Roland DG Blog

Digital Printer Buying Guide: Which Print Technology Do You Need?

So you’ve decided that digital printing is the best way to expand your capabilities and grow your business. Traditional printing methods don’t have the flexibility you need to quickly adapt to customer needs and digital print technology just offers more freedom.

Now you need to decide which type of digital printer you should buy. With all the options available, it can be tough to know which print solution best suits your business. Here are a few questions you can ask yourself to help narrow down your decision.

safety signs being printed
Safety signs being printed

Which Format is Best?

First, identify the ideal format of the hardware, and these fall into two broad categories:

Roll-to-roll Printing

If you intend to print onto rolls of media like vinyl, paper or heat-transfer material, roll-to-roll printing is probably the best option.

  • Typically used for graphics like signs, banners and stickers 
  • A small footprint means the devices take up less space
  • It’s possible to have integrated cutting functionality

Flatbed Printing

If you want to print onto solid objects or rigid materials, flatbed printing is the ideal solution.

Which Ink Technology Do You Need?

The ink you decide to use will have a big impact on the types of products you can make. Look at the capabilities of the ink type (for example, UV, eco-solvent) and the colours of ink that can be included in the ink configuration to get the best mix for the jobs you intend to do.

  • CMYK is the standard colour-set of ink used by most print devices
  • Additional colours can improve image quality and colour accuracy
  • White ink is recommended for printing on transparent or dark materials

Other special inks like gloss ink and metallic ink can generate interesting effects

Read more: Choosing the Right Ink Technology
a sticker being peeled from a sheet of stickers
A sticker being peeled from a sheet of stickers

Do You Need Cutting Functionality?

If you’re planning to make die-cut stickers, contour-cut signs or any other cut graphics, you will need some form of cutting capability in your workflow. A printer/cutter is a good solution as it lets you perform both printing and cutting in the same device.

With the help of registration marks, you can also transfer a print to a separate cutter. Both methods have their own advantages but the option you choose depends on the workflow you intend to use.

Read more: Do You Need to Buy a Printer/cutter or Separate Devices? 

Do You Need Take-up Functionality?

When using a roll-to-roll device, the printed output is fed out of the machine towards the front. A take-up unit spools the printed media onto another roll which keeps it clean and helps maintain a tidy and safe working environment.

It also enables unattended long runs, which means you can leave the device to print large quantities of work while you get on with other jobs.

Printing Speed or Quality?

Depending on the types of customers you serve and the volume of work you produce, you will often need to find the right balance between high-speed output and high-definition print quality.

Everything from the hardware you use, to the ink configuration, to the media can impact this balance so it’s important to consider which element is most important to you before deciding on a digital print solution.

Read more: Print Speed VS Print Quality: Which is More Important?

What Size Printer Do You Need?

This largely depends on the size of your business but in most instances, it’s an important part of choosing the right solution. Two factors that can really impact this decision are your working space and flow:

Working Space

Consider how much space you have available for your print solution and peripherals. For example, when buying a roll-to-roll solution, you also need to make space for rolls of media, finishing tables and tools. The same is also true of flatbed printers which can vary significantly in size. Although the end products tend to require less finishing (you don't have to apply vinyl to a board), if you are producing large signage boards or unique shapes, you may also need a board cutting device or flatbed cutter to maximise productivity.

Print Workflow

You should also consider your workflow plans. If you’re just getting started, it may take time to get into a pattern of work but keeping the printer running consistently is often more efficient than buying a device solely based on its speed. Consider that you may need to balance tasks like developing new business, design tasks and customer service so creating a workflow plan can be vital.

What Software is Included?

The software which powers the device has a big impact on what you can do and how efficiently you can do it. Before buying a digital print solution, check to see if it includes the required software or if this needs to be purchased separately.

  • Drivers are required to let your computer connect to your device
  • The RIP (Raster Image Processor) converts digital graphics into a format your printer can interpret
  • Plugins help integrate your RIP with your computer’s operating system and your graphic design package
  • Printer analytics software helps you monitor your ink usage and other stats to get the most efficient and cost-effective result

Read more: What is a RIP? 
service engineer working on a laptop
Service engineer working on a laptop

Is it a Good Long-term Investment?

Unplanned downtime can have a dramatic domino effect on your reputation and your profitability. It can be tempting to make short-term savings by buying inexpensive devices, but this is a decision that many business owners regret in the long run.

Even with trusted manufacturers, wear and tear is typical with regular, intense use. It helps to know that your manufacturer can quickly send out an engineer to get your business back on track. Compare your options and see what level of aftersales service are on offer.

Still Unsure?

If you still need help choosing the best digital print solution for your needs, get in touch with an expert at Roland DG. No matter how unusual or unique your business is, we have the expertise to find the answer to your printing needs.