My DesignJet 450C is now 18 years old, and while it hasn't exactly been trouble-free, in general I've been pretty satisfied with its performance. But this morning its yellow cartridge crapped out, and ink cartridges for it are no longer being manufactured. I can find new-but-expired cartridges on eBay, but I don't know if they'll work, and their availability going forward is likely to be limited. I thought this might be the time to explore the service bureau option again.
I plotted the drawing I need to PDF and sent it to FedEx/Kinko's. It's a 2-sheet 24"x36" topo in color, and I need 2 copies of each sheet on bond paper. FedEx just called and said that the cost will be $57 and change. That seems kind of pricey, especially when I just need check prints. The FedEx guy said if I went with B&W the cost would be around $31, but even that seems like a lot. Maybe I'm just cheap. (Okay, there's not really any maybe about it.)
I don't generate many prints these days -- most of my deliverables are digital -- but I do need to see check prints occasionally, and Records of Survey have to be on mylar. So I'm reluctantly thinking that I need to retain an in-house plotter. What's the latest recommendation for a minimum D-size plotter?
My Designjet 500 is still lugging along. I use it to plot originals and check prints. However deliverable copies are done at the local UPS store. I don't do color but I am not paying anywhere close to what you are being charged. Is FedEx picking them up at your office and delivering them? Do the prints come framed?
Local print shops, around here, are about half of what the big chains charge, for color and Mylar.
You might look at leasing a plotter; that way you'll get a new one every couple years. Just make sure you fold the extra cost, into your hourly rate.
What I've observed about you. I'd recommend a cheap one.?
My town has a shop that fills empty inkjet cartridges at 1/2 the price HP sells them for. They usually work the same as originals. HP has a chip on the newer cartridges that won't let them work, but I just keep taking them back till I get one that works.
You can't give away old Plotters.
Ditto what others have said re: the local UPS Store.