University of Plymouth uses Epson plotters to transform student assessments

With over 100 architecture students, the University of Plymouth’s school of Art, Design & Architecture has immense pressure placed on its print studio to produce large format technical drawings, architectural plans and schematics

With over 100 architecture students, the University of Plymouth’s school of Art, Design & Architecture has immense pressure placed on its print studio to produce large format technical drawings, architectural plans and schematics, while offering value for money to students on a per-print basis.

The print studio supports students across art, architecture and graphic design, and each student brings a different challenge to the studio. Every project has different needs and each student different expectations, so speed, reliability and versatility are essential.

A Solution for Technical Printing

Before investing in its first Epson SureColor SC-T5400M plotter, the University’s print studio had been working with photographic printing materials and hadn’t really explored the potential technical printing options for architectural/surveying students. Although previous printers in the studio had – the studio hadn’t been able to produce really accurate colour – a challenge solved by the SC-T5400.

“The team at the University were impressed by the T5400’s speed and durability, and that’s what’s was attractive as we knew it would fill a gap in our printing resources” explains Luke Broadway, School Technical Manager for Art, Design & Architecture at the University of Plymouth. “We had high-end photography and art printers like the SureColor SC-P9000 series, but we didn’t have anything specifically suited to technical reprographics.”

“After spending some time using the Epson SC-T5400 I believe it occupies that sweet spot between being super-fast - A1 prints in less than 40 seconds - and high quality as its line quality and fine text appearing marginally sharper on plain paper than on similar paper in the SC-P7000 / SC-P9000 printers,” adds Mike Endacott, Digital Design Technician at the University of Plymouth. “Solid colours look nice even on graphic work and architectural prints making it a really useful addition to our facility, especially at peak times when the amazing speed will be appreciated.

“Additionally, the general user experience is much better than any other large format printer I have used. The large colour screen is quick and easy to read, paper loading - both sheet and roll-fed is very straightforward.”

“The ink costs are great and maintenance is pretty much non-existent, we’re not having to spend all morning cleaning heads which has been our experience in the past,” says Broadway. “It really shows how technology has developed and especially how ink technology has developed. I’ve used Epson machines for over 10 years, they’re really reliable systems. We can rely on them and they’re very easy to use.

“Originally the print studio was based in a media hub, there were a couple of printers and technicians, and it didn’t really work. I had a vision for an open plan studio where students could walk in and be around the printers and see how they work and work with the technicians to understand the processes. Epson have really helped make that vision a reality.”

Transforming Student Assessments

Assessments used to involve very heavy folding boards the students pinned work to. They were cumbersome, to the point of creating manual handling issues. The SC-T5400 allows the University to print on far lighter weight papers, and has facilitated the installation of a wire hanging system, allowing students to present larger prints more easily.

“The reason we made the change was because of the Epson printer; we’ve now got ability to print stuff quickly, at the size, scale we require, and it is compatible with a range of roll-based substrates,” explains Broadway. “When we initially tested the SC-T5400 printer, we were very impressed by the speed and the quality – even when printing on 90gsm paper. We find the inks lay nicely on the paper and it provides a very cost-effective and quick response to students’ needs. From our perspective, the printer offers a great solution to printing high colour on a lightweight paper, especially where they have to present their work as part of their assessment so having fast printers that can print 720p very quickly, that’s really good to have.”

Partnership with Epson

The University had a very strong relationship with an Epson channel partner who introduced the University to members of the Epson team. Epson wanted to discuss education engagement, setting up a training centre, testing equipment and getting feedback from a creative environment. “We are quite high octane in that everything we do is very much bespoke – every student has different needs, has different aspirations and expectations, so it’s quite a good proving ground,” continues Broadway. “The partnership is great because we want to engage with industry, we want to give our students opportunities for industry practise, industry processes and techniques, and it started from there.

“The ambition is to be a springboard for Epson to engage with students, it’s been a really valuable relationship. We’ve also had robot arms from Epson, which are being used for various applications in the science and engineering department. We’ve also just come online with a new visual applications lab, and we’re launching an immersive media lab in Easter, where the arms will support with automating motion capture and image mapping for AR and VR.”