawings was a manual activity requiring a user to be around unpleasant ammonia fumes for long periods. 


New digital workflows and remote work require users to quickly and easily print their drawings from anywhere. Also, the new generations of plotters are full-color machines that enable users to print everything from blackline drawings to maps to eye-popping posters. 


Their ability to quickly produce high-resolution prints at the touch of a button minimizes time spent on the manual tasks of reproducing drawings. It allows professionals to focus more on their primary duties. 


Blueprint Printers Takeaways

Reflecting on the evolution of "blueprint printers," we can appreciate how far we've come. We've transitioned from smelling ammonia in a print room to producing high-resolution prints instantly—a transformation that has streamlined processes enhanced quality, and boosted efficiency in the AEC industry.


At TAVCO, we're committed to staying up-to-date on these technological changes and providing our clients with the best solutions to meet their needs. We invite you to contact us if you have questions or require more information about how these modern inkjet plotters can benefit your work. 


Our team is ready to guide you through the options and help you navigate this era of technological innovation in the AEC industry.


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