We all know that having a wide format printer is important to your work, whether it’s printing out those architectural plans or getting that banner printed on time. However, not all wide format printers are made the same, and there is no one size fits all solution. It takes careful consideration before buying one of these quite expensive machines to make sure you have the right printer for your needs.
Colour versus black & white
Analysing what you need based on the majority of your print jobs is a good place to start when figuring out if you need to print in colour or in black and white. The main thing to consider when printing in colour is if your colour printer ink is going to be waterproof and fade resistant, especially if your printed work is going to be hanging outside.
Have a look at whether your printer’s ink cartridges use pigment based printer ink, as that is more likely to be both UV and water resistant. Make sure you set usage guides in place for your colour printers to minimise ink wastage and to keep your printing costs down.
When looking at the price for your printer, make sure you don’t base your decision on purchase price alone. Cheaper printers often use very expensive printer cartridges, meaning your day to day costs of keeping the printer printing could end up costing you more than what you originally paid for the printer in the first place.
Have a look at how much a single ink cartridge will cost to replace. You can also get a pretty good idea of how often you’ll need to replace them based on the estimated page yield. However, keep in mind that page yield are based on only 5% coverage, which does not represent actual, everyday use.
You should also look at the types of media your printer can print on and stick to those. Wasting valuable print media and ink can lead to higher running costs. You should check if your printer comes with any special warranties or service plans as well as these can save you money if your printer needs to be repaired.
Speed and performance
While printer manufacturers try their best to give you an idea of what speeds your printer can achieve, the listed printing speeds may not translate well in the real world. If you are printing almost continuously, you need to have a look at the printer’s throughput speed. If you are going to be printing intermittently, the time to first print out needs to be short.
While printer memory gives a good indication of how quickly a printer will be able to read a large file, it may be better to run a test print before you give a time estimate. Most printers also enter sleep mode when they are not being used. Warm up time is very important as it may take some wide format printers a few minutes to wake up.
The best possible way to judge image quality is to see it for yourself. Take a typical file you would print along with you to a demo of the printer you’re interested. Make sure that the demo is done on the media you’re most likely to use and that all the demo images are on the same material.
Ease of use
There is more to how easy a wide format printer is to use than how functional the touch screen is. You have to consider how easy it will be to replace your printer cartridges or paper rolls and whether or not it will be comfortable to use. You should also look at how much of your print work you can automate using templates or, if the bulk of your work will be specialised, how easy it is to set individual settings for a print job.
When it comes to replacement cartridges, you should also look at how easy it is to change out the ink cartridges during large print runs. You should also check how many media rolls can be held by the printer and if it is possible to change them on the fly.
Security & environmental concerns
Making sure that your printer is compatible with your security protocols (especially if it is being used by multiple users) is vital to protecting your intellectual property. Ask your salesperson or check the product information to see if your printer will be compatible with your security systems or if it is possible to clean out the hard drives with e-shredding protocols.
You should also look at how energy efficient the printer is when left idle, switched on or in use. You should also make sure your ink cartridges are recyclable and if your ink cartridge manufacturer has a recycling programme in place.
Floor space & options
When it comes to floor space, take into account how much operational floor space you’ll need. This includes the space for loading media, making copies, prints and scans, collating the prints and collecting the original. You should also look at where you store your media and printer cartridges to make sure they’re within easy reach.
When purchasing your wide format printer, consider how well it will adapt to your changing needs over its lifetime. Will you be able to add hardware like a scanner, a folder or additional paper rolls and can these upgrades be done on site. Does the printer manufacturer offer firmware upgrades? Can you change your service contract to better suit your developing needs?
By keeping these key areas in mind when you purchase your wide format printer, you should get many stress free years of printing from your printer.