Finding the Right Wide-Format Color Printer for Your Business Needs

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Whether you need to print large posters, banners, or signage for a marketing campaign, bring architectural drawings to life, or output detailed prototypes during product development, a wide-format color printer is an invaluable tool for today’s business. As wide-format printing has grown more diverse in recent years, with models capable of printing on a wide variety of materials for many applications, choosing the right one for your needs is key.

In this post, we’ll cover the top wide-format color printers on the market, the important factors to weigh when deciding on a model, and frequently asked questions businesses have about these specialized machines. Read on for an in-depth look at how to select the perfect wide-format printer to take your business communications, marketing assets, and work processes to the next level through stunning, oversized color output.

The Top 5 Wide-Format Color Printers

The wide-format color printer market features diverse options from leading brands like Canon, Epson, HP, Roland, and Mimaki. Here are 5 of the top models ideal for business use:

Canon imagePROGRAF TA-20

The Canon imagePROGRAF TA-20 is a 36-inch, 5-color large-format inkjet printer perfect for architects, engineers, construction firms, and other industries that rely on detailed technical drawings and plans. It uses a LUCIA TD pigment ink system for long-lasting, water-resistant prints.

Key features include:

  • Fast print speeds up to 279 sq. ft/hour
  • Prints on matte and glossy photo paper, film, and professional drawing media
  • Crisp 2400 x 1200 dpi maximum resolution
  • Intuitive 3.5″ color LCD touchscreen

The TA-20 is an excellent choice for CAD and technical document printing with its accurate colors, easy usability, and robust media handling.

Epson SureColor P7570

Need a versatile wide-format printer for graphic design and photographic applications? Epson’s SureColor P7570 is a 36-inch printer that delivers gallery-quality color and precision. It uses UltraChrome HDX 10-color pigment ink for rich, saturated colors perfect for graphics, fine art, and photography.

Key features:

  • Stunning color quality with 10-color inkset
  • Prints a variety of media up to 1.5 mm thick
  • Relatively fast speeds up to 708 sq. ft/hour in draft mode
  • Built-in spectrophotometer for color calibration

With exceptional print quality and versatility for printing on virtually any media type, the SureColor P7570 is ideal for design firms, photographers, and ad agencies.

HP DesignJet T730

The HP DesignJet T730 is a robust 36-inch wide-format printer built for high-volume use by architects and engineering teams. It delivers both speed and quality, with crisp detail and bold colors perfect for renderings, presentations, and professional documents.

Key features:

  • Fast print speeds up to 377 sq. ft/hour
  • Six Original HP inks for accurate, vivid color
  • Prints on coated and uncoated paper, photo paper, etc.
  • HP Click printing software simplifies workflow

With fast speeds, low operating costs, and reliable performance, the DesignJet T730 handles the demands of high-volume technical printing environments.

Roland VersaUV LEC2-300

Roland’s VersaUV LEC2-300 is a 30-inch eco-solvent wide-format printer that excels at printing graphics, packaging prototypes, labels, and more directly onto 3D objects, acrylic, wood, leather, and uncommon surfaces. Its specially formulated inks adhere well and provide striking image quality on nontraditional media.

Key features:

  • Prints CMYK + White + Gloss on virtually any surface
  • Built-in cutting function for immediate trimming
  • Prints ready-to-use projects for retail displays, packaging, etc.
  • Clear inks create tactile raised textures

With the ability to print directly on 3D objects and the inclusion of specialty inks, the VersaUV LEC2-300 is perfect for marketers, product developers, and package designers.

Mimaki CJV150

Mimaki’s CJV150 is a diminutive 30-inch solvent printer made for small spaces, yet it provides workhorse capabilities for graphics professionals. It combines photo-quality color, integrated cutting, and a space-saving footprint.

Key features:

  • Vibrant, accurate color with Mimaki’s SS21 solvent inks
  • Integrated cutting function for stickers, labels, decals, etc.
  • Small size takes up less than 9 sq. ft. of floor space
  • Affordable fully featured 30-inch model

For shops needing an entry-level wide-format printer with high print quality in a tiny package, the CJV150 is a great choice.

Now that we’ve covered some of the top wide-format printer models, let’s explore the key factors to weigh when selecting the right one for your business.

How to Choose the Best Wide-Format Printer

With many types and brands of wide-format color printers available, it’s important to assess your business needs and match them to the right machine. Here are the most vital factors to consider:

Print Quality

Arguably the most significant consideration is print quality, as this determines the visual impact of your oversized documents or graphics.

Factors that affect quality include:

  • Resolution – Higher resolutions like 2400 x 1200 dpi yield crisper details and smoother color transitions.
  • Ink technology – Dye and pigment inks both have pros and cons, with pigments often more fade-resistant for permanent signage and dye boasting stunning photo-quality color.
  • Color accuracy – Some printers offer onboard spectrophotometers and advanced calibration to ensure colors match your design files. This is vital for graphics and photos.
  • Printhead design – Printers with a higher nozzle count and anti-clogging features produce better detail and consistency.

Print Speed

For high production environments, print speed is often a priority consideration. Wide-format printers offer a range of speed capabilities:

  • Engine speed – This is the printer’s maximum rated print speed in square feet per hour. Speeds range from 100 sq ft/hour for lower-end models up to 1000+ for advanced printers.
  • Time estimates – Vendors provide charts indicating how long it will take to print documents at different sizes based on your speed needs – draft, standard or high quality. Review these carefully.
  • For most businesses, standard-speed balanced quality is recommended for improved results versus lowest-speed draft mode.

Media Handling

To unlock your printer’s full potential, you need it to handle all the media types you plan to print on:

  • Roll feeding – Many printers feed flexible material in rolls rather than flat sheets for high-volume jobs. Make sure the printer can handle the roll size you need.
  • Flatbed – For rigid materials like plastics, wood, glass, etc. you need a flatbed design. Some printers offer interchangeable beds.
  • Media thickness – Check the maximum thickness the printer can feed – important if printing on rigid or thick specialty media.
  • Media types – Virtually all models print on basic uncoated paper, with more advanced ones able to feed poster paper, vinyl, canvas, mesh, and more exotic materials.

Ink Costs

Ink and consumables are often the biggest ongoing costs for wide-format printing, so consider long term affordability.

  • Cartridge yields – Look at ink cartridge yields such as how many square feet per cartridge. Higher yields equal lower ink costs.
  • Ink efficiency – Printer models vary widely in how efficiently they use ink. Analyze ink cost over the life of the printer.
  • Contract pricing – Many vendors offer discounted bundled pricing on ink or service contracts, lowering supplies costs.

Printer Size

These are often bulky devices, so make sure you have adequate space.

  • Footprint dimensions – Printers range from small 30-inch models to massive 60-inch ones. Pick the right size for your facility.
  • Installation needs – Larger models require installation by technicians and may need reinforced flooring to handle the weight.
  • Heavy duty design – Commercial-grade models are engineered for 24/7 operation and high duty cycles. Consumer models aren’t built to withstand heavy use.

Connectivity and Workflow

For a seamless workflow, your printer must easily integrate into your graphics workflow:

  • Interfaces – Most offer standard connectivity like USB, Ethernet, and WiFi. Some feature direct file printing from thumb drives or online sources.
  • Printer drivers – Need software to print from Windows/Mac computers. Some include advanced, feature-rich drivers.
  • RIP software – Raster Image Processors efficiently process and optimize print jobs for best quality, color management, and performance.

Warranty and Service

Downtime is detrimental for busy departments, so assess warranty and service response:

  • Length of warranty – More expensive models often come with 3-year warranties versus 1-year for lower-priced printers.
  • Maintenance needs – Some printers require less cleaning and preventative maintenance than others.
  • Technician response – Printers used for daily business need same-day or next-day service when issues arise.

Frequently Asked Questions About Wide-Format Printing

If you’re new to wide-format color printing, you likely have many questions about how these specialized printers work and how to choose the best model. Here we’ll address some of the most common FAQs:

What types of documents and applications are wide-format printers used for?

These printers create striking large-format output for:

  • Marketing posters, banners, event signage
  • Retail point-of-purchase displays
  • Photographic output, fine art reproductions
  • Maps, technical drawings, architectural plans
  • Engineering schematics, manufacturing diagrams
  • Product prototypes
  • Packaging mockups
  • Decals, wraps for vehicles and buildings
  • Textile and canvas prints
  • Trade show graphics
  • Construction plans and site maps
  • Giant photos or graphics for installations

What should I consider when choosing print resolution?

Higher print resolutions yield more detail but cause slower print speeds. For general signage, presentations, and graphics, 1000 x 1000 dpi delivers excellent quality. For fine art reproductions and detailed technical drawings, opt for 2400 x 1200 dpi if print speed is not a constraint. Also consider typical viewing distances – resolution is less critical for large banners viewed from afar versus close-up posters.

How important is color accuracy for my needs?

Certain applications demand precise color matching like graphics and product prototypes where exact Pantone colors are vital. For general signage, presentations, or mockups, accurate but less precise color is often sufficient. Some printers integrate spectrophotometers and advanced calibration software for greatly enhanced color precision when needed.

What workflow and software considerations are there?

You’ll need printer drivers installed on your Windows or Mac workstations to allow printing from Adobe Creative Suite, CorelDraw, Solidworks and other design software. Many printers include advanced drivers that allow greater control over print settings right from your creative apps. Some utilize raster image processor (RIP) software for optimal color management and efficiency. Entry-level printers have basic drivers with fewer controls and lack RIP capabilities.

What should I know about ink costs?

The two biggest factors are ink cartridge yields and the printer model’s ink efficiency. Some printers use inks more economically, getting more footage per cartridge. High ink costs can drastically impact long-term affordability, so analyze cartridge yields, replacement frequency, and vendor ink pricing carefully. Some offer discounted multi-pack ink rates or all-inclusive service contracts that lower costs.

Finding the Right Fit

As you can see, choosing a wide-format printer requires careful consideration of your business’s specific printing needs. By weighing factors like print quality, speed, media versatility, operating costs, size and footprint, workflow integration, and service, you can zero in on the perfect model to take your oversized color printing to the next level. For mission-critical business applications like detailed technical drawings for construction firms or accurate color proofs for product manufacturers, invest in a higher-end wide-format printer that delivers superb quality and reliability. For everyday applications like in-house banners and posters, look for more affordable models that provide sufficient speed and versatility at lower costs.

The range of wide-format color printers available today offers outstanding quality, performance and capabilities to satisfy virtually any business need. Defining your must-have features and clearly understanding your printing workflow and volume requirements will ensure you select the ideal model to become an invaluable asset for your business.

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