Informative inventory of large format color inkjet printers by Nicholas Hellmuth, FLAAR.
Large format inkjet printers for signs, posters, banners
Brady, Brady printers are behind Varitronic and Fuji-Hunt
Brady printers remind me of something from an earlier generation. Avoid this kind of primitive output. Virtually every other printer offers vastly superior quality.
CalComp, went out of business
don't buy used printers of companies that no longer exist...you can't get service, parts, or anyone who knows how to get them running again. Also, no new drivers or RIPs are made for them. The only used printers that we recommend are the proven workhorses, namely Encad and Hewlett-Packard. These last seemingly forever. HP printers are a breeze to maintain; Encad printers are messy to load the ink and you can't let them go unused more than a week or their ink dries and clogs the lines and heads.
Canon bubble jet BJ-W7000 (watch out for banding, a common defect in wide format printers). The next generation of Canon printers (1200 dpi) are a monumental improvement, but lack pigmented inks and won't be ready until May 2001
older Selex engines are rated at only 360 dpi
ColorSpan (listed in the following section on fine art printers)
If using for proofing, select BEST color management RIP
Epson 9000 is popular choice for proofing albeit rather slow; great color but image fades rapidly (not a concern in proofing. We prefer the color gamut of the Epson 9000 and 24" Epson 7000 model over the new inks. If you need inks that last a few years we recommend after-market inks from Van Son, DicoJet and others. For detailed information on the Epson 9500 prototype check www.FineArtGicleePrinters.org or www.wide-format-printers.org. The 7500 and 9500 are now finished
If you are considering the Epson 1520 or Epson 3000 you ought to speak with people who already have one before you actually buy one, or read our reports first.
Encad Chroma 24, entry level wide format printer for basic use including home use, 300 dpi
These printers are for doing signs, posters, etc. Due to grainy structure of the dot pattern Encad prints are not as clear for graphic design, photographic output, and even less appropriate for fine art or exhibit prints.
Encad is a reliable company and honest in its advertising. Our Encad printer still works okay after four years.
Encad 500-series; 300 dpi only but nice for what it offers
Encad 630-series; 600 dpi, look very nice at a distance.
Encad 700-series; nice quality other than grainy dot pattern.
Encad 850, 8 colors, not quite finished; still just 600 dpi
HP ColorPro GA, ColorPro CAD, PostScript 3, 19" wide; can be upgraded via sophisticated Imation Matchprint system
HP is ethical in its advertising and does not exaggerate. HP DesignJet printers are specifically designed to be as plug-and-play as possible, in order to make this a logical choice for a first-time user as well as for a professional graphics design or repro shop.
HP DesignJet 488CA (replaces 455CA), 24" and 36," entry-level large format printers. Newest model is HP 500 and 500ps
HP 1050 C and 1055 CM, fast, and if you use PosterJet you can tweak photo-realistic quality from these trusty large format printers. Nice equipment.
HP DesignJet 2500CP (36" wide) and the 54" DesignJet 3500CP, as well as HP 2000 and 3000. Be sure to get an auxiliary external software RIP such as Onyx PosterShop, PosterJet or BEST if you need color management and know how to handle it.)
Hewlett-Packard DesignJet 2800 (36" wide) and DesignJet 3800 (54"); come mated to the EFI Fiery X2-CP RIP
Ilford, OEM versions of Encad, ColorSpan, and Hewlett-Packard printers.
Ilford offers a good RIP (their RIPstar version of Onyx PosterShop).
Ilford offers a monochrome ink set for artists and photographers in addition to highly regarded archival inks.
LaserMaster (now ColorSpan and recently sold again)
see listing under ColorSpan
Think twice about buying a used printer such as a LaserMaster that is no longer manufactured and possibly no longer supported and all by a company that no longer exists.
previewed several new printers at DRUPA, including an 8-color proofer. ColorSpan, Epson, and HP offer quality as good if not better though perhaps the final Konica product will be improved.
Kodak, originally tended to OEM Encad printers; I have not kept up with their recent offerings as they do not appear terribly innovative. Then are now offering OEM of Mutoh.
Nice thing about Kodak is that they were clever enough to offer PosterJet RIP
Kodak of course is a traditional American company.
Mimaki, hard to find other than the 7-ink version as the DicoJet
Mimaki JV2-II up to 73"
Mutoh (OEMed as Agfa Sherpa, Iris, and others; in Europe most Kodak printers are from Mutoh (in the USA Kodak printers tend to be from Encad though now offer Mutoh).
Nice quality but very slow.
also available as fine art variant via IT (Improved Technologies) and available as textile printer via Jacquard
Oce, OEM versions of Encad wide format printers
Same as Encad but painted white.
Raster Graphics (GretagImaging), Bellise, fast production speeds, industrial strength
GretagImaging is a sophisticated Swiss company, expert in its field.
Seiko Instruments Inc
prototype presented at DRUPA
has Xaar heads; quality of the prototype so-so; hopefully will be improved before the printer is actually for sale.
Signwarehouse, OEM of the Mutoh printers. If you specialize in doing signs, SignWarehouse is a good place to check out.
Epson heads and Mutoh body but with pigmented inks available.
Tektronix (bought by Xerox). The Tektronix wide format printer may have been gracefully retired.
solid ink (melted crayon) model never won any reviews, neither in large format nor as substitute for laser printers at desktop size.
The current Xerox inkjet printer has MIT heads; low dpi, very spotty-dotty grainy pattern; overpriced EFI Fiery RIP (asking $7,000 for the RIP alone; why bother, you can get a better software RIP for $3,000).
Xerox, tends to OEM the printers of others; Xerox has not been very active in wide format recently as they are abandoning electrostatic.
At DRUPA I saw only one wide format printer in the Xerox hall, and it was alone, with not a single person attending to it.
Warning: do not buy a used electrostatic printer even if the price is as cheap as $1,000. We have two complaints that they are either unable or uninterested in servicing these old machines any longer.
Printers capable of photo-realistic exhibit-quality printing of photographs, fine art, and digital art
This is a new section in preparation for the fastest growing segment of the large format market, namely printers that are capable of doing as good as a print as a professional darkroom... except instantly (digitally) and at larger size (large format size).
ColorSpan DisplayMaker XII, outstanding color; the best color of any wide format printer. If you are a single person or small shop be sure you take the training course available from ColorSpan. Machine must be calibrated and cleaned daily. But if you want, or if your customers demand, top quality, then ColorSpan is the best you can get. We visited ColorSpan for three days and noted capable people and friendly assistance in technical questions. More details on www.FineArtGicleePrinters.org
Epson 7000, Epson 9000 with aftermarket UV pigmented inks or Epson 7500, Epson 9500. Just be sure to read the FLAAR reports before you buy, because the alluring Epson ads don't really explain all the surprises you get from a piezo printer.
Hewlett-Packard DesignJet 2000, 2500, 2800 for 36," 3000, 3500, 3800 for 54" are all capable of exhibit quality photo-realistic prints if you have a capable RIP such as PosterJet, Onyx PosterShop and if you take a few minutes to learn how to select the appropriate options to accomplish 8-pass printing which is what accomplishes the photo quality results. Hewlett-Packard DesignJet printers have been selected by museums and by the most prestigious fine art paper mill (Hahnemuehle) as their printer of choice for doing fine art prints for exhibit.
The new HP 500, 500ps, 800, 800ps models offer 24" and 36" with up to 2400 dpi on glossy media. For CAD, GIS. No UV inks at all.
The new HP 5000 offers six colors, 1200 x 600 dpi, fast speed, reliable, color fidelity, ease-of-use, perfect for beginner or pro. UV inks have arrived and FLAAR will test them in January. These UV inks will be available in February.
Roland HiFi, good basic printer with Epson printheads, slow but sure. Roland as a company is reliable and reputable. Many users, however, report several the generic problems of piezo-electric printhead system. Be sure to ask for the FLAAR comparative reviews.
There are some other good candidates for inclusion among the printers capable of rendering photo-realistic fine art prints such as Mutoh and Mimaki. Just write the review editor and we will send you a return e-mail with all the information on which printer, inks, and art paper are ideal for starting a new business to produce fine art and/or giclee prints.
Worried about piezo-electric printheads? If you would like a list of the potential down-sides and glitches, just write the review editor and we will send you a return e-mail with blunt facts based on end-user reports.
will provide all the details as soon as the new giclee printer is ready for public display.
Iris (CreoScitex) I was told Iris stopped making its GPrint last year but of course they are still selling those in stock. It's not a good idea to buy a printer when it is no longer manufactured, no matter how cheap.
Ixia, the next generation giclee printer is based on the substantial improvement of Iris's technology. Another company, IT (Improved Technologies) now offers this new improved giclee printer.
Printing textile design proofs on fabric and cloth
Hewlett-Packard DesignJet 2xxx and 3xxx series; HP 5000
HP DesignJet can print on a wide variety of textiles and fabrics, a fact which is not well known. The advantage of HP is that the printers are renewed for ease of use and don't require constant maintenance (since their onboard sensors maintain things relatively automatically).
Jacquard Products is a leading company in the field of inkjet printing on textiles.
Mimaki (Epson heads)
Textile Jet, TX-1600S, reactive and acid inks, disperse and pigmented inks in preparation.
Sintesi (from Italy)
Sintesi ColorSurf, together with a special form of the ColorGate RIP, a really practical solution for heat transfer process. e-mail
for more information
OEMs Mimaki; Stork is a European company so you can expect excellent technical capabilities.
Printers for outdoor signs, see also electrostatic printers, dye sublimation (transfer) printers
3M Scotchprint Printer 2000
Matan, Sprinter, like a giant version of Kodak's desktop dye sub printer
Phoenix Precision Graphics
Phoenix went bankrupt (electrostatic).
Arizona with 3M vinyl films, 2-year outdoor guarantee in desert areas; 3 years in normal
Scitex, dye, pigment, solvent inks.
PressJet, wide format digital press.
Summa Digital Imaging Technology
SummaChrome now replaced by DuraChrome, thermal transfer technology.
Large format thermal transfer (ribbons with color, the system transfers the color from the ribbons onto the substrate) Since we arrange printers by use (outdoor signs) and by technology (here thermal transfer) some printers are in more than one list
Roland ColorCAMM Pro.
tiny narrow ribbons, not practical for large jobs; ribbons leave horizontal tracking marks
Summa Digital Imaging Technology
Have never seen one of these at any trade show; a well kept secret I guess.
Electrostatic printers (also cross listed in other categories such as outdoor signmaking)
3M Commercial Graphics
Phoenix Precision Graphics (this electrostatic printer company went out of business)
Raster Graphics (Gretag Imaging) an older electrostatic model available from Specialty Toner Corporation
Digital Color Station
Xerox (Xerox has faltered in wide format printing and seems to be abandoning electrostatic printers)
Heat transfer (to fabric and other materials) via dye sublimation or other processes
OEMs Mutoh for banner making system
Mile High Engineering
Accuplot, OEMs Mutoh for dye sublimation
Carolina Textile Press, for dye sublimation, primarily onto textiles.
coordinated with a special version of ColorGate RIP, email
If you would like our report on inkjet textile printers and dye sublimation heat transfer printers, processes, inks,and equipment, Ask the review editor
Vinyl printers and cutters
ANAgraph Inc, ANA Express Elite-Series cutting plotters
Gerber Scientific Products, Gerber Maxx
Graphtek (Western Graphics). If I remember correctly these are Encad OEMs?
Mimaki, 48 inch and 52 inch cutting plotters; Mimaki CG-60EX, CG-100EX, CG-130EX
Roland CammJet, high resolution, precision contour cutting, one of the best available
Roland ColorCAMM Pro, a 24" printer using small ribbons (wax or thermal technique)
Solvent based wide format printers (some also cross-listed with billboard printers)
ANAgraph SpectrumJet (now part of Gretag Imaging), Mutoh, Nur Fresco, Nur Blueboard, Precision Ultajet, Raster Graphics Arizona, Salsa (SignTech), CreoScitex, Seiko Idanit Nova, GrandJet, PressJet, Vutek UltaVu, Xerox Xpress
brand new; can print on thick rigid material; costs over $170,000+
Friend or Faux Technologies
WireJet PM1500, prints on rigid media of any thickness with ordinary paint. However these are not plug-and-play. You have to set it up with an air compressor yourself, and mix your own paints. It seems that as of November these printers were no longer being constructed any more.
DMD Typhoon. When we don't see these printers at a trade show its tough to find out about them.
super wide and giant format billboard printers
described on (often on our other FLAAR sites)
Lots of mergers and acquisitions so its hard to keep track of who owns whom.
Nur makes large billboard printers; Nur recently bought Salsa.
Salsa (Signtech), up to 16' wide; now owned by Nur
Scitex Grandjet V, Scitex Idanit, part of Scitex Vision
www.wide-format-printers.org (800) 685-9462
SignTech SignTech sold to Nur; Arlon is now separate.
www.signtech.com has virtually no information whatsoever that provides needed perspective. No wonder they sold out
Vutek, UltraVu 5300/3300, UltraVu 5000/3000, prints up to 16 feet wide. In the USA, Vutek is also available from Ilford Imaging. Overall Vutek has an excellent reputation (otherwise Ilford would never have chosen them as OEM).
Laser photo imagers
Cymbolic Sciences LightJet, extremely high quality, superior to any inkjet. LightJet 430 is newest model from Gretag
Durst Lambda, Dice Durst, distributed in the USA by Kodak, extremely high quality, as good as the other laser imagers.
Gretag Sphera, unsure whether this printer is still an active model
Special new reports on Durst, Gretag, and Cymbolic Sciences wide format printers after Photokina trade show, Cologne, Germany, Sept. 20-25 2000
LED photo imagers
Durst Epsilon 30
Nicholas Hellmuth's thematic reports on large format printers now available
Reviews of large format printers most appropriate for signs, posters, banners including POP, both inside and outside
Large format printers best for outdoor signs, vehicle wrap, billboards, and outside use, solvent inks, pigmented inks
Large format printers 24" and above for fine art giclee prints, for first-time users, intermediate, and experienced users as well
Large format printers 24" and above for top quality digital photo prints, museum-quality exhibit prints, for newbies to pro
For textiles, direct printing on textiles as well as heat transfer with normal inks (no need for dye sublimation inks)
For dye sublimation heat transfer onto textiles, metal, wood, plastic, ceramics, metal and other treated surfaces
Large format inkjet printers as proofers: recommendations, pros and cons of various printers.
Plotters and color inkjet printers for CAD, GIS, aerial maps, 3-D graphic design, drawings, etc.
First information available on the new Hewlett-Packard 5000 and 5000ps, 1200 dpi, six colors, very fast; comparative evaluation
Large format printers appropriate for a college or university art department, photography, or for a museum
Piezo vs. thermal printhead inkjet printers: fact vs fiction, pros and cons of Epson-Roland-Mutoh-Mimaki vs. Encad-HP-ColorSpan
Media and inks (for all printers, piezo as well as thermal inkjets) + additional report on 48 kinds of media that you can feed through the HP
Quick-start help, list of the best RIPs; hints for what accessories you need; list of where you can get books and training. Color
Nicholas Hellmuth's comprehensive inventories of large format printer information
alphabetical list of all large format printers of all technologies and all uses currently manufactured or available, with basic information.
comprehensive inventory of RIPs: alphabetical list of all hardware PostScript RIP plus all software PostScript RIP, with basic information
itemized list of 48 different kinds of media that you can feed through the HP DesignJet printer: textiles, metal foil, newsprint, fine art giclee paper