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Printing Industry Exchange ( is pleased to have Steven Waxman writing and managing the Printing Industry Blog. As a printing consultant, Steven teaches corporations how to save money buying printing, brokers printing services, and teaches prepress techniques. Steven has been in the printing industry for thirty-three years working as a writer, editor, print buyer, photographer, graphic designer, art director, and production manager.

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Large Format Printing: A Confluence of Developing Technologies

I’ve been reading a number of articles and promotional pieces on large format printing presses. The technology is improving in leaps and bounds, providing options for large format signage, point of purchase displays, fleet and vehicle graphics, window graphics, backlit displays, and packaging.

Here are some of the new, game-changing developments.

UV Inks Provide Speed and Flexibility

A number of large format inkjet printers, such as the NURStar 305D, use UV inks, which cure upon exposure to UV light rather than drying through oxidation or being absorbed into the substrate.

What This Means to You

You can produce large format prints and use them almost immediately, since the inks polymerize rather than drying. In addition, you can print on a much larger variety of substrates (including glass, wood, and metal, for instance) since UV inks will sit up on the surface of these materials. Due to this superior “ink hold-out,” non-porous substrates need not be a problem.

Flatbed Printing Eliminates the Need to Mount Signs

Flatbed printers such as the Inca Onset include a printing bed that will support rigid media, like Coroplast, Sintra, wood, metal, and glass. Many of these flatbed presses will also print roll-to-roll jobs (for later finishing) or roll-to-cut-sheet jobs, if you choose to print on a flexible substrate.

What This Means to You

You don’t have to print your signage on vinyl and then affix it to a backing material with an adhesive. You can produce signage in one step, lowering the overall production cost while increasing speed.

Automation Makes Large Format Printing Faster

Large format printing press manufacturers are including a number of enhancements to speed up the process. For instance, unlike the print heads in a desktop inkjet printer, a large format printer such as the Inca Onset includes an ink head matrix that spans the entire length of the print area. This improves speed and accuracy compared to print heads that shuttle back and forth across the media. According to Inca’s marketing literature, this means the Inca Onset can print 62 full print-beds worth of substrate per hour.

In many cases these large format printing presses can be run in unattended mode, with automated notification of low ink conditions and email alerts that the job has been completed.

In addition, automated cleaning procedures and substrate thickness sensors, as well as improved vacuum table capabilities (the print bed includes vacuums to hold the substrate to the table) all increase throughput.

What This Means to You

Increased automation translates into faster job production at more reasonable prices.

Improved Ink Sets Provide Increased Color Fidelity

Eco-solvent inks produce rich, intense colors on numerous substrates with less impact than traditional solvent-based inks. Combined with more accurate RIP software, such inkjet presses as Roland’s SOLJET XF-640, for instance, can more accurately convert Pantone spot colors to CMYK equivalents. This is particularly true for inkjet presses using extended color sets, which include supplemental inks to widen the color gamut.

In addition to the traditional CMYK ink set, many large format inkjet presses also include white ink capabilities.

What This Means to You

Your colors will be brilliant and true, and there will be little or no banding in gradients. If you are printing on a flexible or rigid substrate and you need a white base (for backlit graphics, double-sided static clings, or custom printing on colored substrates), the white ink capabilities of many of these inkjet presses will be invaluable for laying down an opaque base.

Digital Cutters Complete the Process

A digital contour cutter can be a useful adjunct to a large format printing press. This equipment will use digital information, such as an Illustrator file or a vector Photoshop path, to cut either thin roll-fed inkjet media or even rigid media such as cardboard, chipboard, foam board, plastic, or aluminum.

What This Means to You

Digital cutting eliminates the need for metal dies or hand-cutting, so your final product can be produced faster and more economically as well as with greater precision.

2 Responses to “Large Format Printing: A Confluence of Developing Technologies”

  1. Jesse Kemper says:

    Thanks for the article! Enjoyed it alot. Not entirely sure if this applies to the Richo 901 printers we use at the company I work for. I’m new to the printing industry and just trying to learn as much as possible. Work at St Louis Printing Company, Dale Printing and Packaging.Having fun learning the industry, will look forward to more articles from ya, thanks!

    • admin says:

      Thanks for your comment. I’m glad you enjoy the articles. From my reading, the Ricoh C901 seems to be more of a small-format production printer than a large-format inkjet or UV printer.


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