The Evolution of Wide Format Printing

The use of wide format printing really started to take off more than a decade ago, initially there were definite limitations for those interested in having large materials printed in this way. Back then, it was roll fed machines that were most popular. Without getting too technical, this process involved paper or some other substrate being fed into the printer in order to create the required image. The finished piece then had to be mounted onto a more rigid structure, depending on how it was to be displayed. The extra step involved in getting large printed marketing materials put some buyers off, but that changed with the introduction of flatbed printing.

The first phase of flatbed printers were big, clumsy, and ultimately pretty slow. The top of the line machines were capable of printing four beds per hour, whereas today’s flatbed printers can crank out 90 beds or more per hour, whilst also delivering a much superior quality product. The biggest leap forward for large format printers was the ability to do what the old roll fed machines couldn’t do, and that was to print on 3D objects. Rather than just being used for billboards and large displays, the printers were able to add images, logos, and more to a wide variety of objects, from golf balls or clothing right through to banners 100's of metres long used in outdoor display.


The Anapurna 3200M wide format printer


As the technology evolved, new materials were able to be used over and above the traditional paper and plastic used in the original roll fed machines. Ceramics, metal, glass, and all manner of other materials can be fed into flatbed printers, so that nowadays, all kinds of different products can be made more quickly and cheaply than ever before. One of the problems that arose with the addition of all these new materials was the need for a wide variety of inks. Some types of ink wouldn’t adhere to certain materials, meaning a wide variety of different inks would need to be carried by the printer. The real step forward came with the introduction of UV inks, which were able to adhere to just about anything and then quickly dry with exposure to ultraviolet light - printed marketing materials seriously took off!

There are still those that like to use roll fed printers for certain jobs, yet understand that flatbeds are the future. Those businesses have adopted hybrid style printers that have the ability to perform the functions of a roll fed and a flatbed printer as we have with the introduction of our new Anapurna M3200 which is a high quality 3.2m wide roll-to-roll UV inkjet printer for indoor and outdoor applications - this allows UYR to print several jobs simultaneously.

As great as the modern flatbed printers are, the technology is continuing to evolve. Faster speeds, higher quality, and higher reliability are what is being worked on. There will also be a time when an even broader range of materials can be printed on directly, which will take large format printing to levels that have never been seen before. Contact UYR for more information about the latest print technologies and how they can be applied to your marketing.