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ARC Helps Chinese Architectural Firm Transition to Digital Print

Headquartered in Beijing, the 55-year-old China Architectural Research & Design Group (CAG) is China’s leading state-owned architectural institution and is responsible for new developments and standards in the country’s practice of architecture, including the way blueprints are produced and used. While CAG is best known for designing some of China’s most iconic structures, it recently designed and built a whole new kind of digital printer to replace the analog method most commonly used throughout China.

China’s construction industry generates most of its large-format construction documents using diazo printing, a 100-year-old technology named after the diazo chemical process that creates a blueprint’s distinctive blue color. While inexpensive to operate, diazo machines are slow and power-hungry, take a great deal of skilled manual labor to operate, use toxic chemicals, and produce prints that fade quickly in sunlight and cannot be recycled. In the United States, Europe, and other Western countries, diazo printing was largely replaced by digital methods after 1995.

While CAG remains devoted to the color of its drawings — the institute’s new printer uses blue ink — the drawbacks of diazo-based document production techniques, including the lack of compatibility with digital content management, inspired the successful development of their own proprietary “digital blueprinting” equipment. This led to the need for the latest in digital document solutions.

From Diazo to Digital

“During our search to find a leading technology partner for this project, ARC Document Solutions was the obvious choice due to their leadership position in serving the document needs of architectural companies in the USA,” said Mr. Liu Yan Hui, CAG’s Party Secretary and Vice President. “We have signed a 10-year contract with ARC to integrate their MetaPrint print management software with our new digital printer. MetaPrint will help us operate these machines at the highest speeds and provide efficient print management for our customers.”

Originally developed for a high-volume reprographics shop environment, MetaPrint software is now used by thousands of professionals around the world to drive printing and scanning equipment; scan, convert, and print documents; perform complex file or job print configurations; manage multiple print queues to a wide variety of devices made by different manufacturers; and receive print jobs from remote locations.

The architects at CAG are not the only ones excited about the partnership.

“We work with architectural firms all over the world, but we’ve never encountered a company that wanted to develop their own printing equipment,” said ARC CEO K. “Suri” Suriyakumar. “It’s tremendously exciting to work with a client who is intent on moving an entire country toward more sustainable document management practices. We are honored to play such an integral role in helping them achieve their vision.”

Higher Quality Print, Lower Operational Cost

CAG claims that, in addition to addressing the challenges of diazo printing, the operating cost of their new high-speed digital printer is one-third that of most contemporary wide-format digital printers. The new MetaPrint-equipped machine is being introduced to the Chinese market this month and will be the first digital printer developed in China that has the official approval of China’s Ministry of Commerce and its archiving bureau.

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