An Overview of the
Three Types of Large Format Printers

Aqueous Inkjet Printing

Large format aqueous inkjet printers are the most common printers available on the market today. Their name reflects the fact that water is the primary “carrier” component of the ink used in these printers. All available reports indicate that the worldwide market for large format aqueous inkjet will continue to grow, driven by trends in the technical document and digital graphics printing markets.

Wide format aqueous inkjet systems provide the fastest output with typically the highest resolution. Aqueous inkjet printers can print on both indoor and outdoor materials, and with lamination, the outdoor longevity can be substantially increased. They rule the market in photographic and fine art printing, as well as trade show printing, graphic design and prepress proofing.

The advantage of these aqueous based printers is their ease of use.

Solvent Inkjet Printing

Ideal for the outdoor graphics production house is the solvent inkjet printer. Versatile, long-life solvent inks offer durability with a hitch: they’re classified as “hazardous” due to the noxious fumes from the inks, and require special venting to be installed. Eco or mild-solvent based inks are available. Because of the fume hazard, these printers are suited to plant installation, not office use.

One advantage of solvent-based inks is that they are less expensive than aqueous inkjet inks. You can use less expensive media when printing with solvent-based inks, and therefore the signage industry has really taken to them.

There are many suppliers of wide format solvent-based inkjet printers, including Mimaki, Mutoh, Océ, Roland, Vutek and Seiko, which are all continuously improving their solvent-based inkjet printers.

UV-based Flatbed Printers

The other emerging category in wide format inkjet technology is the UV-curable flatbed inkjet printer, where the drying mechanism for the ink is completely different then that used in solvent inkjet printing. When ultra-violet light hits curable liquid ink, it transforms it from a liquid to a solid on the chosen substrate. UV-curable printers offer many of the same features as solvent inkjet printers offer with less expensive inks than aqueous inkjet inks and outdoor image durability without lamination. Since many are configured as flatbed systems, users can print directly on materials such as wood, metal, ceramic, and glass, opening a host of new possibilities in terms of applications and revenue streams. UV-curable has to improve its reliability and performance with flexible substrates if it’s going to overtake solvent printing in the roll-to-roll application.

You only need to look around, indoors and outdoors, to see that wide format printing is everywhere.

There is enormous potential in the wide format printing industry. Some of the uses of wide format printing include…

  • Indoor and outdoor banners
  • Trade show exhibits
  • Backlit signage
  • Posters
  • Photographic reproduction
  • Decals and pressure sensitive stickers
  • Floor graphics
  • Window graphics
  • Vehicle graphics

Information provided by