Wide-Format Inkjet

Increasingly printers are looking to new technologies to expand their business models. They are seeking ways to keep their existing customers, acquire new ones, and become capable of servicing many different needs. One potential solution for printers to expand is in the inkjet market, which can offer quicker turnaround times and short-run options for commercial and quick printers, ad agencies, and design firms.

With continuous technology, media, and ink advances, wide-format inkjet is predicted to be one of the fastest growing technologies in the printing industry. Wide-format inkjet devices are non-impact printers that can produce output of 17 in and larger, in some cases more than 100 in. 

Today, no matter where you go, there is probably something that has been printed with a wide-format inkjet device. Potential applications for wide-format inkjet include indoor and outdoor signage, packaging, mobile advertising, clothing, wall murals, interior design to name a few. Inkjet has the capability to produce wide-format prints either for short or medium length runs in a cost effective way. Combining this with materials that can be used, the ability to tile the prints to increase the area, and the personalization available makes it a viable option to other printing technologies.

Wide-format inkjet works by firing ink through print heads onto a substrate. Each print head consists of hundreds of nozzles that can be either thermal, piezo electric, or continuous. The ink is then cured via oxidization, heat, or UV technologies using either lamps or LED arrays.

The flexibility in the printing is in part due to the combinations of substrates and ink technologies that can be used in the process. The devices are available in either roll, flatbed or a combination of the two producing prints on car wraps and flexible banners, through paper, board, and plastic up to thick substrates such as glass, tiles, and doors.  

There are many types of inks available today, each with different capabilities which are identified below. The number of heads on the devices is extensible, and as such allows the use of many more colors and the inclusion of exotic inks such as white and metallic.

Type of Ink

Typical Applications

Aqueous

Banners (Indoor), Color Proofing, Fine Art, Packaging POS/POP, Packaging Folded Carton, Packaging Corrugated, Photography, Signage (Indoor)

Aqueous with Laminate

Banners (Indoor), Banners (Outdoor), Fine Art, Furniture/Counter Covering, Packaging POS/POP, Packaging Folded Carton, Photography, Signage (Indoor), Signage (Outdoor)

Eco-Solvent

Banners (Outdoor), Floor Graphics, Furniture/Counter Covering, Light Boxes (Backlit), Packaging Corrugated, Signage (Outdoor), Textile, Vehicle Wraps

Hybrid UV (LED)

Banners (Indoor), Banners (Outdoor), Fine Art, Floor Graphics, Light Boxes (Backlit), Packaging POS/POP, Photography, Signage (Indoor), Signage (Outdoor), Three-Dimensional Objects

Latex

Banners (Indoor), Banners (Outdoor), Fine Art, Floor Graphics, Furniture/Counter Covering, Light Boxes (Backlit), Packaging POS/POP, Packaging Folded Carton, Packaging Corrugated, Photography, Signage (Indoor), Signage (Outdoor), Textile, Vehicle Wraps, Wall Paper

Multi-Purpose (MP)

Banners (Indoor), Banners (Outdoor), Fine Art, Furniture/Counter Covering, Packaging POS/POP, Packaging Folded Carton, Packaging Corrugated, Photography, Signage (Indoor), Signage (Outdoor), Textile

Solvent

Banners (Outdoor), Floor Graphics, Light Boxes (Backlit), Packaging Corrugated, Signage (Outdoor), Textile, Vehicle Wraps

UV

Banners (Indoor), Banners (Outdoor), Fine Art, Floor Graphics, Furniture/Counter Covering, Light Boxes (Backlit), Packaging POS/POP, Photography, Signage (Indoor), Signage (Outdoor), Three-Dimensional Objects

Deciding on which technology to select can be challenging, as in many case one print engine will not be capable of the different print applications possible. There are many things to consider when looking at wide-format inkjet, from your current business model to the market being targeted. These include:

  • What will complement your current offerings? Consider offering inkjet as a short-run option. For example, if you do a lot of board or plastic printing for packaging or posters then you may want to look at a device to complement that.
  • What is the exposure to the print when it is in situ?
  • What width of image are you considering?
  • What productivity are you planning for the device?
  • What finishing do you have available and how will this be implemented?

There are many different solutions available in the marketplace, some of the companies offering solutions are listed below.  By clicking on a company name listed,  you will have access to production information on a variety of wide format printers and links for further information.

Published on Friday, February 11, 2011 (updated 08/31/2016)

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