The wide-format, photo-realistic inkjet printer has caused a revolution in the graphic arts world. Signmakers, pre-press companies and service bureaus were some of the first to embrace the technology, but photographers, artists and printmakers were not far behind. Wide-format inkjet printers have made possible what was once only available through toxic silk screening, photographic methods or very time-consuming and costly procedures.
As the industry has progressed, longer lasting dye and pigment inks, and the ability to print on a wide variety of substrates at a relatively low cost has helped to turn large format inkjet printing into a huge market for production-level signage, fine-art printing, and a host of other applications.
What is the definition of ‘wide-format’? That is debatable, but for our purposes, we’ve set the bar from 24'' to 54'' in width and set a price cap of about $25,000. There are more than 100 wide format printers on the market, so we will focus primarily on devices that photographers, illustrators, designers or fine-art printmakers might purchase for their specific needs.
Canon offers a wide range of inkjet printers for virtually any market segment. Thanks in part to its 1'' wide print head, the imagePROGRAF W6200 six-color 24'' wide pigmented printer can output a 24''x36'' print at 1200X1200 dpi in just seven minutes with excellent detail, sharpness and color. It also has full-bleed capability and can accept media in either rolls or sheets. The printer comes equipped with the company’s graphic PS-Level 3 compatible RIP software and many third party RIP solutions are available. The 44'' wide imagePROGRAF W8200Pg printer also utilizes Canon’s pigment inks and 1'' wide print head. In both cases, Canon has formulated a pigment ink solution of ultra fine particles that boasts both lightfastness and high ozone resistance. Other dye-based Canon models include the 36'' wide imagePROGRAF W7200, and the 44'' wide imagePROGRAF W8200.
Encad’s VinylJet 36 is a direct-to-vinyl 36'' wide-format printer for outdoor printing without solvents. Full color images can be printed on untreated, uncoated vinyl with no cutting, mounting or waste. The AquaVinyl Technology (AVT) preheats the vinyl for optimal ink reception, so once the ink is printed onto the vinyl substrate, an infrared curing system creates an impermeable bond outdoor signage. This machine is particularly attractive to signmakers who don’t want to deal with the toxic fumes and venting requirements of traditional solvent-ink machines.
With up to 1200x600 print resolution, and available in 42 and 60'' widths, the NovaJet 1000i is another speedy performer. A new print head, with 640 nozzles, provides high-speed and high quality printing on a wide variety of media. The Rapid Evaporation Drying System ensures that prints are instantly ready for take-up, even at full machine speed. The broad color gamut of its Quantum Pigment Ink gives the flexibility to print photographic quality images for long lasting indoor applications, as well as UV and water-resistant prints for durable outdoor displays.
Epson is another major player in the world of inkjet printing with numerous wide-format options. The Epson Stylus Pro 7600 is a 24'' wide printer which features a maximum resolution 2880x1440 dpi, 4 picoliter droplet size and is available with 7-color Epson UltraChrome Inks or 6-color Epson Photographic Dye Inks. The Stylus Pro 9600 is a 44'' wide printer with very similar specs. Epson’s 7-color Ultrachrome set has received longevity ratings on many substrates estimated at over 100 years before noticeable fading. The Stylus Pro 10600 offers very fast, high quality output with individual 500ml ink tanks in a six-color configuration. It can be ordered with a choice of Epson dye-based ink or either of Epson’s two pigment ink formulations (Archival Pigment or UltraChrome).Epson Stylus Pro 7600
HP invented thermal inkjet technology in 1979 and hasn’t stopped evolving since then. The Designjet 500/500ps are 4 color (CMYK) printers, available in 24'' and 42'' widths. The Designjet 500ps comes with a full-featured Adobe PostScript 3 RIP, allowing graphics professionals to output more accurate proofs and presentation materials. The Designjet 800/800ps offers higher quality output with the same size configurations as the Designjet 500/500ps.
HP’s Designjet 5500/5500ps come in 42 and 60'' versions, and both offer a user-switchable dye and pigment ink sets, for versatility and longevity indoors or out. The Designjet 5500ps also comes standard with Adobe’s PostScript 3 RIP software.
The Designjet 130 series uses HP’s new 6 color dye-based fade resistant inks and prints on media up to 24'' wide at up to 2400x1200 dpi. It is equipped with a print tray that holds stock up to 300 gsm, comes with both Mac and PC built-in drivers, and HP’s optional software RIP or a third-party RIP can be added.
Roland offers a wide range of wide format printers, with options that include dye, pigment, Eco-SOL INK and resin ink. The SOLJET SC-540EX printer accepts up to 54'' wide materials and images directly onto uncoated materials without harmful fumes or expensive ventilation systems. It also includes a built-in contour cutter. The VersaCAMM 30'' inkjet printer/cutter is also built to use Eco-SOL ink, but in a smaller width.
With 1440x1400 dpi resolution, the Hi-Fi Jet Pro II FJ-540 is designed to be a digital tool for printing fine art reproductions, photography and color proofs and can be used with either Pigment or Dye-based inks. It accepts 54'' wide rolls and sheets.
*********************************************Fine Art Focus
Text by Andrew Darlow
Epson, Monet and the MFAAn Epson Print displayed in front of