Most office printing only requires A4, or at the most A3, sizes of paper, and there are plenty of options available for printing this size of document. If you need to print larger items, such as banners or posters, however, then you need a more specialist large-format machine. These are bulky and relatively expensive, so you need to think carefully about whether you need one and how you’re going to use it.
What Do You Need?
Before you start looking at printers, you need to think about the type of work you’re going to be undertaking. Large-format machines are ideal for work that is going to be displayed in stores or exhibitions and for making posters, training aids and so on. They’re also used instead of plotters for some design work, such as printing out drawings and plans. Printing large-size photographs for exhibitions is another use for these machines.
You need to think about how often you print this type of material. If it’s only an occasional requirement, then you may find that it’s cheaper to contract the work out to a specialist print company which will also have the appropriate print finishing equipment rather than do it in-house.
Alternatively, you might be in the business of selling printing services, in which case you need to look at how much demand there is for large-format work.
If you do decide you can justify having a large-format printer in your business, you need to think about where you’re going to house it. The machines themselves tend to be pretty large, and you’ll also need to store large rolls of paper and other consumables, so make sure you have sufficient space.
Selecting a Printer
Large-format printers are available from all of the major printer manufacturers like Epson, Canon, HP and Xerox. Bigger machines usually use paper in a roll format, while smaller models offer the choice of roll or cut sheet operation.
The width of the paper is one of the main factors in choosing this type of printer. Small machines will usually be 17-inch width and larger ones 24-inches and above. You also need to consider the technology used. Do you need to print in colour or just black and white? What type of printing will best suit your needs – ink jet or toner-based?
Print speed is another factor to take into account. If you only make large prints occasionally, then this won’t be too much of an issue. If you’re making prints regularly – or you’re using the machine on a commercial basis to make prints for others – then a faster speed makes more sense.
As with any type of printer, consumable costs come into the equation too. Once again, if you’re using the printer regularly, the cost will be spread over many jobs. Bear in mind that for this type of printer consumables are going to be costlier than for more everyday models. If you’re printing on roll paper, you can make efficient use of it by combining a number of prints.