Wish your copier or printer could print wide posters, blueprints or other documents? A wide-format printer could be the solution you need, but it can be hard to find information on these highly specialized and expensive devices.
On this page, we have tried to give you the information you need to determine if a wide format printer is right for you, how much you might need to budget, and what key questions you need to keep in mind while researching and buying one.
What Exactly is Considered a “Wide-Format Printer?”
In the broadest sense, any device which can print on paper that is 24″ or wider is considered a wide format printer.
Within this broad definition, there is an extensive range of products. For clarity, we typically break out wide-format devices into three sub-categories based on what you are trying to accomplish:
- Printing standard (or low) definition images and graphics
- Printing high definition images and graphics
- Printing drawings, designs, or blueprints
Now that we have an idea about the three primary types of wide-format printers available, let’s take a look at the kind of organization for whom each printer is best suited.
Printing standard definition images and graphics
These printers or multifunction printers are best suited when you need to print documents that are 24″ or wider, but that are not high-resolution images.
For example, a university print shop may want a standard definition wide format printer to print various materials for their internal use. On the other hand, a printshop selling their services to the public will likely want a device that can handle much higher print resolutions.
Within this category of standard definition printers, there is still a wide variety of options available. For example, do you want a monochrome (B&W) or colour device? Would you prefer to save a little upfront and purchase an inkjet device or opt for a laser device with a lower total cost of ownership?
Printing high definition images and graphics
High-end, high-resolution wide format printers are designed with one primary purpose in mind, creating striking images on large or non-standard mediums. That medium might be a 44″ glossy poster, or it may be a textile, plastic or another non-paper medium.
These high-definition printers are ideal for graphic studios, print-for-pay shops, and other organizations that need to produce beautiful artwork. You will end up paying a premium for these devices, but their capabilities are virtually endless if appropriately configured.
Printing drawings, designs, or blueprints
Often colloquially referred to as plotters, these devices specialize in printing complex drawings and layouts onto massive sheets. While this type of wide format printer will not produce the same image quality as the high-resolution printers can, they can be trusted to create reliably scaled designs for any application.
The customers we find asking for these devices most often are those in the architectural, engineering, and construction (AEC) industries. Still, many other organizations could benefit from these wide format printers as well. For example, while we would not be in an AEC field at Office Interiors, we use a wide format printer almost daily to print off floorplans and furniture layouts.
How Much Do Wide Format Printers Cost?
As with almost all the technology we sell, the cost can vary dramatically depending on your device’s specific configuration. However, there are a few broad ranges that can help you estimate a rough budget.
If all you are looking for is a standard or low definition inkjet printer that can handle printing on wide format paper, you should find a suitable solution with a budget between $1000 and $5000. Where you fall within this range can depend on your device’s exact configuration (ex. optional finishers or accessories) and how much volume you anticipate to put through it (more volume will require a more robust device).
For those looking for more substantial devices that can print large drawings, print on various mediums, print in high definition, or incorporate multifunction (copy/scan/fax) capabilities, you should allocate between $5000 and $25,000.
Unfortunately, this is a massive range, but as there are so many factors impacting the final price, it is difficult to provide even a rough estimate without knowing your specific needs. Here are a few of the critical factors that can impact where you fall within that price range:
- Maximum desired printing width
- Print resolution
- Colour vs monochrome (black & white)
- Expected printing volume
- The capability of printing on non-paper mediums
- Inkjet vs laser
- Add-ons such as finishers or 3rd party accessories
Essential Questions You Need to Ask When Buying a Wide Format Printer
Once you have decided that a wide-format printer is right for you and which of the three broad categories you are likely to fall within, there are a few critical questions that you should ask to ensure you get the best device for your needs and that the vendor can service your equipment.
- Can this device handle the volume (and type) of printing I need to do without requiring excessive service maintenance?
- Will you be purchasing a service contract to cover this device? Does that service contract include toner or paper?
- Wide-format printers typically use large rolls of paper that are trimmed to the desired length rather than individual sheets, does your service contract bill per linear foot or per square foot?
- Does the vendor have a local technician trained in wide-format devices?
Want Help Finding the Right Wide Format Printer for You?
Buying a wide format printer can be a daunting experience. They are significant investments, yet it can be challenging to find all the information you need to make an informed decision. If you are in the market for a new wide-format device, we are here to help.
Arm yourself with the facts you need to make the best decision possible by browsing our learning center for more articles and videos. If you want some personalized guidance, request a consultation with one of our experts. We have helped thousands of customers find the best print device for their unique situation and would be happy to do the same for you!