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Want a Grand-Format Printer? You Have Options

Be forewarned, though: You’ll be spending a minimum of $50,000.




HAVE YOU FOUND yourself in a situation where you just don’t have a wide enough digital printer? Maybe you want to start bidding on billboards. Perhaps you are losing time having to piece smaller prints together for large finished pieces. Situations where large format prints are really needed in great numbers, and maybe you are running into that situation right now. The solution, of course, is a grand format printer.

First, let’s define “grand format,” as it can mean different things to different people. Typically, a printer with a width of approximately 100 in. or greater falls into the grand category. Most of the popular printer manufacturers have grand format models available. These include eco-solvent, latex, dye sublimation and UV. Flatbed UV printers typically do not handle a roll-to-roll width that classifies as grand format, though a few are available. If you are looking for a machine to do double duty (rigid and flexible media) a number of hybrid printers can fit the bill.

Now, how do you go about finding that perfect printer? Budget is a major factor and you will be looking at spending a minimum of $50K. For this you will get a width of 104 in. using eco-solvent inks. The main benefit is the ability to print a very wide image. Meanwhile the mid-tier printers get into six figures. For that amount of money you will get a number of benefits, not the least being ink capacities measuring in liters rather than milliliters. These beasts can drink some ink.

If you’re ready to drop some serious cash, then you can explore the industrial-grade grand format printers. Most of these monsters can handle extremely heavy media rolls (440 lbs. vs 220 lbs. for lower-end models). In addition, some of these models print at widths up to 206 in. Many also allow you to run two or three smaller rolls of media simultaneously. Of course, for this kind of money you want high speed, and these models deliver. Speeds start around 1,400 sq. ft./hr. with some exceeding 9,000 sq. ft./hr. Most industrial-grade printers use UV technology and, as mentioned earlier, some offer optional attachable tables for printing rigid materials.

If you’re losing time piecing together smaller prints for big projects or find yourself needing large format prints in great numbers, it may be time to upgrade to a grand format printer.

If you’re losing time piecing together smaller prints for big projects or find yourself needing large format prints in great numbers, it may be time to upgrade to a grand format printer.

You may have noticed that a roll of 100-in. paper is not something you just go pull out of the box and pop on the machine. Even the lower-end models require a couple of operators just to load media. The industrial models often include some mechanical aids to help in this process. They may also have add-on productivity aids such as board loaders and unloaders to ensure the machines are running as productively as possible.

Without doubt, you will know if it’s time to add a grand format printer to your shop. If you only need to make a few ultra-wide prints per week or month, then an eco-solvent printer will probably be just fine. On the other hand, if you need higher volume, then it’s worth looking at industrial grade. A wide range of models fills the market and it shouldn’t be too difficult to find one that fits your needs and budget.



Chris and Kathi Morrison own and operate The Image Specialists, a full-service graphics company based in Clements, CA. Chris is also a Microsoft-certified systems engineer. Contact the Morrisons at



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