A wide format printer – also known as a large format printer – is a computer controlled printing machine that can handle print roll widths of between 18” and 100”. There are some machines that can handle even wider print rolls and these are described as super wide, or grand, format.
Wide format printing is used for printing things such as posters, wallpaper, architectural drawings, banners, murals, construction plans, backdrops for theatre scenery, vehicle image wraps, and a whole lot more. Wide format printers are generally designed to print on to a roll of print media rather than on separate sheets and typically use a form of inkjet technology.
Different types of wide format printers employ different ink transfer processes.
Piezo inkjet printers use a type of ink that is known as aqueous, or water based. However, the pigment is held in a carrier solution that may or may not be water based, since a substitute solution might be used. There are two types of pigment, one being dye which has a high colour but has very little resistance to ultra violet. UV ink, on the other hand, is generally not so high in colour, but has a resistance to ultra violet, making it more suitable for use outdoors. If a dye ink is to be used outdoors it must be laminated to protect it.
An ink that is not water based is described as solvent. Some printers use inks which are carried in petroleum or petroleum by-products, while others use glycol esters. The finished articles are waterproof and the ink tends to be more durable than an aqueous ink. Solvent inks can be used to print directly on to metal, PVC, and foam.
Some piezo inkjet printers use inks which are UV curable – i.e. they are dried using UV light. The ensuing prints are waterproof. UV inks can be used to print on almost any form of media.
Pen or plotter inks employ a pen to draw on the medium being used. However, this is an older technology and is mainly used today for CAD drawings.