Wide-format Color Printers--Riding the (Tidal) Wave of Profits
What does an artist, advertiser, attorney, author, architectural engineer, fashion designer, grocer, manufacturer, photographer, promoter and retailer have in common? They produce top-quality products using the same "medium"—wide-format printing (WFP).
Which makes all of these professionals (and countless others) potential print customers. Commercial and quick printers, copy shops and service bureaus are turning to wide-format printing for low-volume, high-profit business—and they're doing it in record numbers.
Last year, more than 15,000 WFP systems were installed nationwide, with another 50,000-plus units projected for installation by the year 2000. Furthermore, industry experts predict that by the turn of the century, sales will reach an estimated $19 billion.
Business is booming due, in part, to continuous improvements in WFP's resolution, speed, color, digital capabilities and substrates. While not a "plug-and-go" system, wide-format printers are now capable of running hundreds of square feet per hour, using up to eight color heads, in 62˝ widths, with 1,200 dpi, on a multitude of new substrates.
Traditionally, WFP products weren't meant for closeup viewing, so the marble-sized dots on billboards looked perfectly fine as you passed them on the freeway. However, as resolution increased so has WFP's ability to withstand a more critical, closer-range eye.
These humongous high-quality products are not only opening eyes, but new business doors.
Take, for example, San Diego-based Tiger ReproGraphics, which reports a 35- to 40-percent increase in business since installing ENCAD Pro 36 and Pro 50 printers.
"Wide-format printing has drastically expanded our other services," says Assistant Manager Barry Calabrese. "We do a lot of life-size celebrity cutouts, which puts our mounting and laminating equipment to work eight hours a day. We had to upgrade our mounting machine and add another Mac just to keep up with business."
Michael Type & Graphics, of Media, PA, started out with a 36˝ LaserMaster in 1995, bought an identical unit in '96, then installed a 62˝ ColorSpan (formerly LaserMaster) DisplayMaker last fall.