By Tom Sheehan
The demand for wide-format graphics is exploding today—and it is being met by the advanced digital inkjet technology that has emerged in recent years, making wide-format printing possible on a more diverse variety of substrates than before. This market presents a new revenue stream to sign shops and print service providers (PSPs) alike, as digital inkjet printing is among the most effective methods for creating superior-quality image applications that raise brand awareness for advertisers and marketers.
The printing sector has seen dramatic changes in the last decade, from quicker turnaround times to the expanded use of digital technology. While wide-format inkjet presses have been available for some time now, as the technology becomes more reliable and affordable, it has been making more inroads into printing and sign businesses.
Originally, many printing companies used wide-format presses primarily to create only proofs, not final output. Eventually, they realized the equipment could open the door to a broader range of jobs and customers by expanding their abilities to print a variety of applications involving non-paper substrates. This shift generated such impressive new revenues, many small commercial and ‘quick’ PSPs developed their own sign departments or bought existing sign shops as expansion opportunities.
Many large-format print jobs—including point-of-purchase (POP) displays, posters and window graphics—are being produced today in shorter runs, with faster turnaround times and more intricate graphic designs, than in the past. As the market for digital printing has grown, wide-format inkjet machines have led the way, due to their high productivity and versatility.
When producing high-quality wide-format prints, one of the keys to success is the ability to produce vibrant colours. This in turn is strongly influenced by which type of ink is used in the printer.
Indeed, using the right ink is just as important as operating the right equipment and stocking the right substrates. As such, printing and signmaking professionals entering the wide-format to super-wide-format inkjet market need to know what types of inks are available. Some will prove more appropriate than others, depending on the materials and applications.
Solvent-based inks dry quickly and offer outdoor graphic durability. They are also associated with very durable printheads.
‘Eco-solvent’ inks are typically glycol-based, derived from mineral oil, so they do not require the same forced ventilation as traditional solvent inks. Many businesses required to promote ‘green’ practices use eco-solvent inks, which still provide strong adhesion to such substrates as polyvinyl chloride (PVC) and flexible banner materials.