Printers classified as wide format are those that support any print roll width between 18 and 100 inches (ones that support over 100 inches are considered Super Wide printers). Wide format printers employ a roll of material rather than individual sheets and are used to print such things as posters, vehicle wraps, wallpaper and other large signage or artwork.
There are a variety of ink transfer processes that wide format printers utilize, which is how they are categorized.
- Aqueous: This ink generally uses water as the main carrier (it’s also known as water-based ink), but some formulas will use other liquids to hold the pigment, such as a soy-based liquid used by Kodak. It is a non-toxic ink that is safe for general use in home and office environments, but is slightly more expensive than solvent inks. This ink comes in two types: Dye and UV (or pigment). Dye ink offers the widest range of colors but does not withstand UV rays well, while the UV variant is slightly duller but has higher resistance to fading from UV rays – both will need to be laminated if they are to be used outdoors for longer periods. There are various substrates that can accept this ink, but any material that aqueous ink is printed onto needs to be properly coated to hold the ink well.
- UV: These inks dry when cured with UV light. Colors are more consistent and vibrant with UV ink because it doesn’t absorb into the material it is printed on as much as other inks. Nearly any media can be used with this ink, including ceramics, wood, metal and glass.
- Solvent: Solvent inks are any that are not water-based. These inks are made for outdoor signage with their high weather and UV resistance. Unlike aqueous inks, however, the fumes are dangerous and require good ventilation to remove the airborne solvent during printing; the ink also leaves an unpleasant smell that persists for weeks to months, preventing the printout from being used indoors until it fades. Recently though, eco-friendly solvent inks have been developed, with a reduced smell after curing and a lower amount of hazardous chemicals in the vapor (though ventilation is still required in the printing area).
One of our specialties at Lawton Reprographics is large format printing, utilizing wide format printers and all of the ink types listed above. Give us a call today and we will help bring any large printouts you need to life!