With SGIA right around the corner, many new shops are poised to purchase their first large format printer, while others may be preparing for growth by adding more equipment to increase their production capacity. This is a great thing! However, sorting through the sea of large format printers available in our industry can be an intimidating task. Ask yourself these questions to ease the burden of your search, and you'll be well on your way towards choosing a printer that will be a great fit for your shop.
The answer to this question will get you started on the right path.
It's amazing to see how fast printers are in the industry today. Many entry-level large format printers produce quality output at 300+ ft2/hr (warp speed compared to earlier model printers)! However, some printers may sacrifice quality at higher speeds. It's important to know your volume and thoroughly examine print samples at various speeds to assess quality. This will enable you to compare various models side-by-side and strike a nice balance of speed and quality perfect for your business.
Be sure to ask the vendor/manufacturer about their service plan. In the event the machine goes down, this will assure the problem gets fixed by a trained professional in a timely manner.
Also be sure to have a technician run you through the general maintenance procedure (just to familiarize yourself with the process). Some printers have automatic maintenance capabilities, which is an attractive feature if you're looking for a more hands-off machine.
When preparing for a big delivery, check out my article in Sign & Digital Graphics magazine, What to Expect When Expecting a Big Delivery.
After narrowing down your search, how do the prices compare? Typically you'll find that price won't necessarily be the deciding factor (as most printers in a given category will be quite similar). In addition to the printer cost, research ink costs, installation costs, service fees, etc.
By asking yourself these important questions and thoroughly analyzing each machine, you'll find your shop with a great piece of equipment sure to provide a great return-on-investment for years to come. Congrats and Happy Printing!