There are many reasons why you might need a digital inkjet printer. Purchasing an industrial printer is a big investment and should be treated as such. The return on investment for your business could be huge- if you purchase the right printer from the right supplier. It is vital to do research on the different printers on the market and compare the costs and capabilities of each based on your production needs. We know how overwhelming this process can be, so we wrote this guide to help you out.
Here are the top 10 questions to consider before buying a digital inkjet printer:
The most common reason to purchase a digital inkjet printer is to have a new, technologically advanced machine to keep up with the competition. You may have hit certain limitations with traditional printing methods such as image size and color capabilities. A digital inkjet printer can easily print large, full-color images with innovative new technology. Print on a wide variety of substrates such as wood, glass, plastic, metal and stainless steel. In addition, a digital inkjet printer is a great solution to reduce your carbon footprint and move away from solvent-based printing. Overall, a digital inkjet printer does not have as many consumables as traditional printing methods, which will make inventory more manageable.
If this is a whole new avenue for your business, don’t worry, the digital printing process is relatively easy to learn. With this printing method, there is much less manual labor and consumables required compared to traditional methods. If you are already familiar with digital inkjet printers, it may simply be time to upgrade to the latest technology.
If you are looking to replace an existing printer, think about why. Are you replacing an older, outdated model? Has the brand and model been reliable? Or, do you want to switch to a new brand? If you’ve had issues with your current model or supplier, you may want to consider switching to a brand with high quality products and reliable service that you can trust. If you are loyal to a specific brand but feel their products are not keeping up with technological advances in the industry, take the time to do additional research on other flatbed manufacturers.
If you are looking to add to your current production line, compare the capabilities of each machine you have with the capabilities of the machines you are looking to purchase. Make sure this new addition will add value to your current production processes. If you are already used to working with machines from different brands, you will have to adjust to a new machine with different operating settings and software.
If you are offering a product that is customized, a digital inkjet printer is the best option. Inkjet printing is the most cost-effective solution for low-volume, high-mix production runs. If you need to print larger images and include multi-colored designs on your product, you’ll need a digital inkjet printer. Whether you wish to print on hard goods, drinkware, edibles or cylinders/tapers, be sure to choose the right printing technology for your application. It is vital to find a supplier who is knowledgeable about their products and willing to guide you step-by-step through the process of finding the best printer for your business needs. Ideally, you want to look for a supplier that provides application consulting based on extensive experience working with many different substrates to recommend the best solution.
UV flatbed printers can print on almost any substrate, with some limitations. For instance, digital inkjet printers cannot print on reflective items such as mirrors. Reflective items could damage the print heads. Additionally, there are printing limitations on curved items. Drinkware can be printed but the image will not curve around the part. Trying to print on too curved of a surface will result in a low-resolution image.
A digital inkjet printer is great for printing on promotional items, electronics, industrial products, and more. Some common applications include magnets, keychains, pens, and USB drives. Keep in mind the size of the object you want to print and the capabilities of each printer. For instance, if you want to print on taller products such as sports balls, coolers, or any tall flat hard goods, the Inkcups X5-T Flatbed UV Digital Printer is the solution for you. The X5-T has an adjustable table feature enabling operators to print tall goods up to 20 inches in height. Even if you don’t have the need to print on taller goods right now, purchasing a printer like this will you give you the flexibility to print on both shorter and taller products in the future. Whatever you wish to print on, make sure the printer you choose is exemplary for your intended applications.
Additional Resources: Which Digital Print Bed Is Right for You? Conveyor VS Flatbed
All digital inkjet printers require maintenance. Daily maintenance occurs in regular intervals during the morning, midday and at night. It is important to factor in how much time the operator is going to spend on maintenance.
Most flatbed maintenance tasks are automated such as purging (using air to push ink through the print heads) followed by a rubber wiper that wipes excess ink off the print heads. The machine will automatically clean ink mist off head plates and UV lamps.
Although you should find a reliable supplier who offers maintenance support, all customers should learn how to perform routine maintenance tasks on their own. It is more cost-effective for your business and gives your employees a better understanding of the machines they’re operating daily. Every maintenance task should be explained during training and written down for future reference. Technicians should be available to provide remote support over the phone, computer, or video chat if. If remote support doesn’t resolve the issue, the ideal supplier would be willing to provide on-site assistance.
Along with the printer itself, you will need to purchase UV inkjet inks, inkjet printing primers, inkjet auxiliary items, and inkjet spare parts. Every printer has an ink storage system that holds each color ink until the printer sends the signal to release a color onto the substrate. Read our blog post All About Ink Series: Ink Storage Systems to learn about cartridge and bottle storage systems and figure out which system is best for your print project.
Primer is applied to a part prior to printing to promote adhesion and increase abrasion resistance. As a general rule of thumb, the less variety of ink, the more primers there are. Inkjet auxiliary items include supplies you’ll need to maintain your inkjet printers such as nozzle restore, flushing solution, nozzle sauce (cleaner), and magic paste (remove ink from glass or stainless steel, great for misprinted items). In addition, spare parts are critical to keep on hand in order to fix any issues with the machine quickly. Check with the Digital inkjet printer manufacturer to see if they have a spare parts kit. This kit should include common parts that wear down such as an ink pump, rubber wiper and filters.
Additionally, fixtures are needed to print on non-flat substrates. The size and shape of a fixture is customized to fit each product that will travel along the bed of a UV digital printer. If you are using your own fixture, note that failure to use matte black colored fixtures will void the print head warranty. This is because reflectivity is a major contributor to defective print heads.
Additional Resources: What kind of part fixture do you need?
There are 2 types of training you will need after purchasing a digital inkjet printer: software training and maintenance training. Software training includes artwork prep such as how to create and upload a design from Adobe Illustrator or Photoshop. Training also includes getting familiar with related software such as the printer control system (PCS) and raster image processing (RIP). Maintenance and software training should occur when technicians are installing and setting-up your machine. All maintenance should be described in a step-by-step guide included in the standard operating procedures (SOP) document given to each customer. Calendar based software programs can help keep track of regularly scheduled maintenance, such as setting automatic reminders to change print head filters every 3 months.
Our technicians have found that it is optimal to train 1 (or a few) higher level operator(s) that will divide job responsibilities on the machine. The training process gets complicated when too many people are trying to learn the same thing at once. Therefore, it is best to have the employees who will be operating the machines most get a higher-level understanding as to how they work and what maintenance needs to be performed.
Additional Resources: Inkcups’ Training and Advising
You’ll want a supplier who offers 24/7 technical support around the globe. Technical support should be available in multiple languages. With every machine purchased, training should be provided on how to properly set-up, operate, and clean the machine. If technical problems arise, remote assistance should be available to get the machines up and running as fast as possible. In case remote support is found to be insufficient, you’ll want suppliers who are close by in case on-site support is necessary. In addition, it is always important to inquire about a warranty plan. Warranties for digital inkjet printers can help to cover support and common spare parts.
There are three common alternatives to a digital inkjet printer: pad printing, screen printing, and thermal transfer.
Pad printing limits you to spot color printing rather than process printing, where the color is typically defined as a PMS shade. The image size is limited to 90-200 mm. Pad printing has a different ink system which requires more thinners and chemicals to prep the ink. Pad printing inks are solvent-based, rather than UV based – making more additives necessary. The process includes etching a plate (cliché) with a laser-maker and finding the right pad durometer for your application. The set-up and changeover time are typically longer than the setup of a digital inkjet printer which deters people from choosing this method.
Another popular method of printing is screen printing. The printing process is very quick, however, you are increasing the number of consumables and decreasing design capabilities. Not only does screen printing require a mesh screen, squeegee, and exposure unit, as well as other supplies, but it also requires a lot of physical room. There must be space for drying racks to lay the screens and a washout station to rinse the stenciled area out of the screen after exposure.
Another method of decoration is heat or thermal transfer decals. Although this method isn’t limited by design size or color, the biggest downside is that it cannot be digitized. The adhesion between the design and substrate tends to be weaker with decals than with inks.
Digital printing offers four color process printing (cyan, magenta, yellow and black). The design is created when the colors in the artwork are separated and converted to dots (halftones). Although there are only 3 primary colors used, the overlapping of the colors and printing halftones simulates a larger color palette. Since the process is all digital, it is easy to select the files you want and load. Once a file is loaded, the printing process begins.
This depends on what your current production environment is. For instance, if a company does pad printing or screen printing in-house already, they have the option to keep production running as well. Being able to print small designs in 1 or 2 colors with pad printing as well as the ability to print larger, full-color designs with a flatbed increases their capacity to expand and innovate with different products.
Depending on which machines you already own, there may be different software requirements if they are from different brands. Keep software requirements in mind as you search for a new digital inkjet printer, as this is often overlooked.
If you are having trouble managing your machines, it is imperative to consult with your machine provider to achieve the most efficient workflow for your business.
Typically, digital inkjet printers sell for anywhere between $25,000 and $85,000 depending on size, quality, and brand. Remember, this is a big purchase and should be considered an investment. Make sure to research the different brands and models of Digital inkjet printers so you can pick the best printer for your business needs.
Other than the cost of the printer itself, you will have to take the cost of consumables into consideration. Consumables include inkjet inks, rubber wipers, filters, and print heads. Filters include both desiccant filters which are found in every ink tank and last chance filters found on every print head. Once you purchase your own machine, you are responsible for all future repairs (depending on warranty terms). When it comes to filling out your cash flow statements, don’t stop at the cost of the printer. Make sure you budget and anticipate additional cost factors such as maintenance, replacement parts, operator wages and consumables. Additionally, with any new machine comes an increase in utility and overhead costs.
Whether you decide to buy or lease a machine will be strongly influenced by your current financial situation. Given that purchasing a digital inkjet printer is a hefty investment, it is important to weigh the pros and cons of both options.
If you choose to buy a machine you will most likely spend less money in the long run. Whether you should buy or lease depends on what the purpose for using the machine is and how long you plan to use it. If you are looking to upgrade to the newest model on the market as soon as possible, leasing gives you the flexibility to use a machine for a short period of time. But, with a lease comes lots of paperwork, interest, and monthly payments. Make sure to read more about the pros and cons of leasing vs. buying before making your final decision. Whichever option you choose, you’ll want to buy or lease equipment from a reputable and experienced vendor.
Inkcups is your partner who understands the fast-paced nature of your business and the importance of machine up time. We build long term relationships and are focused on your success. The Inkcups service organization is a friendly, responsive, knowledgeable, and courteous support team who will go the extra mile to make sure you succeed.
For support services, call Inkcups at 1-978-646-8980 or visit our website for technical support.