When looking to purchase a large format printer, there are many factors to consider prior to making an investment; however the purchase process doesn’t have to be complex, if you know which pieces of information to consider. Here are 5 simple yet critical considerations to look at when selecting a new large format printer.
Types of Large Format Printers
Large format printers generally come in one of two configurations: printer only or multi-function. Printer only configurations are just that, they print digital files either submitted from a user’s desktop, a history queue located on the printer’s controller, or a USB drive. Multi-function devices are printers that also come with a scanner – either mounted on top of the printer or as a separate stand-alone device.
Color and/or Black & White
Just like a home office printer, large format printers provide the ability to print in black & white, color, or both. The type of print jobs that you do will guide this decision. If you primarily print graphics, posters, renderings or presentations, color is a must. Black & white will suffice if you primarily print monochrome CAD drawings.
However, if you print a combination of black & white and color, then your choice becomes a little more difficult; should you own a monochrome and a color printer or just a color printer? Keep in mind that at lower print volumes, most color printer output costs will be the same for monochrome and color printing.
Also consider where your prints are used. If you need prints that can stand up to outside weather conditions, black & white may be best as color printers often require specially coated media.
Although tempting to base your decision solely on the purchase price of the printer, you really must weigh the true return on your investment and all related costs. There are three cost areas to consider – the initial investment, running costs and hidden costs. The initial investment includes the cost of the printer, delivery, installation of new drivers, and supply inventory for the old printer that may not be usable in the new printer. Running costs include the cost of all consumables, media and service. Remember not to overlook your hidden costs – there can be a hefty price behind wasted resources and lost time, for example printing multiple times to either get optimum print quality or because it is unclear if the printer is processing the file you sent to it.
Performance and Speed
Don’t evaluate a printer just by the numbers. Most comparably priced models will have almost identical speed specifications; however, their productivity may vary substantially when you consider all of the factors involved from when you send a job to the printer to actually holding the print in your hand.
Processing time (how long the printer takes to process files), warm-up time (does the printer start printing right away out of sleep-mode), speed vs. print quality mode (what is the print speed for different quality color documents), and throughput (can the printer process new files while printing previous ones) combine to give you a complete picture of the printer’s performance.
When you think about image quality the first thing that probably comes to mind is resolution, expressed in dots per inch (dpi). However, high resolution does not necessarily guarantee the best quality. Image quality is critical to ensuring important information is not lost.
For black & white printers, no matter what media you use, the print quality is more or less the same. When using a color inkjet printer, however, quality can vary tremendously depending on your media selection. When printing on glossy or photo paper vs. bond paper, differences can occur in color output and quality of thin and fine lines.
The best way to objectively judge image quality is to see it for yourself. Take some of your typical files to a demonstration and have them printed out, then base the quality decisions on the aspects of the output that are most important to you.
So, next time you’re searching for a large format printer, take a little extra time to learn about the main functionality offered by each printer, and consider your key functional requirements. This will help you best decide which printer best compliments your business, while providing a competitive edge.