The Importance of Seeing Your Wide-Format Printer in Person

Anyone with an Amazon account can attest to the convenience of ecommerce. As consumers, whether we’re buying for personal use or making a business purchase, we’ve grown accustomed to window shopping via our phone or computer screens, swapping in-person demonstrations for online walkthroughs and digital recreations.

Adding office supplies to your virtual cart is one thing, but investing in something as significant as a wide format printer is another. Much like cars, wide format printers come with lots of bells and whistles—and often a sizable price tag. Before committing to a particular model, it helps to try (or at least see) before you buy. Getting the full wide format experience will help to ensure your equipment is the right fit for your business goals, your facilities and your customers. This is especially critical for first time buyers who haven’t interacted with the equipment before.

Here are just a few reasons why you should make the trip to your equipment provider before buying your next—or first—wide format printer.

Location, Location, Location

Given the physical footprint of many wide format printers, seeing the equipment up close and personal is important. Whether you’re looking for a small but mighty model or the biggest commercial behemoth on the market, wide format printers require a fair amount of real estate, and it’s helpful to get a 360-degree view in person.

Beyond the printer’s dimensions, you’ll also have to think about where to store related accessories, inks, paper and other substrates. You need plenty of clearance around the machine for loading materials, scanning, printing, cutting and finishing your printed projects. How much space you’ll need depends on the type of printer you purchase—for example, many machines require you to load media from the back, which means you should either keep that space clear or be able to move the printer around. Larger flatbed printers are designed to handle larger media, and you’ll need an average of three to four feet on all sides to allow for handling materials.

Additionally, wide format machines require room for proper ventilation, so be sure to factor that in, too. Fume extraction units can help with ventilation and are often purchased with laser, UV and heavier solvent printers. Environmental factors, such as temperature and humidity, will also play a role in how well your printer performs.

Site surveys or preinstallation checklists can help you understand power specifications, space requirements, delivery and shipping instructions, and uncrating workflows. Understanding the physical space requirements and overall production setup will help you determine where to install your new printer.

Kick the Tires

As soon as you get in front of your future wide format printer, questions will start percolating: How do I maintain a wide format printer? Where can I buy ink and other supplies, and how much do I need? Do I have the proper power outlets to support this machine? Are there any “hidden costs” to consider?

When it comes to finding the answers, Google will only get you so far. Nothing compares to speaking with a trained technician who has years of wide format experience under their belt. Attending a demo is the best way to get these details firsthand, but if your distributor isn’t within driving distance, you could even visit your local sign shop to inquire about the equipment they use.

Get Familiar with the Gear

The largest upfront cost is the printer itself, but it’s also important to assess what other tools or technology you need to get up and running. Most machines come with accompanying software, which may, in turn, require specialized training.

Depending on what you plan to produce with your wide format printer, you may want to explore different finishing options or techniques. For example, if you’re creating outdoor signage, you’ll want to laminate the piece to prevent weather-related damage and enhance durability. Your equipment provider can act as a go-to resource for tips, tricks and tools of the trade—at Mac Papers and Packaging, we’ve seen it all and are ready to help your business create its next masterpiece.

While it’s not unheard of to buy sight unseen, getting a glimpse of your options in person can help you determine what model will suit your needs. This will give you a chance to ask questions, see your options in action and “test drive” features specific to the projects you’ll be producing.

If you’re considering a wide format printer for your business, schedule a demo with your distributor so you can get a clearer picture of how the machine works, where you’ll install it and what it takes to keep your printer running smoothly. We’d be happy to provide a tour of the latest wide format printers at our state-of-the-art demo center in Orlando.