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Discussion: Printers for maps

in: Orienteering; Gear & Toys

Sep 12, 2022 8:53 PM # 
I know this was asked in early 2020, and I've read that thread. But since things may well have changed in the last 2+ years, I thought I'd surface the question again, as to what printers are adequate for printing maps for local meets.

I've used an HP OfficeJet Pro 8610 since early 2016, and have been happy with it. Fairly cheap ($200), waterproof inks, decent quality for 1:10,000 maps, and an ink plan that worked out to be around 5-6 cents per copy. Unfortunately, it bit the dust, so I'm now in the market for a new one.

Although I've had good success with this printer, I'm not tied in to sticking with HP if there are better options out there.

Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated. Thanks.
Sep 12, 2022 9:32 PM # 
I on the other hand don't recommend HP. We've had two in our lifetime and both of them have colour issues even after replacing the ink. Our latest one (2130) has relatively new ink cartridges in it but seems to want to print in various shades of purple. On my latest mapping job I had to stop in at a print store just so I could have a feasible map to use in the field.

We ended up giving away our last one to our neighbour before we moved across the country just to get rid of it.
Sep 12, 2022 10:05 PM # 
Epson printers work great and last for several weeks of carefree ownership. If you purchase another HP printer, you may be stuck with it for years.
Sep 12, 2022 11:01 PM # 
I've been using an Epson Workforce 7720 for 2 1/2 years now, relatively problem free. It's a 3-in-1, so it also has scan/fax. This is a wide format, so it handles up to 13"x19" paper, which is nice for our larger maps.
I think this model has been retired, but it looks like the models WF- 7310 / 7820 / 7840 are the current versions which might fit your needs. $250 - $350 US
Sep 12, 2022 11:22 PM # 
How many faxes have you sent/received?
Sep 13, 2022 12:40 AM # 
Received - none.
Sent - 4 or 5 over the last couple of years - some instances (insurance particularly) seems to have an aversion to jumping into modern times. Hardest part is finding a long enough phone cable to run from a the wall port to the back of the machine. It's either dig the long cable out of physically sign a document and snail mail it in. Emailed pdf or a secure document upload capability seems to be more than they can envision.
Sep 13, 2022 1:42 AM # 
Not on topic, but kinda like the fax story. I wanted to close a bank account set up many years ago for some defunct orienteering activities. Expecting a lengthy wait and issues over identification etc, I went into a physical branch. Everything went swimmingly, until the teller talked about cash. I said just put it into this account (at a different bank). No we can't do that. So I carried $1000 over the road to the right bank. Sigh.
Sep 13, 2022 2:36 AM # 
I'd have to dig out a very long cable to reach a phone jack. Like, at least to the neighbor's house.

(But you can scan things and then fax them from a website.)
Sep 13, 2022 2:36 AM # 
Does New Zealand have the Internet yet?
Sep 13, 2022 3:08 AM # 
This reminds me of my early days as Orienteering Victoria treasurer in the 1990s, where if I wanted to move money between our term deposit at bank A and our operating account at bank B, I had to take the relevant amount of cash out of one and walk down the street to deposit it at the other. This always made me somewhat nervous (especially as the street in question was known at the time as one of Melbourne's drug-dealing strips).
Sep 13, 2022 3:42 AM # 
They couldn't give you a check? (Or maybe a cheque?)
Sep 13, 2022 4:56 AM # 
I did what Blair did once with a transfer of my own money from my savings account at one bank to a term deposit at another bank (or credit union as it was). I could have gotten it as a bank cheque but it would have cost $10.

I don't think there were any drugs involved though.
Sep 13, 2022 10:20 AM # 
Back to the subject of printers.
For ten years now my club has been getting our maps printed at a chain company called Staples. These are not top grade map printing but they do the job for our crowd which averages just under 200 per event, each using the map for some 30 minutes to two hours.
Staples charges about 60 cents US per color copy. I thought that was an okay deal but someone above said he was printing on his own printer for about 5-6 cents per copy.
Really? 5-6 cents: that's tempting. I assume that is the ink and paper cost but not the cost of purchase and maintenance of the machine. Or is that included?
Has any club done a cost benefit study of purchase vs lease vs commercial printing? What were the results? At how many copies does it tip over that it is more economical to do our own printing rather than make the trip over to Staples.
Sep 13, 2022 10:51 AM # 
I've also been using Staples. Before that it was FedEx Office.
Sep 13, 2022 2:28 PM # 
gordhun, the 5-6 cents was the printing cost only, and did not include paper. Cheap paper is a little more than 1 cent a sheet and provides OK quality; somewhat better paper (ie, HP Bright White for example) is a little more than 3 cents a sheet, and it certainly makes the maps look better.

The printing cost is based on using the HP Instant Ink program. There are several levels that can be subscribed to. The one I'm currently on is $11.99 per month for up to 300 pages (4 cents per page), with anything over 300 charged at 10 cents per page (sets of 10 for $1). I looked into this a little, and see that Canon has a similar program, for similar costs. I haven't looked into Epson yet.

The printer was $200; it served us well for 6+ years. According to my records, it has printed approximately 15,000 maps (or other club printing pages, like schedules, permanent course instruction sheets, etc) over those years. So the cost of purchasing the printer, spread out over those maps, adds about another 1.3 cents per map. Thus, all told, counting the paper cost and the cost of the printer, the average price is probably around 10 cents per map.

Regarding Staples, I've used them and at least at the Staples I go to, the quality is exceptionally good. Just expensive.
Sep 13, 2022 3:19 PM # 
Thank you RLShadow. Would you happen to know if there is an issue with a printer being left unused for six months? Could the inks dry up and gum up the machine?
With us a printer would get heavily used November to early April then sit in storage for some six months. That is not a problem with Staples.
Sep 13, 2022 4:04 PM # 
Mine never was totally unused for a significant length of time. During the height of COVID (2020), we did essentially no map printing, but I use it (at a low level) for non-orienteering things, like printing out the daily KillerSudoku puzzle to work on, and some other things. So unfortunately I can't give a good answer to that question.
Sep 13, 2022 4:10 PM # 
What is your budget?
Sep 13, 2022 4:50 PM # 
hughmac4, no specific budget, but since the last one was $200 and I was satisfied with the quality, I was hoping for something in that price range. I'd be willing to go up to double, maybe a bit higher, that for the right printer though. More important than the cost of the printer is the cost of the ink (HP has that attractive Instant Ink program, as does Canon - not sure about other manufacturers). Having pigmented ink rather than dye-based is also important (for waterproofness).
Sep 13, 2022 5:18 PM # 
For many inkjet printers, the nozzles are part of the ink cartridge, so when you change the ink, you get new nozzles, and no clogging concerns. (Color laser printing is a different story altogether; there you have dry powder toner instead of ink.)
Sep 13, 2022 11:59 PM # 
One unheralded benefit of a dud printer is that they provide the opportunity for you to go for a run somewhere different while on the way to drop it off at the local e-waste recycling facility, something I did this morning (for the third time in as many years).
Sep 14, 2022 1:42 AM # 
Our club has an account at "ARC Document Solutions" which has 140 locations in the USA. Nice laser prints on 28 lbs paper.
Sep 14, 2022 4:30 AM # 
Another possible consideration with home-printing is time...

Inkjet printers can be painfully slow when printing complex, image-based (vs text-based) sheets, like maps.
Sep 14, 2022 4:34 AM # 
You don't have to stand there and watch it. Well, unless it's our printer and the paper decides not to pull through in which case you have to be pressing the paper feed button all the time.
Sep 14, 2022 10:33 AM # 
Terje Mathisen:
I might have mentioned this before? My home printer lives in a separate lockable room behind my home office, along with shelves for A3 & A4 paper, finished maps and even a safe for really critical documents.
It is a Xerox C60, i.e. the current version of IOF MC's Xerox 560 reference printer.
2400x2400 DPI, Fiery RIP (separate windows 7 box), weight is approx 330 kg, and the doors have to be dismounted to bring it in or out.
Cost per A4 color sheet is 0.33 NOK, so about 3 cents (double for A3+) , then I have to add the paper costs, and the monthly $420 lease. :-(
I.e. this is a very expensive hobby, except I'm using my base map construction work to pay for it so that I mostly break even.
Sep 14, 2022 3:24 PM # 
The time issue has been a problem at times. I was at a meet not so long ago where the start was held up because the maps were coming out of the printer one by one (there were various considerations that complicated this). If they had just been uploaded to some print shop, they could have ben available much sooner.
Sep 14, 2022 5:32 PM # 
Time to print the maps is definitely a consideration. I hate to say that I've never actually timed how long it takes, and it does vary depending on the map and some other various factors (I THINK it's faster to create a pdf from Purple Pen and then print from the pdf, than to print from Purple Pen directly). I think it's something like 1-2 maps per minute.

But generally I time it so I'm not printing right before they are absolutely needed. And as tRicky says, you (usually) don't need to stand there and watch it. So if it takes an hour or two to print the maps for a meet that is a day or two away, that's not typically a major issue, in my situation at least.
Sep 16, 2022 5:48 PM # 
@jima, I also have an Epson Workforce WF-7720, for personal use, and I have never considered using it to print maps for club events because the results don't seem nearly as nice as what I get from the Fedex/Office. What am I missing? I use generic ink and nice paper, and set to print at whatever the basic "high quality" settings are. Is there a specific ink/paper/settings combination I should try?
Sep 16, 2022 8:03 PM # 
Cristina, if you are using generic paper, and haven't tried using Epson Presentation Paper Matte, then you should make the comparison. There can be a big difference.
Sep 16, 2022 9:16 PM # 
Use a commercial printer. The paper is better, the print quality is better, their machine won't break down or if it does it isn't your problem. You can afford it. And you are supporting a local business.
Sep 26, 2022 12:07 AM # 
For the few of you that might be interested, I finally selected an HP OfficeJet Pro 9015e. Price around $280. I had some advice from a Staples employee who seemed like she actually knew a lot about printers. The first one I got had an out-of-the-box failure (said one cartridge was empty and refused to print -- the Staples employee gave me a replacement cartridge when I went back to tell her, but that also gave the same message, strongly suggesting a printer problem rather than a cartridge problem). Staples has a 14-day return policy, so I took the printer back, talked to the same employee, and she handed me a new one, saying that it really is a good printer even though she hinted that my experience with an out of the box failure wasn't totally unheard of.

The second one works fine. The quality is at least equal to the 6-year-old HP, and the speed is faster -- about 9-10 maps per minute, which I think is 2-3 times faster than the previous printer. I confirmed that the ink (pigment based) is quite waterproof -- the paper dissolved before the ink ran.

Regarding the suggestion to use a commercial printer, the quality from the previous HP printer was totally adequate for 1:10,000 scale printing. There were literally no complaints about map quality in the 6 years that this was used for our club meets. So no need to pay more for higher quality. I don't know what the turnaround time is for a typical commercial printer, or if they're open on Saturdays, but it's not at all unusual for us to be printing our maps on Saturday for a Sunday meet, after we know how many people have pre-registered. And then there is no trip needed to go to the commercial printer to get the maps. So the convenience factor comes down very strongly on the side of printing maps in house.
Sep 26, 2022 1:10 AM # 
Waterproof and sweatproof aren't always the same thing, but if you're printing on ordinary paper, then a map case may be a good idea anyway (because sweaty paper can fall apart), and there's no problem.
Sep 26, 2022 2:03 AM # 
Many of our participants choose not to use map cases when the weather is non-rainy (or exceptionally hot and humid), because some feel that it's easier to read the map w/o the reflection off of the map case. So having printing that doesn't run at the slightest amount of perspiration is advantageous. (Although I haven't specifically checked this ink for sweatproof-ness, so I can't confirm that it won't dissolve with sweat -- but I suspect it won't, at least not with sweat that isn't so extreme that the paper dissolves. Like you alluded to.)

If we get any more warm, sweaty weather, I'll do a sweatproof-ness test on it.
Sep 26, 2022 2:32 AM # 
It is not the ink so much as the paper that suffers from rain, sweat, early morning dew off trees, fall in a swamp/ puddle moisture. Most of us local meet hosters are probably using 24 lb or maybe splurging the extra penny persheet for 28 lb paper. We provide map cases for all. But I can tell you from others experiences that it is at their peril to discard the map case.
I know that this discussion is about printers but if we as organizers are not providing expensiveand high-quality water-proof paper for the courses then shell out the dime to 11 cents for a map case. Heat seal them, too, for the important events.
Now to printers. Thank you for the information about home printers that are doing the job and it seems that models are coming that do the job better and better. However in my club's situation we'll stay with Staples. We print anywhere from 150 to 300 maps spread over six courses per event. Never less. Typically for a Saturday event I'll get the numbers per course on Thursday, load the courses on a USB, drop my wife off at a golf course and head to Staples. 300 maps are done easily within 30 minutes at about 60 cents/ copy which entry fees easily cover and a few weeks later Staples sends me a coupon covering a lot of the printer ink costs for our home printer. Then the only question is what to do until my wife finishes her 4-hour game of golf. Stuff map cases is an option but it is also a job she likes to help do.
Sep 26, 2022 2:54 AM # 
After trying various waterproof papers over the years (with rogaining in mind) we have settled on Teslin 115. For everything. We figured it cost 2X as much and can afford it. An additional benefit is that the printing seems crisper.

We print at a commercial printshop which of course uses a laser. I dont know if Teslin is available for inkjet, or even whether its called the same thing in North America.
Sep 26, 2022 2:58 AM # 
Whether it's worth sealing map cases depends on the locale. In some areas, barring unusual weather, it's wasted effort. But for an important event? I've often heard people invoke the "well, that's how they do it in Europe" justification for things. Since I went to the O-Ringen (a fairly important event) this past summer, I can report: they didn't seal the map cases there. Among the nice things about unsealed map cases is the fact that when you get your splits printout, you can tuck it right inside so that your sweaty hands don't get it all soggy. (But what about if you're not a late starter and have to hand in your map? Well, at the O-Ringen, they didn't collect any maps from finishers...)
Sep 26, 2022 12:27 PM # 
We got sick of ink jet cartridges drying up (resulting in blotches, stripes and so forth, regardless of the amount of cleaning we did). Finally gave it away and got a laser printer. HP Color Laser Jet Pro M283. Just did maps for our local meet, using Staples heavyweight laser and color copier paper, 28 lb 98% bright. Paper cost is 5.5 cents per sheet. We replaced the toner cartridges before printing, and the printer tells us the % used ... and so we were able to calculate the cost per map for toner came to 40-46 cents per page (depending on how much you pay for toner, and whether you get $ back for recycling the cartridges).

So, that wasn't cheap. Staples charges 69 cents per self-serve full color copy. Home printer still did it cheaper (45-50 cents per map). And it saved a trip to Staples.

And the maps looked great.
Sep 26, 2022 12:31 PM # 
gordhun, I agree that Staples is a great place for map printing. I've found their quality to be quite good, better than the HP printer that I've been more than satisfied with. I don't know if there is variability from store to store in terms of what quality printer the particular store uses, but you're obviously happy with the quality you get, and I've been to three different Staples locations in this area, and all have given excellent quality.

Regarding map cases, they are always available as an option at our meets. People doing shorter/easier courses can usually get by fine with no map case. The longer and more difficult the course, the greater the chance of wear and tear on the map and the greater the need for a map case. For local meets, we never seal them, so it is helpful to have waterproof ink so if some moisture gets into the case, the ink doesn't instantly run.
Sep 28, 2022 6:07 AM # 
Terje Mathisen - does your printer work with Pretex (from Lahnpaper in Germany) ?

My club's Fuji-Xerox (can't recall the model number) produces great results on standard paper, but is erratic with synthetics - (paper jams and occasional ink (non) adhesion).
Sep 28, 2022 2:01 PM # 
Terje Mathisen:
I personally prefer plastic map cases (preferably reused one or more times for training) instead of waterproof/plastic "paper", so I haven't tried Teslin/Antius/whatever. OTOH, since this particular Xerox engine is the one used by IOF MC to print their sample sheets, it _must_ work. :-)

This discussion thread is closed.