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Discussion: Laser Color Printers

in: Orienteering; General

Nov 22, 2022 7:48 PM # 
I've been looking into getting a color laser printer to replace my aging Canon inkjet, partly because it's getting fussy and partly so as to avoid having to drive out to a print shop for every event. With CoNav events, I expect to print nearly 1,000 pages/year, so I woudl pretty much break even in a year and a half vs current print shop costs.

== Has anyone bought and used a laser color printer for O-map printing that nearly perfectly meets the PrintTech Project Test Sheet 2019 (laser) color, detail, and overall quality, and if so, could you please post the brand and model number here?==

I've taken a thumb drive around to Staples, Best Buy, FedEx, UPS, a local print shop, and Office Depot/Max locations and printed copies of a map snippet and of the PrintTech Project Test Sheet 2019 (laser) on a total of 11 different printers I've found.

The results are summarized in the link below. While some are good, basically none of them is entirely satisfactory.

- Two of the printers were "digital," behind the counter printers at print shops, but I compared them to the laser Test Print anyway.
- On my map snippet, I get a white gap parallel to and on one side of contour lines between contour lines and surrounding 410 green. This does not occur on the green/contour example on the Test Print sheet (both generated the same way out of OCAD, I'm pretty sure). This is the "WBC" column in the linked file.


Nov 22, 2022 8:36 PM # 
Terje Mathisen:
My Xerox C60 is/was the IOF MC laser reference printer, it costs me just 0.33NOK (i.e. $0.033) per page for all consumables and the colors are pretty much perfectly calibrated. The main issue is that I had to lease the printer itself, at $400/month so I really need to print a lot to break even. :-(
Nov 22, 2022 10:19 PM # 
@TM For that level of cost you should use it to print... Nevermind.

On a lark I imported the PrintTech Project Test Sheet 2019 OCAD11 into OCAD 2020.6.2.3917 (which I think is called 'OCAD20' - ?) and compared colors by adding a small "chimney" of the spec'd color atop the color sample.

Most were spot-on (greens, purple, grey), but on zooming in you can see in the link below that the two browns are slightly different, and that the Yellow 50% is ever so slightly different. Any ideas why? It could simply be that the CMYK color definition changed?

Granted, none of these differences would ever cause a runner to confuse Landforms for Paved areas or Open for Rough Open, but I was surprised to have been able to have seen any difference at all.


These differences are less significant than are those that I observed with my printer research.
Nov 23, 2022 12:49 PM # 
Terje Mathisen:
That's interesting!
The PrintTech brown is defined not as a symbol but directly as an area object with CMYK=51,178,255,0 whereas the Brown color defined on that sheet is 15: "Brown - line symbols" defined as 0,56,100,18. Scaling by 255/100 would translate that into 0,143,255,46, or going in the opposite direction:
51,178,255,0 -> 20,70,100,0.
They key here is that the OCAD file used for PrintTech does NOT use the ocad color table for the brown patch!

A new ISOM (or ISSprOM) map with the latest OCAD update use the same 15: Brown - 0,56,100,18 definition, so this looks like a glitch in the PrintTech sheet!

Brown 50% seems to match much better. I checked that patch as well, here Brown 50 is defined as 0,28,50,9 which is exactly 50% of the 15: Brown values.

The PrintTech patch is defined as 0,71,127,23 which corresponds to 0,28,50,9 (rounded to the nearest integer percent value) so effectively identical!
Nov 23, 2022 1:58 PM # 
Terje Mathisen:
I cross-posted this, with a link back here, to the FB OrienteeringMapper group!
Nov 23, 2022 3:31 PM # 
Good idea, thank you!
Nov 23, 2022 7:02 PM # 
I have never done any color comparisons, this discussion is very interesting....I can only state that my Xerox Phaser 6510 has been super reliable (one of my main criteria), and cost about $US 270.00 about six years ago. No longer available new, but some refurbished ones. This is its replacement.
Dec 1, 2022 8:32 AM # 
interesting information
Dec 12, 2022 1:53 AM # 
I'm looking for recommendations on a color laser printer, the requirement being that it must print up to tabloid/ledger size paper, in a normal tray, not manual feed. And also duplex.
Jan 2, 2023 4:06 PM # 
I bought a Brother MFC-L3770CDW. Its not perfect, but adequate. This model had the best resolution and best customer review rating of those printers I was able to try which were in my budget.

The colors needed a little adjusting, and I did this in OCAD by making map files of the colors I need to adjust, with 5 CMYK variations of each color so that I could look at differences and compare them to the IOF Offset color master sheet with a minimum of reprinting. While I'm happy with the result, I was unable to match colors perfectly because of the difference in paper texture, shininess, or my running out of patience (or all of the above).

OCAD includes a really nice process for over-writing the color table (a .txt file) in an existing mapfile with a master file of the adjusted colors. This process requires harmonizing the ID number of any colors one has created in a map (i.e., a Red) with the number for those colors in one's master file. The OCAD online help was straightforward.
Jan 2, 2023 4:08 PM # 
@MIclimber - In the course of my printer shopping adventure, I only saw one printer that could handle tabloid paper, and it was an inkjet priced at around $1,000.
Jan 2, 2023 5:03 PM # 
That's weird. My Epson WF-7720 (bought for $180 in 2020) definitely prints on tabloid paper (fed from a normal tray, if desired). Color, duplex, scanner, etc., but it's inkjet, not laser, so it doesn't fit MIclimber's requirements. Looks like maybe it's not made any more, but the WF-7840 (or something similar) seems like the newest version and retails for around $350.
Jan 2, 2023 7:28 PM # 
I ended up buying a commercial color laser jet machine. Canon imageRunner Advance DX C3800 series. It’s an entry level machine that meets all my needs and the cost while expensive will be worth it to me in the long run, I think anyways. Went to a local office hardware supply company after fruitless searches with the normal big box stores. Gets delivered in a couple weeks, should make life much easier for many years to come.
Jan 31, 2023 9:48 PM # 
Update/caveat emptor:

The Brother MFC-L3770CDW (2400x600) model, which I thought was just fine from in-store tests, turned out to be unable to print 407/409 lines nicely - it generated strings of spots instead of lines, and Moire effects, even with a lot of off-spec line width and gap adjusting (and it had related trouble with several other pattern/area symbols).

I returned it and bought a Lexmark cx522ade. It arrived today, but does not print from the yellow toner at all, and one attempt with tech support failed to resolve. The print quality was otherwise a little better, but not satisfactory considering the price.

I therefore don't recommend either of these printers.

I'm probably just going to give up on this quest, buy a new inkjet, and go back to having a print shop do my map printing. :-|
Feb 14, 2023 11:48 AM # 
I bought an Epson Workforce Pro WF-4830 inkjet for $190. 4800 x 2400 dpi resolution does the trick, and it uses the kind of ink that doesn't turn a map to watercolor when it gets drops of water on it. It will cost a lot more per print than would a laser printer, but at least it works and prints decently.
Feb 14, 2023 3:03 PM # 
Looks like Staples currently has Epson WF-7820 marked down to $230. This appears to be the wide format version of WF-4830, max paper size 13 x 19 inches.
Feb 28, 2023 8:40 PM # 
The WF-7820 uses the Durabrite pigment ink (different cartridge, same description) as my WF-4830, which I have found to be stable when moistened (doesn't turn to watercolor). I have also confirmed that it (the WF-4830, Epson 882 ink) can very nicely print on PuffinPaper waterproof synthetic paper (with some adjustment to color required). Recently $149 at Office Depot. The Epson WF-7820 looks like a great deal at $230!

The only remaining downsides to the WF-4830 (and presumably the WF-7820) is that the ink is relatively expensive. I estimate >$0.15/page + paper over a mix of 30% maps and 70% text printing I've done so far, and the WF-4830 is really slow - I estimate 75-90secs per legal map at high quality (map covering about 1/3 of the page).

All told, I'm far happier with the WF-4830 than I would have been with a $900 laser printer, even if it worked...

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