Where to buy a large format printer
There are several reasons why you could be looking to purchase a large format printer. Your business maybe expanding and so you’re needing to increase print production capacity. You could be looking to move your print requirements in-house to boost efficiency and save costs. Or you could be starting up a new business and a large format printer is a piece of equipment that you need. Whatever the reason, this article aims to help point you in the right direction on where you can buy LFP equipment and supplies.
- What can you do with a large format printer
- Buying a large format printer: Where to start
- Second hand large format printers: pros and cons
- Deciding which large format printer to buy
Large format printers are machines that enable you to print on a larger scale (18-100+ inches or ANSI F and A0 paper sizes), giving you the flexibility to print items such as promotional banners, for example, or architectural blueprints. Typically, large format printers use inkjet technology to print on a variety of output, from glossy paper to vinyl.
Large format printers are more powerful than standard office printers, so there’s no need to worry about pausing jobs or your machine being unable to handle your printing needs. Another key advantage they offer is precision, allowing you to capture fine detail and vibrant colour. They’re used by a wide range of industries, from architectural studios to government organisations.
What can you do with a large format printer
Large format printers can be used to print an array of materials such as display banners, retail graphics, signage, exhibition graphics, posters, wall calendars, maps, diagrams, charts, architectural plans and blueprints.
The main advantages they offer are:
Despite their capacity to handle printing material that’s significantly larger than standard prints, large format printers do not sacrifice quality. Whether you need to produce vibrant posters with vivid colour, or high-precision technical drawings with fine lines and sharp text, these machines can fulfil your needs.
Having your own large format printer in-house, also means you have full control of the quality of your output which you don’t have when outsourcing your printing to a third party.
2) Improved productivity and turnaround
When it comes to turnaround, today’s expectations are high. Traditional, analogue printing methods, such as offset printing, struggle to keep up with this pace. Digital printing, by contrast, offers faster overall print times and increased customer satisfaction.
Large format printers are designed for high-production capacity and function with speeds that are unrivalled by other types of professional-grade printers. Having a large format printer in-house gives organisations an obvious competitive advantage in producing materials on-demand, quickly and conveniently.
3) Efficiency and convenience
Printing high-quality collateral in-house has never been more straightforward. By investing in an in-house large format printer, you could reduce your outsourcing costs and gain full control of your print projects.
Having this technology in-house also means that your organisation can operate in a more agile way. If you’re in a fast-moving, dynamic industry the ability to create collateral quickly (to your own deadlines) could be a crucial asset to your business.
Printing in-house can also help reduce overheads and provide a better oversight of ‘actual’ costs than is possible to achieve when outsourcing to a third party. If your printing needs change or suddenly spike, the equipment is on-site and you don’t have to wait in a queue of other orders as you would when using a third-party supplier. It also eliminates the admin time and forward planning associated with managing print jobs and lead times through a supplier.
Buying a large format printer: Where to start
If you’re a large organisation, like a Government department or university, you may wish to go direct to the manufacturer to purchase your large format printers. However, there may be benefits to be had from buying your equipment through a specialist reseller of printing equipment, particularly for smaller operations such as architectural or photography studios.
If you’re new to large format printing or buying a machine for the first time, it can be helpful to get advice and support from a team of experts. When buying a large format printer from a reseller, you benefit from impartial advice to help you choose the right machine at the right price.
Resellers usually have considerable hands-on knowledge and expertise, and will be able to talk you through key features and print settings. This can be invaluable, as understanding this information is critical in choosing the right large format printer for your needs.
Further possible benefits of purchasing through a reseller include:
- No pushing what’s on offer or trying to shift excess/unwanted stock
- Support in ensuring you have all you need for a smooth set-up, e.g. cables and software
- Installation and training service
- Technical support
- Warranty service
- Stock of consumables such as ink or paper which can be supplied quickly
The major manufacturers
The global large format printer market is estimated to be worth some USD 9.3 billion in 2020 and is forecast to hit USD 11.2 billion by 2025. The market includes some notable international Tier 1 and Tier 2 manufacturers. These include:
- Canon (Japan)
- Hewlett Packard (US)
- Epson (Japan)
- Kyocera (Japan)
- Konica Minolta (Japan)
- Ricoh (Japan)
Second hand large format printers: pros and cons
If budget is a significant factor, you may be considering purchasing a second-hand or refurbished large format printer. The market for second-hand printers is an active one, due to the number of bargains to be found. However, there are some potential risks associated with this and only you will be able to weigh up whether this decision is worth it.
If you’re thinking about this route, there are a few things to consider first:
1) Age of printer
This is an important factor as it can affect a number of things such as:
Security: In order to be compatible with many of today’s IT requirements, your large format printer will need to run a Windows® 7 operating system or higher.
Processing speed: Some older printers have slower processing speeds and smaller memories than newer models. This mean that files take longer to process before printing which can affect productivity.
Printer drivers: Print drivers can be a problem with older equipment. Manufacturers don’t tend to update drivers for discontinued equipment. As a result, drivers for older systems can create issues or cease to work when operating systems are updated at individual workstations.
Print quality and colour output: Print quality is obviously a key consideration when purchasing a used large format printer. Older printers may print at a low resolution, making it more difficult to achieve the quality you’re looking for. Some machines may also only print in monochrome.
2) Parts and maintenance
If you aren’t buying your machine from the manufacturer or an authorised dealer, you should think about the support you have for parts and maintenance.
Older machines are likely to need spare parts or maintenance which may be expensive or hard to find, resulting in downtime for your organisation.
Parts and maintenance issues might also be harder to resolve as your machine reaches obsolescence, meaning repairs might not be possible.
3) Software licenses
Software licenses can’t always be transferred to a third party. This means the software license(s) you acquired with the used printer may not be transferable to you. Any cost savings you make on the used equipment could therefore be offset by the cost of additional software licenses.
4) Operating costs
Older equipment is usually not as energy efficient as the latest technology. Depending on your energy rates, the difference in energy use can add up to substantial excess costs over time.
Ideally you should purchase any second-hand equipment through a trusted supplier. If buying a large format printer online, it can be risky as you can’t rely on the information about the machine being accurate. It’s therefore always advisable to do your research and go through a reputable supplier.
Deciding which large format printer to buy
In order to choose the large format printer that best suits your needs, there are a number of considerations you should give some thought to. These include:
- Colour or black and white? One of the first decisions you’ll need to make is whether you need a colour or a monochrome printer. If, for example, you’re only printing monochrome CAD drawings and your needs can be fulfilled with a black and white printer you’ll save on purchase price and running costs. At low print volumes, its worth bearing in mind that the output costs are likely to be around the same for monochrome and colour printing.
- Printer only or multifunction? Does your organisation need to copy, scan and print large-format documents, or is it likely to in future? If so, a multifunction printer might be your ideal option. If you only need printing now then you might decide to forego this, but bear in mind that you may incur additional costs if you upgrade your equipment further down the line.
- Materials (substrates): The substrates, or materials, you use to print on can make a huge difference to your end result. How rough or smooth paper is, its colour, texture and opacity can significantly improve or detract from the overall effect. Common substrates include: acrylic, PVC, canvas, coroplast, Dibond, Falconboard, Foamcore, Gatorboard, vinyl, smooth banner material, and styrene. The substrates you choose for outdoor use are also likely to differ to that which you’d select for indoor use.
- Inks and image quality: With a huge variety of ink types available in the digital printing market, selecting the right type can be tricky. Some common types of ink are: aqueous (or water-based) inks, where the dye inks are mixed with water when applied and the water evaporates leaving the ink behind; solvent inks (or pigment inks that contain dye but no water); UV-cured inks (or inks that are cured by being exposed to strong UV light); and latex inks which can be used on a diverse range of surfaces, including vinyl. Make sure that the printer you choose is compatible with the ink type(s) you want to use. Pay attention also to image quality, which is expressed in Dots Per Inch (DPI); the higher the DPI the more detailed and sharper your prints will be. Bear in mind that when printing in colour, the media you print on can affect colour output and quality of fine lines.
- Cost – machine as well as consumables: Price is always an important factor and the price of large format printers can vary dramatically. When choosing a large format printer, do your research and make sure you’re also aware of the associated costs. Think about running costs, maintenance and consumables like ink, print heads and cartridges.
- Productivity: It goes without saying that the convenience of having a large format printer in-house will cut the admin time associated with booking print jobs through a third-party supplier. It will also allow you to print on demand and scale up your printing when the circumstances demand it. Today’s large format printers also allow for quick printing of high volumes, having a printer in-house also means that you can print the exact quantity needed. When choosing a large format printer there are a variety of factors that feed into overall machine productivity. These include time to warm up, time to physically output a document, and the time to retrieve, collate and handle the paper. It’s worth considering all of these when deciding on a machine.
- Ease of use: Consider how intuitive and user-friendly your printer is, does it feature touchscreen technology, for example? Will it require staff training, if so how much?
- Adaptability: Make sure your machine is versatile and suited to a wide range of printing applications. Consider the choice of media it offers and how these will fit into your needs. How easy it is to configure your machine’s settings.
- Quiet operation: The equipment you have in your office can lead to noise distraction. To ensure a quiet and comfortable working environment, choose a printer that supports this. Today’s printers have undergone substantial improvements when it comes to noise generated by platen suction fans, cutter noise and media feeds.
- Floor space and access: Most large format printers have a compact footprint, to fit easily into even small office environments with limited space. Choose a model with full front accessibility which allows you to replace ink, load paper and clear jams without having to access the rear of the printer. These models can also be fitted flush against walls to save even more space.
- Efficiency: Modern large format printers come with a range of features to make life easier for users. Usability in roll loading has been improved, media source is determined automatically, and users can monitor how much paper is left on rolls. Their high productivity and print output, combined with options such as choosing your ideal ink tank size, means that ink costs can be controlled effectively by choosing a combination of different sizes based on frequency of use.
- Servicing and support: If you purchase your large format printer from a dealer or retailer, it’s likely to come with a service and support agreement. This may include professional installation, product training, colour management and regular services for your machine. Check your service agreement carefully so you know what’s covered before you make your purchase. Keep up with scheduled services on your machine also, as this could save you time and money in the long-run.
Investing in a large format printer can bring a host of benefits to your business. Not only will it give you increased control and oversight over your printing and associated costs, it will also offer you the convenience and agility of printing on-demand.
Whereas at one time large format printers may have occupied too much space or been too complex for inexperienced users to operate, today’s printers are compact and intuitive to use. They also come with many useful features that make them economical to run and highly productive.
If you’re considering buying a large format printer, do your homework, decide which features are most important to you and where you want to purchase your machine from. There are many factors to weigh up, but it’s an investment that has the potential to pay off many times over in terms of the cost and efficiency savings it could bring to your business.