Office printers are extremely limited in their abilities and woefully inadequate to produce high-quality graphics. When companies want to expand their advertising with banners, vehicle wraps, or oversized signage, they are dependent on professional printers to create products for them. These printers have the proper equipment and experience to create signs and imagery with stunning colors and clarity.
With recent advances in printing technology, some companies are contemplating purchasing their own wide-format or large format printer and bringing their printing projects in-house. Printing your own graphics does give you more control over the time frame and saves you trips to the printer to approve designs. However, running day-to-day operations and operating your own print shop may present more problems than you expect.
Large format printers are not as expensive as they once were, and the cost for a quality machine will vary with the size and abilities of the unit you purchase. However, your cost for the printer alone will end up in the ballpark of four to five figures. It is a sizable investment.
In addition to the printer, you will need to buy ink vats and printing media. Do you plan to print photos, fabric banners, vinyl window graphics, or vehicle wraps? Each of these products requires different material. Buying them costs money, and storing them takes space, which may be at a premium in your facility. Rolls of paper this size are not likely to fit in your supply closet. You may need a separate space dedicated to printing supplies.
Just because you do the printing with your own printer on-site doesn’t mean the prints are free. Some large format printers come equipped with software that calculates the ink used for each project, allowing you to determine your cost per print more accurately. Additionally, some machines lay down more ink than others, which can affect your bottom line. Your total cost to print will include the ink, the print media, operating costs, and employee time to operate and maintain the printer.
You can purchase ink, paper, and other supplies at a discount by buying in bulk if you plan ahead. However, the ink doesn’t last forever. It comes with an expiration date. You will likely need to purchase ink on an ‘as needed’ basis to avoid wasting it.
Maintaining a professional printer is very different from your printer at home or the one in the office. Many of them are not designed to allow customers to service their equipment. If the print head needs replacing, you will need to call a service professional to do the work for you. Some machines are not serviceable at all. When the parts wear out, you need to buy a new machine.
If you have partnered with a professional printer in the past, you know how many options they offer. Because of their extensive client base, they can afford to buy the best printers and keep their warehouse stocked with ink, paper, fabric, adhesives, and vinyl options. Your wish is their command. They can even help you design the perfect graphics.
When you fly solo on these large-scale projects, you will have fewer options. If the printer you buy cannot print on solid media, you won’t be able to print on those trinkets for the trade show next month. You may have to settle for colorful tri-fold pamphlets about your products and services.
Your printer may also present size limitations. It may be large enough to print a poster advertising a new product, but what about the large window graphics you wanted for the holidays? If you want a larger printer that can handle bigger projects, you will need to dedicate more space to your printing efforts in your building. Printers that are front and rear load take up even more space.
Commercial large format printers are workhorses. They perform best when they run frequently. Before investing in a printer, it is wise to determine how often you plan to use your printer. Sitting for long periods can lead to gummed up print heads and other maintenance issues that will cost you time and money. Dry conditions further exacerbate these problems.
When it Doesn’t Make Sense
For some companies, the volume of large format printing they pay for can make it worthwhile to weigh the challenges and the benefits of trying in-house printing. However, for most organizations, large format printing is not cost-effective. It becomes a drain on time and resources, as any money saved on printing pays for maintenance, supplies, and employee time. It makes more sense to hand over the project to a skilled printer.
Printers assume the responsibility of buying and maintaining the printing equipment. They stock ink and other supplies. As their printers age and wear out, they invest in newer and better printers, allowing you to take full advantage of faster and better equipment without having to invest in it yourself. Their dedicated spaces allow them to complete premium large-format printing projects of any size on just about any material.
You may pay a little more for your prints, but you more than make up for it as you benefit from partnering with design and printing experts to help create top-notch banners and displays for your business. Signage is most effective when it sets you apart from the competition. A professional job will always stand out above the rest.