Inside the Expanding World of Wide-Format Imaging
Wide-format digital imaging is a booming market. Adding this technology will allow your in-plant to offer a range of new products.January 2008 By Marguerite Higgins
Wide-format digital imaging is taking printers to a whole new level in their product offerings. The technology allows companies to print on more surfaces than ever before and provide greater customization options.
“It’s rewriting what the printing industry can do in terms of full color and variable data,” says Michael Robertson, president and CEO of the Specialty Graphic Imaging Association (SGIA). “Wide-format digital imaging has really shifted the paradigm from large-run production to the small-run, product variety.”
But before you go out and buy a new wide-format ink-jet printer with all the latest features, take a look at SGIA’s suggestions for entering the wide-format digital imaging arena.
Products Drive the Business Plan
Like most technological applications, everything starts with the product. What end product do you want to offer? It could be indoor signs, presentation graphics, fabric banners for buildings or colorful wraps for a company vehicle. Often, companies that have successfully segued into specialty imaging recognized a gap in their business that could be filled with wide-format digital imaging capabilities.
The product or product mix you decide upon will determine the types of equipment, inks and media along with finishing options you’ll need. Generally, these components are interdependent and selected at the same time.
Wide-format equipment categories include roll-to-roll devices, flatbeds and hybrids, using UV ink-jet, solvent-, water-, and pigment-based inks.
Roll-to-roll devices print on rolled media such as paper, vinyl, fabrics and thin plastics. Most wide-format printing companies will use these devices to print banners, posters, point-of-purchase displays and other flexible products.
Flatbed devices print directly on rigid and unrolled media, which range from common materials such as foam board and plastic sheet to more exotic ones such as wood, glass, ceramics and leather. Printing on rigid substrates can eliminate the mounting process that is required for many images printed on roll-based units.
Hybrid devices offer a great deal of flexibility for companies using a single machine for a variety of products. The machine combines roll-to-roll and flatbed capabilities in one device. But if your production needs focus on a particular substrate, you could find better cost and printing advantages with equipment that specializes in printing on that material.