A lot of the products and systems that those low-end aqueous ink-jet suppliers are developing are for using wide-format printing systems as proofing devices. The data here shows that proofing is one of the key applications for wide-format printing systems for many of the respondents. Users are producing all types of proofs on their wide-format printers, including contract proofs.
(See Chart 2.)
However, as the chart illustrates, proofing is not the most common application they produce with their wide-format printers–posters are, so in most cases, among these respondents, wide-format printers are a profit center.
The range of applications these companies produce also speaks to both the flexibility of aqueous ink-jet wide-format printers, and to the variety of technologies present in these establishments. Aqueous ink-jet printers can produce the widest range of applications, from low-quality, low-coverage, wide-format technical documents through high-quality photographic or proofing quality images.
This allows companies to use the same printing equipment to produce the wide range of applications seen here. In most cases, the only requirement is to change the roll of media.
For those companies that specialize in outdoor materials like banners or vehicle graphics, it may be more cost-effective for them to use a wide-format eco-solvent or solvent printer, which allows them to print onto uncoated materials using less expensive inks. For those companies that specialize in point-of-purchase signs or displays, which often require a foam-core or rigid backing, it may be more cost-effective to use a wide-format UV-curable ink-jet printer, which allows them to print directly onto rigid materials.
With prices for wide-format digital graphics printing ranging widely, it can be difficult to fully recognize the level of business required to make wide-format printing highly profitable. Among the respondents, the mean amount of square feet printed per month is almost 12,000. But the division among the respondents is very significant; almost 36 percent of respondents who offer wide-format services indicate their monthly wide-format print volume is less than 1,000 square feet. Another 36 percent indicated 1,000 to 4,999 square feet. Less than 5 percent produce more than 50,000 square feet.