Whether you’re looking to produce trade show graphics, signs and banners, fine art, architectural drawings, or any other application, large format printers (also known as wide format printers) are your best bet. Just like the standard home office printer, large format digital printers output text and images onto paper (or another substrate, like fabric or plastic). The typical office printer, however, can generally only print on 11” by 17” sheets or smaller. But large format digital printers can output pages all the way up to 104” in width.
Many of the same brands that produce printers for home or office use also offer large format printers: Canon, Lexmark, HP, Brother and Epson are the most common. Other manufacturers include Konica Minolta, Ricoh, Samsung and Xerox. Inkjet printers and LED or laser printers are the two main types of wide format printers you will encounter. There have been big advances in both technologies and increasingly, inkjets are becoming more popular. Prices for large format printers vary dramatically depending on:
Application: What will you be printing on your large format printers?If you will be printing fine art photography or graphic posters, banners and signs, go with large format inkjet printers to get exceptional image and color quality. Architectural or engineering drawings, however, are better suited to the black and white capabilities of LED or large format laser printers.
large format printers to get an idea of your options, or take a look at the offerings from HP, Canon or Epson.
Paper: What size and type do you need for large format printers?Most large format digital printers can print from 24” to 60” (although a 72” capability is becoming more common), and almost all either support roll paper or individual sheets. Some very large format printers, like the HP Designjet 10000s, can go as high as 104” but remember: the more real estate you need, the more you will likely pay. Also, some wide format printers are better than others at handling unusual substrates, such as vinyl or canvas.
wide format printer paper is not created equal; try shopping around Business.com to discover what works best for your needs; most vendors recommend using the appropriate brand paper, like Epson, for the printer you own.
Ink for large format printers: A higher cost than you might realizeMany large format inkjet printers use a 6- or 8-cartridge system that enables each color to be replaced individually. Although this might seem to offer a cost savings, replacement ink cartridges can be pricey. Costs also depend on the type of ink used. The most expensive are aqueous (water-based) inks, which offer exceptional coverage for indoor graphics and art prints. Less expensive solvent inks work well for outdoor signage and vinyl-based printing. Other ink technologies on the rise include UV curable and eco-solvent systems.
ink options for large format printers listed in the Business.com directory.
Prices for large format printers: How much will your budget allow?Be prepared to invest some serious scratch in large format printers: entry-level units generally begin at $800-$1,000, and the top quality industrial machines can go for as much as $10,000. But for high quality, midrange large format printers with additional useful features, expect to pay around $2,500-$5,000. Keep in mind the continuing costs of ink, paper and maintenance.
Features for large format printers: Extras like scanning, copying and cutting make life easier.First, make sure large format printers come with the necessary drivers and software (known as a RIP) so they’ll work with the rest of your equipment. Lastly, take a look at special features like built-in paper cutters, support for different paper sizes and sorters.
- When shopping for large format printers, consider bringing the person who will be operating the printer into the decision-making process.
- Not all large format printers can be networked; if this is important to you, be sure to ask your vendor about networking capabilities.
- If your production will be growing in the future, you might consider purchasing wide format printers that will grow with you.