Printing Plans

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1Bad88

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Jul 18, 2012
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553
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Bellville, TX
I wanted to share my experiences for printing plans in order to help others who don't have access to wide format printers.

I have purchased and downloaded several sets of plans over the years. I spend many hours evaluating the plans in electronic form. However, this is limited when it comes to being able to look at two large sheets side by side without employing several sizable monitors so at a certain point I need to get hard copies.

I didn't want to shell out $500+ for a plotter as I feel that money would better be spent on building materials/tools so I have tried a few resources. I always print black and white. Here are my notes:

Fedex/Kinkos - good quality and service but extremely expensive. I printed a 100 page manual 8-1/2 X 11 and it was almost $60

UPS - They were about the same price as Fedex but less convenient locations so I never used.

Staples - the best price for sizes up to and including 11 X 17. Be aware that there is a rush charge if you want them in 2 days or less (I believe that is the window). My Ragwing plans were 67 pages at 11 X 17 and cost $14.07 before the $10 rush fee. The service was quick and I had them the next morning for a job submitted at 11pm on a Friday night. I ordered them on 24# stock and I believe they are heavier than I needed (they may have printed them on whatever was already in the machine).

BlueprintsPrinting - I just tried this service because I needed 24 X 36 and some 36 X 90 - 144 sheets. You will need to split the PDF into multiple documents (one for each sheet size) if all of your sheets are in one file. This can be done pretty easily on their site by uploading the same file several times and then removing the sheets that are not the format you want for that drawing/set of drawings. It took me about 1.5 hours to upload, remove, and order. The example plan set had 17 sheets 24 X 36 and 9 sheets 36 X variable lengths on 24# stock. It cost $66.14 plus tax and shipping for this order (under $65 there is a $7 setup fee). So in total it was $85.10. I submitted the plans last night at 6:30pm and received notification that they shipped this morning at 8:30am for delivery tomorrow. They have same day shipping if you submit before 11am. I will comment back tomorrow as to the quality.

Hopefully this helps people.
 

bmcj

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Fresno, California
Something worth mentioning if you are trying to compare dimensions from printed plans... I owned a commercial print shop, and we had to take care to allow for paper stretch and shrinkage due to temperature and (more so) humidity. If something had to be run through the presses twice to apply additional colors, matching images could be difficult because the original image may have shrunk or stretched between runs.
 

1Bad88

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Jul 18, 2012
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Bellville, TX
It appears that the plans did not ship out today per the tracking information so it may be Monday or Tuesday before I can report back.

On the flip side, the DVD's from Roger Mann arrived today and were entertaining to watch even though they are transfers from VHS. Just turn off the sound and crank some tunes for the flying videos. :pilot:
 

Tiger Tim

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Apr 26, 2013
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Thunder Bay
A long time ago my dad and I went into a Kinkos or similar to copy a set of Sky Pup plans (11x17) and a build manual (8.5x11). For the couple stacks of paper we received I was amazed even back then how much it cost, it certainly seemed more expensive than just buying them from the designer.
 

dcstrng

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Oct 17, 2010
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VA or NoDak
Yes -- I've found that the copy/scanning process can be as much as 2%-5% off, although 1%-2% (smaller) seems more usual in my experience -- usually noted when you try to make a spare copy of the rib-template for rib-building... I just go back and have `em run another at 102% (or whatever) on the same machine... the rest of the parts I don't worry about too much, because they either mate to another part or dimension, or are beyond my skill anyway...
 

Hephaestus

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Jun 25, 2014
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YMM
I've mentioned before... Your local government surplus and auctions - usually have some really good options for picking up a large format printer cheap as chips... My 11x17 laser and 48" plotter were under a hundred dollars each. At kinkos and staples pricing - they have a great ROI...
 

Stephen Asman

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Apr 30, 2019
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Michigan, USA
Or, if you have way more time than money; You can print a PDF file in poster mode with cut marks and then literally cut and paste it together.
 

gtae07

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Dec 13, 2012
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Savannah, Georgia
What are you trying to get? Is dimensional accuracy/scaling critical (e.g. you're scaling drawings or making precise flat patterns)? If not, you might just be better off finding an 11x17-capable laser printer on Amazon. Run two or three jobs and you'll break even with an office supply store.

I print lots of stuff on 8.5x11 at home, double-check the dimensions, and use it. Any errors in the final part are my fault, not the printer's.
 

1Bad88

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Jul 18, 2012
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553
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Bellville, TX
The plans arrived today. The quality and turnaround were great.

I screwed up and removed 1 sheet instead of another for the 24X36 drawings but it isn't that big of a deal.

With larger prints like this I would suggest 20# instead of the 24#. I think they would roll better with the lighter paper.
 

ToddK

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Jan 13, 2016
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270
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Humble
The paper shrinkage/ expansion mentioned above is a real issue when printing off a roll. That’s why the builder has to go off measurements. I can get super close on the wing ribs, but that does not guarantee what might happen after sitting in the builders shop for a few days.

Like another poster said, a good used HP plotter can be had pretty cheap. The pre Z series were all engineered by Americans so they are easier to work on, and last for a long time. Having said that, my z6100 is a great machine.
 

BJC

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Oct 7, 2013
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97FL, Florida, USA
The paper shrinkage/ expansion mentioned above is a real issue when printing off a roll. That’s why the builder has to go off measurements. I can get super close on the wing ribs, but that does not guarantee what might happen after sitting in the builders shop for a few days.
Many plans-built HBA are not seriously affected by slight variations in airfoils. For those that are, the builder easily may lay out the airfoil from supplied coordinates. If the plans seller want to make it easy, he can print the airfoil on Mylar.

Note that some have provided a rib jig made by CNC cutting slots for cap strips into MDF board and plywood gussets cut in plywood and ready to break loose.


BJC
 

Alan_VA

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Apr 17, 2011
Messages
32
Location
Bristow, VA
I wanted to share my experiences for printing plans in order to help others who don't have access to wide format printers.......

Staples - the best price for sizes up to and including 11 X 17. Be aware that there is a rush charge if you want them in 2 days or less (I believe that is the window). My Ragwing plans were 67 pages at 11 X 17 and cost $14.07 before the $10 rush fee. The service was quick and I had them the next morning for a job submitted at 11pm on a Friday night. I ordered them on 24# stock and I believe they are heavier than I needed (they may have printed them on whatever was already in the machine). ...

Hopefully this helps people.
I used Staples to make an additional/sacrificial set of 24”x36” plans for my Thatcher CX5. Double checking against the originals, I got no measurable distortion or shrinkage. YMMV.
 

1Bad88

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Jul 18, 2012
Messages
553
Location
Bellville, TX
Like has been said, paper plans are good for dimensions and laying out your build but not reliable for exact geometry. A lot of plans shove 10 pounds of crap in a 5 pound sack so you need to print them full scale. I have already found details I wasn't able to see in the electronic version. I didn't check any of my plans for dimensional accuracy because they are not being used as templates.
 

skeeter_ca

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Jun 29, 2005
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1,027
Location
Yucaipa, Ca
I used Fedex at first because they had the best price in wide format printing at 75 cents per sq/ft, then they jumped to $1.25 per sq/ft and I dumped them and switched to staples which is still at 75 cents per sq/ft but they didn't know what they were doing but I finally got them trained. Now I purchased a large format Epson 7610 printer for less than $200. It has a max 13x19 sheet size. The ink carts were killing me so I purchased a CIS system from Inkxpro and love it. It does take a little fiddling with sometimes but the ink cost is 1/100th of the carts. Now I am reformatting my plans from 36x80+" to 13x19. It will lower my plans printing cost significantly which I will in turn lower my price to buyers. It may take awhile but it is fun.

Darrell Whiteaker
President, Volmer Club of America
 
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