With such a wide & varied choice of Plot Media available today it's easy to get confused as to which one is right for your application & your plotter. Most CAD inkjet papers are universal, fitting the HP Designjet, Canon IPF, Oce CS series, Epson or Xerox wide format ranges. However, it is important to understand which media is suited for each application and what size of media to buy, including simple things such as length of media or even the core size. As such we decided to compose a simple guide to help you get the best media for you.
Media weights start from as little as 52gsm to 60gsm for entry level products rising up to 395gsm (grams per SQ Mtr) or above for more specialised Display graphics products (which we will discuss in a separate Guide)
60gsm paper also known as detail paper is rarely used these days as it tends to be a hang over from Diazo printing days when originals needed to be slightly transparent so as to accommodate copying via a Blueprint ammonia plan copying machines, ironically although this is the lightest weight media it does tend to cost more than both 80 & 90gsm products as it is manufactured in much smaller quantities.
80gsm is widely used where a low cost per print is required and is therefore ideal for manufacturing shop floors, construction site use or general built environment applications. This paper is always uncoated and is most suited to monochrome output but will take some spot colour or colour line work, but only in more modern inkjet devices that tend to lay down less ink than older devices.
90gsm is the market standard this paper can be both coated or uncoated, it generally has a smoother finish and is often the choice for organisations who wish to always produce a high standard of output as it is more capable of heavier ink takes, particularly important if you need to render any part of your CAD drawing with a solid colour fill. Iit is important to know whether you require coated or uncoated, most users will get away with uncoated but if your application is a GIS one for instance or high saturation presentation drawing then a coated media maybe more suited, especially on an older inkjet device.
95gsm and above, these medias are always more suited for presentation quality output, they have a more substantial feel, a brighter white appearance (if desired) & are ideal for project winning tenders or even planning applications. They tend to produce a more brighter colour gamut and again are available as uncoated or coated with the latter available in a range of finishes such as Photo Gloss, Satin or Matt, these medias will be covered in the Display graphics Guide. For CAD applications then a matt finish is ideal especially when a cockle free output is needed.
Optimising the Quality of Media Output
Most plotting devices allow you to select the media type that you are loading, this will govern the amount of ink laid down and the printing time, it also gives consideration to the drying time before automated cutting takes place so as to avoid smudging in the plot collector. Additionally some devices such as the Oce CS2136, CS2236, 2224 or 2344 are optimised more specifically, allowing for additional functionality such as edge to edge printing on photo gloss for instance, or for users who swap between many media types the machine will print a bar code on the media prior to swapping, this reminds the machine when reloading as to the media type and also how much is left on that reel...important if you have a long plot or are nesting, this functionality is also covered in a separate guide that will cover ICC colour profiling and software rips.
Large Format sizes
These are the three main considerations when choosing the correct size, they may seem obvious but it's worth double checking:-
The Length of the roll
The Core Size
Length of roll, older style machines such as the Designjet 200,400,600 and 700 series devices take 50mtr media length as maximum as in the standard OEM roll feed unit it is necessary to shut the cover, you can't do this on a longer reel length (the manual may say 45mtr but a 50mtr of any weight of 90gsm or below generally fits) Longer lengths such as 91 meter will fit the Designjet 1050 & 1055 series, 4000, 4500 and the newer T or Z series machines, this length also fits the Canon IPF and Oce CS range although it is possible on some of these devices to fit a longer length, it's best to check your manual or the sales literature. Even longer lengths will fit the Xerox 7142 and Oce TCS products.
A longer length should always be used where available as this always represents better value for money per SQ Mtr and importantly less packaging is used.
Width is an obvious consideration you would have thought, however there are also a couple of quirks with this, if you have an A1 machine then it will be a 24" 610mm A1+ width, this is bigger than the standard DIN A1 size and is to accommodate the world market, a few companies convert 594mm but this is usually to special order. A0 machines are also over sized with the standard width being 36" or 914mm which is A0+ this is to accommodate E size printing for the American market, consequently many users buy this as that is what the manual says, they either trim their originals or just accept non EU sizes as being the norm, this isn't necessary as standard 841mm is readily available from most suppliers, this reduces waste, cost and trimming time. If you would like to know more about sizes then wikipedia have a great guide on DIN paper sizes.
If you haven't purchased your plotter yet then you should firstly consider an A0 machine even if you are never going to print anything bigger than A1, you would load an 841mm roll in to the A0 machine and print your A1 drawings in landscape, this is both quicker than 24" portrait printing and the cost per meter is less, furthermore you will make less media changes as your roll will last longer.
Core size, the standard CAD Technical device spindle size is for a 2" core, however, if you have a newer machine the manufacturer has probably supplied some 3" adaptors, there are a very few machines in the market (mostly Display graphics units) that accept 3" media, as such it's best to double check when buying media.