Melville, N.Y. – The ability to produce specialty applications presents tremendous growth opportunities for commercial printers. But in order to capitalize on these opportunities, it is imperative to have the right large format printing solutions and technologies in place to meet their customers' requirements quickly and economically.
Canon Solutions America, Inc., a subsidiary of Canon U.S.A., Inc. examines the common large-format printing technologies and key considerations for selecting the technologies that are most appropriate for your business needs – both now and in the future.
Understanding the Different Large Format Printing Technologies
Understanding the different printing technologies is the first step in selecting the equipment that is most appropriate for your business needs.
- Aqueous Inkjet Printing: Aqueous inks come in two varieties – dye and pigment – with both using water to carry the colorant. Dye inks are suitable for dry environments, short-term use where image quality and striking color are critical, whereas pigment inks are considered short term water resistant.
- Solvent Inkjet Printing: Solvent inks generally contain pigment rather than dyes and the carrier is volatile organic compounds (VOCs) instead of water. Solvent inks are comparatively inexpensive and enable printing on flexible, uncoated vinyl substrates that are generally waterproof, scratch-resistant and UV safe without special over-coatings.
- UVGEL Inkjet Printing: This technology combines a remarkable recent advance - UV curable ink that instantly gels on contact with the media, an advanced "self-aware" piezoelectric print head technology, an LED-based UV system that cures without adding any damaging heat to the media, and continuous, on-the-fly, print head nozzle monitoring and performance compensation.
- Latex Inkjet Printing: These printers use water as the main ingredient, but the carrier for the pigments is either latex or resin-based. Printers using these types of inks need heaters built into the printer so the media becomes receptive to the ink for adhesion and enables the ink to dry properly. Output is dry and can be finished and mounted straight from the printer without requiring the outgassing period.
- UV-based Flatbed Printers: UV-curable printers use ink where the carrier is not evaporated and the ink doesn't dry – it is cured using an ultraviolet light. UV-curing inks can print onto just about any substrate, including foam board, wood, cardboard, glass and vinyl and produce a very robust image that lasts for extended periods outdoors.
- Solid Toner Technology: Solid toner options, such as Océ CrystalPoint technology, bridge several advantages of both traditional inkjet and LED printing. Solid Océ TonerPearls™ toner is converted into a gel, which is then jetted and crystallized onto the media roll. The gel is crystalized as soon as it hits the media, so prints come out dry, cut and ready to be used, without post-printing preparation time for complex finishing needs.
Key Considerations When Selecting Large Format Technologies
Once you understand the different technologies, there are several key considerations when deciding which type is right for your business.
- What are the Strengths? Consider the "pros" of each and determine which are the most important to you. Consider: do prints dry quickly; are prints water resistant; can it print on uncoated materials; is the printer and the substrates it uses relatively inexpensive; is it cost effective to operate?
- What are the Limitations? Just as each printer type has its strengths, they also have limitations that must be considered: does it require media with a special coating; do prints have long dry times; does it require special ventilation; does it require preprint and post-print heaters to cure the media, resulting in higher energy consumption; will prints have a matte look?
- What are Key Applications? Each printing technology has its own strengths and limitations, so the applications you will be producing – both now and in the future – will help dictate which type is right for you, whether that's signage, GIS maps, CAD drawings, backlit displays, floor graphics, fine article photography, interior decorations or something else.
No One-Size-Fits-All Approach
Even with an understanding of the trade-offs of each large-format printing technology, determining which one is the best investment for your business may still be a challenge. In many instances, there is no one "perfect fit," and you will need a combination of these technologies in order to print the widest variety of customer requested applications in-house. Talk to your preferred large format hardware partner to determine which technologies make sense for your business needs – both now and into the future.
To learn more, please register to download Canon Solutions America's "Aligning Your Wide Format Printing Investment with New Applications & Customer Demands" whitepaper.