Wide- or large-format printers have a printing width between 17” (approximately 43 cm) to 100” (254 cm). If the print width is larger than this range, the printer is super-wide or grand format.
These large format printers can be used for many things. Some of the more common applications are printing banners, signs, and posters.
Wide-format printers sometimes have technologies not used on smaller printers: The first is a hot-air dryer, which blows on the sheets to help prevent sticking. The second is a feed that uses a roll of printing material rather than stacked sheets of paper.
There are several types of technologies associated with large-format printing.
There are water based or aqueous inkjet printers. In this style of wide-format printer the pigment is contained in non-reactive solutions. This fluid is sometimes water, but just as often it’s a substitute liquid which makes the name a bit of a misnomer. In order to use aqueous technologies, the printing surface must receive a coating.
Aqueous printer ink is divided into two types: Dye inks are very bright and have the largest colour gamut. However, they have a very low resistance to ultraviolet light and must be laminated for outdoor use. Ultraviolet inks, on the other hand, can be used for a limited time
outside without lamination. The trade-off is duller colour.
If the printer uses petroleum or other organic by-products (such as acetone) as the carrier liquid, the technology is called solvent. The more environmentally friendly alternative, called “eco-solvent” inks, use glycol or glycol ether esters; these alternatives dry slower than regular inks. Because of the chemicals used solvents are waterproof and can be used on uncoated surfaces.
A second waterproof option is UV-curable ink. This type of ink dries when exposed to UV light.
Photograph-quality prints use a technology called dye sublimation, so called for the fact that the dyes move between a solid and gaseous state without becoming liquid. The technology lays one colour at a time, heating the dye to a gas and diffusing it into the medium where it solidifies. The next colour is then laid. A laminate is applied on top of the print to prevent the ink turning back into gas if exposed to a warm temperature.