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What is a Wide Format Printer Used For? (Commercial Graphic Applications): A Large Format Printer Buying Guide

Once the primary domain of architecture, engineering, and construction firms (known as the AEC industry), today a wide variety of industries use wide format printers. Any business that prints its own signage, marketing materials, banners, and other graphic design applications is a candidate for a large format printer. Size options vary widely, from 24" to 60", broadening the field of potential users even further.

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Primary Markets

The two main markets for wide format printing are AEC (printing blueprints, schematics, and other technical documents) and graphics printing.

Graphics encompasses an enormous array of applications. People commonly think of banners, signage, and other promotional materials when they think of graphics, but it also includes posters, décor items, wallpaper, stage backdrops, murals, and image wraparounds for vehicles. Of course, the idea of printing out these items is not new. Businesses and government offices have done so for decades. The difference today is that, instead of outsourcing these jobs to print shops, many organizations now choose in-house options, such as onsite copy rooms, especially those that print these types of materials with any degree of regularity.

Creating Marketing Materials

Many organizations use wide format printers to create a variety of stunning marketing materials. With so many options regarding printing material beyond paper – vinyl, wood, plastic, metal, canvas, glass, ceramics, foam board, and more – many organizations choose wide format printing to create posters and signs that advertise their business.

Many companies take their printed advertising to the next level by creating vehicle wraparounds that take their message directly to the street. Anyone driving or walking by becomes your audience, potentially thousands of people each day.

Finally, many businesses use their wide format printers to create life-sized cutouts of a mascot, product, spokesperson, or even of the business's owner or employees. Advertising a new product? Create an enormous infographic highlighting each feature. Promoting your business as being the one with the personal touch? Greet customers with a life-size cutout of the boss. When it comes to marketing, the only limit is imagination.

Expanding Markets

With numerous improvements in technology, large format printer use has become more widespread. Previously, the feasibility of producing images on multiple mediums was extremely limited and often time-consuming. Today's units allow greater versatility, especially with the newer inkjet models. Producing low volumes or even one-off jobs is easier and cheaper than ever before, letting organizations experiment in ways they couldn't before (at least not cost-effectively).

There are also new niche print shops getting in on the fun. These smaller organizations don't have the backing to compete with the big boys, but that isn't their goal anyway. Many are building names and loyal customer followings by fulfilling a very narrow niche market, such as creating novelty signs and home décor items.

The bottom line is that wide format printing has enormous application possibilities, with many organizations choosing to adopt in-house printing as a cost-saving method. Retailers create point of purchase displays and floor graphics. Businesses of all types print vehicle and building wrap graphics. Anyone can create signage to hang on city buses, taxis, and more. Real estate and political offices create roadside signage, and folks at conventions and other special events use these printers to create amazing presentations and displays. With continued improvements in technology and reductions in costs, expect to continue seeing more and more people employing large print graphics and in ever more innovative ways.

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