What Is a Wide Format Printer?
The accepted definition of a wide format printer is a printer that has a maximum paper roll width between 18 and 100 inches. There are multiple types of printers, such as aqueous, solvent, and UV.
The most common type is the aqueous printer, which is known for ease of use, enhanced resolution, and quick output.
Solvent printers have highly resilient inks that make them ideal for outdoor graphics, as they are durable in the face of the elements. It should be noted, however, that the inks used in solvent wide format printers can be hazardous.
It is common for UV printers to be configured as flatbed printers, which lets them print on a wider variety of materials. The ink in UV printers is as durable as the ink used in solvent printers.
Wide format printing is more economical than other large format printing options, such as screen printing. It is perfect for short-run projects, such as event banners, limited run poster printing, and trade show signage.
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Wide Format Printer Features
Wide format printers offer several benefits and features, some of which include:
- Design: Though some are meant to sit on a desk or table, wide format printers tend to be fairly large, with some models weighting up to 1,000 pounds. There are even wide format printers as large as 7′ x 5′, which often have their own room. Many newer models feature touchscreen interaction, powerful processors, and up to 64GB of RAM in addition to flash storage.
- Image quality: Wide format printers offer up to 2880 x 1440 dots per inch (DPI) resolution. Most printers use a combination of dye-based inks and pigment-based inks, allowing for a vibrant picture with lasting quality. Printers may also use dye-sublimation technology for photo-quality prints or latex inks for outdoor applications.
- Ink types: The majority of wide format printer inks are solvent or water-based. Solvent-based inks are cheaper and resist fading and weather better than water-based inks, making them the better choice for outdoor purposes. Color may come from a dye, which is an organic compound that offers brightness but fades over time, or a pigment, which is made from opaque minerals that look duller but last longer. With a UV printer, the ink contains a curing agent that solidifies the ink before it leaves the printer, which is blasted with UV lights once it has been laid on the paper.
- Printing materials: Wide format printers work with a variety of materials, including heavy bond, photographic, and plain paper. Some can print on filmstock, textiles, wood, glass, metal, vinyl, and more. Entry-level printers have a single roll that needs to be changed when printing on different materials, but larger models can hold up to four rolls.
- Software: Wide format printers typically use PostScript and often have Adobe or Office plugins. Other software features, such as accounting and permissions apps, may be available. However, some manufacturers charge extra for certain software features, so always be sure to ask what is included.
- Speed: A wide format printer brings you high-quality prints without the wait. As with any other type of printer, higher detail requires longer print time, but a wide format printer still moves fast under pressure. Some models can produce nearly 5,000 square feet per hour when in draft mode and up to 500 square feet per hour for final prints.
How Much Do Wide Format Printers Cost?
The price of wide format printers is determined by the quality of the printer as well as printer size, type, and vendor. It is also important to consider lifespan. For example, toner printers have a higher upfront cost but can last two times as long as inkjet printers. What follows is a general pricing guide to provide an idea of what you can expect to pay for your wide format printer.
- A 24″ wide format inkjet printer has an average cost between $1,000 and $2,000.
- A 36″ wide format inkjet printer has an average cost between $3,000 and $0.
- A 60″ wide format inkjet printer has an average cost between $9,000 and $16,000.
- A 36″ UV flatbed printer has an average cost of $9,000 – $10,000.
- A Ricoh 60″ UV LED flatbed printer with up to 4″ of clearance has an average cost of $50,000 – $60,000.
- Toner printers have a much broader price range. Smaller, low-end models start at around $10,000 – $15,000, with larger, newer models costing as much as $60,000 – $65,000.