With recent advancements in speed, ink, and image quality, grand format printers tout an impressive list of features that appeal to many PSPs hoping to expand services and bring more work in house. Current trends in the grand format space reveal it may be a good time to consider investing in this equipment.
Quality Images at High Speeds
With improved technology, grand format printers produce output at faster speeds and increasingly better quality. “There has been a push over the last five years to increase the quality of grand format devices without sacrificing speed. This is blurring the line in terms of output quality of wide format devices, which have historically been higher quality than their grand format counterparts,” shares Michael Syverson, director of special projects, PrinterEvolution, LLC.
Larry D’Amico, VP, digital imaging, Agfa Graphics agrees. “Higher quality devices drive the market today. Newer grand format printers feature smaller ink droplet sizes, as well as white, orange, and violet ink. These printers are able to produce a larger gamut of spot colors at a much higher quality than older devices.”
Greg Lamb, CEO, Global Imaging, Inc. shares that In the U.S., driving factors for investing or upgrading to a new grand format device are ink set and print resolution. “Three- and five-meter machines today produce quality every bit as good as wide format devices and offer flexibility in media handling, for example, three roll-up printing, true speeds of 1,500 square feet per hour, and options like white ink or automated double-sided printing,” he says.
Geoff Stone, national sales manager, Paradigm Imaging Group, notices some grand format printers coming down in price, providing a faster return on investment. He also notes that many use better inks that are more vibrant, contain less volatile organic compounds, and are more scratch-resistant.
Bill Grambsch, Midwest sales manager, Polytype America Corp., believes larger shops are improving print speed first and quality second. “Smaller shops may be moving onto a faster machine, but are looking to compete in more market segments to grow business,” he explains.
“The decision to invest in grand format printing technology varies for each PSP, but some common reasons include the ability to produce high-quality, close-view jobs and billboard jobs on one machine; higher ink efficiency print modes with air knife technology; optional features such as cutters or mesh kits that produce a seamless end-to-end solution; and, particularly for printers transitioning away from solvent, a desire to install technologies that lower the impact of printing on the environment and print on polyethylene materials,” says Oriol Gasch, signage category manager, Americas, Hewlett-Packard.
Other factors aside from drop size—how fine the device can print, include software technology and flexibility; media handling—speed of roll changeovers; and how much waste is lost during a changeover. “Larger width rolls and multi-roll print capability are key benefits,” says Terry Mitchell, director of marketing, Fujifilm North America Corporation. “As are types of materials the machine handles; a wider range of materials allows for more diversified work.”
Kevin M. Sykes, president/CEO, Novus Imaging, Inc., believes the main factors driving PSPs to purchase or upgrade existing products is increased quality as well as productivity.
“Grand format printers exponentially increase productivity in the print shop, and typically become a workhorse printer,” agrees Stone.
Job management is important in high-production, grand format shops. “Grand format roll-to-roll devices are designed to efficiently produce thousands of square feet of printed material instead of the hundreds produced on a wide format device. In the same manner, high-production grand format flatbed presses are intended to be production-level devices that complement, or in time, replace, screen and offset printers for short- to mid-run jobs,” explains Gasch. Grand format devices provide greater efficiency and lead to substantial reductions in both waste and overhead.
Grand format printers afford PSPs the ability to take on larger jobs with tighter deadlines. Shops are able to produce jobs in one hour that could take most of a day with a smaller wide format device. “Because one or two grand format machines can do the work of many wide format printers, they are efficient and cost effective,” adds Syverson.
The ability to produce bigger products in one process is a key factor with grand format devices. Nesting different jobs, or having less post-production work make a good alternative to smaller devices. “In digital textile printing, a bigger width means being able to print flags, banners, interior decoration, retail graphics, and fabrics for wall mounted and backlit frames from one machine,” shares Roland Biemans, sales and marketing manager, Hollanders Printing Systems.
The increased speed of grand format devices is the primary influence of productivity in a print shop. “There is no substitute for the ability to print a job up to ten times faster than a wide format device. It changes the entire workflow of the shop and allows the owner much more flexibility as it relates to the other operational aspects of their business,” says Sykes.
With grand format devices, PSPs produce larger media at more efficient speeds. Further increasing the shop’s efficiency, grand format offers larger roll sizes, the possibility to run multiple rolls simultaneously, and bigger ink containers—with lower running costs due to higher ink efficiency, reduced labor, and less waste creation.