Hump Day Hardware: Wide Format Printers

June 3, 2009

Last week I talked about Semi Wide Format Printers. They are bigger than a desktop printer, but they don’t do the really large sizes. I told you about the Canon ipf5000 that I got and how it is limited to 17″ wide. That limitation hasn’t stopped me from getting paying jobs making banners with it. It met my needs. But, I am not in the business of making signs. So it may not meet your needs.

Let’s go over a few of the things that should influence your decision when choosing a wide format printer. First and foremost is the size. It has to be able to output the size of media needed for your projects. In general, bigger sizes also mean bigger prices. Next, it has to support the type of media you need. Will you be printing on canvas, paper, vinyl, vehicle wraps, backlit displays or something else? I would expect that most devices support the most popular media, but there can be exceptions.

Does the device simply need to print or do you also need it to cut? Those of you doing stickers will definitely need cutting. That isn’t as necessary for someone printing fine art on canvas. What types of inks are available and how many colors are supported in the printer? Having more colors of inks can mean more vibrant output. That is a generalization, so it isn’t always the case. Different projects can require different types of ink. So make sure you can get the type of ink you need.

As you get into more expensive equipment, it is important to have a dealer and a company that will support the device. If it goes down for even a single day, it can be costly to your business. Even a good device could have a poor dealer in your area. Or a great dealer could overcome a device that isn’t as good as another brand. You’ll definitely want to research all aspects of this decision. For that reason, I’m not going to recommend any single model or brand. I will tell you the brands that would be high on my list if I were looking for a wide format printer.

I’m really happy with the Canon printer I have now and I would therefore give larger Canon models serious consideration. I have also had some hands-on experience with Epson and Roland models. Both of them delivered good output and very easy to use. There are certainly many other brands from which to choose and I’m sure there are some darned good printers out there that I haven’t listed. If you have a model you really like, post a comment with the model and what you like about it.

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