Demand for wide format printers have been steadily increasing over the years. One of the primary drivers here is the marketing industry. With competition at all-time high in the business world, many companies are allocating more funds for their marketing campaigns. This includes the creation of printed signages or posters to increase their visibility and reach more clients. In the production of these marketing materials, wide format printers play an integral role.

So, what are wide format printers? Sometimes referred to as large format printers, these machines are capable of printing on a large paper with a width of anywhere between 17 inches to 100 inches. Aside from posters and signages, wide format printers are also used in the printing of wall paper murals, architectural drawings, maps, construction plans as well as backdrops for media sets.

Most large format printers use inkjet technology to create the printed output. There are also those that rely on toner-based technology. These devices are also very versatile when it comes to the media that they can print on, from rolls of glossy-coated paper and backlit film to fabric and glass. While individual sheets of paper can be used on these machines, what’s commonly utilised are rolls of paper which can be as long as 3600 inches.

These devices are not just called as such because of the size of the printed material they produce. They are also actually heavier than the standard printers, with some weighing almost 1,000 pounds. While there are a few models which could sit on a desk, most large format printers are big and occupy a lot of space. It is important to note, however, that manufacturers like Canon have endeavoured to create wide format printers with compact designs. So, if space is a concern, this kind of large format printer is best for you.

Types of Wide Format Printers

The types of large format printers can be categorised in two: based on their configuration and based on the ink transfer process they use.

When it comes to configurations, there are two types of wide format printers: the printer only type and the multifunction type. As the label suggests, large format printers under the printer only configuration can only do one task – print. On the other hand, those under the multifunction category are also capable of scanning apart from printing. These types of wide format printers either have a scanner mounted on them (known as single footprint devices) or a standalone scanner placed adjacent to the printer (known as dual footprint devices).

Meanwhile, in terms of the ink process they employ, there are three major types of wide format printers: aqueous inkjet, solvent inkjet and UV-based flatbed printers.

Aqueous inkjet wide format printers are the most common type. Its name is derived from the fact that water is mainly the carrier component of the ink. These printers are known for their ability to produce an output fast. Furthermore, compared to other printers, they produce the highest colour resolution.

Meanwhile, the solvent types primarily use a carrier liquid which is not water, i.e. acetone or glycol esters. Compared to aqueous printers, these types are cheaper to use because of their less expensive but highly durable inks. This is why, solvent wide format printers are often used in the creation of signages. However, the inks used for these devices are tagged as hazardous; hence, they are not suitable for office use.

UV-based flatbed printers are much like solvent printers except for the drying mechanism they employ. For these devices, UV light is used to cure the ink for it to dry. The output produced is vibrant and more importantly, extremely hard-wearing. In fact, the printed materials are waterproof, eliminating the need for lamination (often done for those produced using aqueous or solvent inkjet printers). Moreover, it caters to a wide variety of printing media, from paper and glass to metal and wood. Due to this capability, reports claim that the market for UV-based flatbed printer is going to outperform that of the aqueous and solvent inkjet devices.

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