|This article does not cite any references or sources. (August 2012)|
Wide-format printers (contrast to vector-rendering "plotters") are generally accepted to be any printer with a print width between 17" and 100". Printers over the 100" mark may be called Super-Wide or Grand format. Wide format printers are used to print banners, posters and general signage and in some cases may be more economical than short-run methods such as screen printing. Wide format printers generally use a roll of print material rather than individual sheets and may incorporate hot-air dryers to prevent prints from sticking to themselves as they are produced.
According to Ink used:
- Aqueous: thermal or Piezo inkjet printers using an ink known as aqueous or water-based. The term water base is a generally accepted misnomer. The pigment is held in a non-reactive carrier solution that is sometimes water and other times a substitute liquid, including a soy based liquid used by Kodak. Aqueous ink generally comes in two flavors, Dye and UV (alternatively known as pigment). Dye ink is high color, low UV-resistant variety that offers the widest color gamut. UV ink is generally duller in color but withstands fading from UV rays. Similar in general principle to desktop inkjet printers. Finished prints using dye inks must be laminated to protect them if they are to be used outdoors while prints using UV inks can be used outdoors un-laminated for a limited time. Various materials are available, including canvases, banners, metabolized plastic and cloth. Aqueous technology requires that all materials be properly coated to accept and hold the ink.
- Solvent: this term is used to describe any ink that is not water-based. Piezo inkjet printers whose inks use petroleum or a petroleum by-product such as an acetone like carrier liquid. "Eco-Solvent" inks usually contain glycol esters or glycol ether esters and are slower drying. The resulting prints are waterproof. May be used to print directly on uncoated vinyl and other media as well as ridged substrates such as Painted/Coated Metal, Foam Board and PVC. The solvents soften the base material and allow the ink pigments to mechanically latch on to the chemically etched surface. Certain ink manufacturers have different bite based on what solvent carriers they use. Which is what makes solvent ink prints more durable than aqueous inks. However, solvent inks give off strong odor or fumes when drying, as the carrier fluid dissipates through applied heat from the printer's platen. The are various levels of solvent ink range from "True or Full Solvent" to "Medium/Mild Solvent" all the way down to "Eco-Solvent". The fume and odor levels decrease accordingly, so does the surface etch of the base material. Full to Medium/Mild Solvents require fume extraction to be considered safe in the working environment. Most Eco-Solvents can be used in an office environment with minimal or tolerable odor levels.
- Dye sublimation: inks are diffused into the special print media to produce continuous-tone prints of photographic quality.
- UV: Piezo inkjet printers whose inks are UV-curable (Dry when cured with UV light). The resulting prints are waterproof, embossed & vibrant. Any media material can be used in this technology, polymer made media are best. Ceramics, glass, metals, and woods are also used with printing with this technology.
- Pen/plotter: a pen or pens are used to draw on the print substrate. Mainly used for producing CAD drawings. Generally being superseded by digital technologies such as Solvent, Aqueous, and UV.
- Glossary Grand Format Digital Printing Glossary