No Easy Answers for Equipment Purchases
A full quarter century into the rise of wide-format inkjet printing, the staff at SGIA still receives basic questions from companies just stepping into the segment. And while some of the questions are very specific, requiring careful thought and even a bit of research, a lot of them focus on the basics. One of the questions I’ve received most frequently is: “Which is the right wide-format machine for my business?” While this question should have an easy answer, it doesn’t, because the potential answers are so variable. By understanding some of the considerations you should undertake – as a baseline – you gain the understanding needed to make the right decision.
Not surprisingly, one key consideration is cost – and that makes sense. The first question a car dealer may ask you about a pending car purchase is, “What is your budget?” From an equipment standpoint, this question is so essential because the amount of money you are willing to spend can open doors of opportunity. The biggest of these doors is print speed. The speeds of wide-format machines have continued to increase year over year, and that’s a great thing, provided your company has need for that kind of speed, and has enough business in the pipeline to keep that machine running. Key Point: Great machines exist at all price points and print widths. The biggest and fastest are not required for success.
Color is another strong consideration for purchases and should be managed carefully. The results of the Output Device Category of SGIA’s annual Product of the Year Competition have shown that wide-format machines at all price points – when carefully/expertly color-managed and maintained – are capable of top-shelf color output. Conversely, the most expensive, fastest, most feature-rich printers are capable of poor output if color management and maintenance are not a part of the production process. Key Point: Just having a great machine will not make you a great printer. That is more in execution than equipment.
Before you make your purchase, take time to consider the wide-format machine you will buy not simply as a printing device, but also as an opportunity generator. If you’re planning to use the printer for just one application, say, run-of-the-mill vinyl banners, then fine, go for the least common denominator. What one must understand about wide-format machines is, that by choosing an ink system that allows for successful, durable printing onto a wide variety of substrates, companies are, through the addition of carefully-chosen finishing technologies and laminate films, able to access a very wide range of opportunities. Key Point: Opportunity abounds in wide-format – but more for those who understand capabilities, finishing, and materials.
I’ve presented three considerations to help you with your future purchases. Did they answer the common question outlined in the first paragraph? No, they did not. Did they give you more questions than answers? Yes, they did, and that’s a good thing. Use the key points in this article to understand how they apply to the direct needs of your business. By knowing before you buy, you will buy from a position of power, and that’s a great thing.