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Grow Your Business Technology

Wide Format Printing 101: 5 Tips to Lower Printing Costs and Get Better Results

Wide Format Printing 101: 5 Tips to Lower Printing Costs and Get Better Results
Epson SureColor T3170 / Credit: Epson

Sometimes cutting expenses and getting better prints go hand in hand with wide-format printing. Over the years, pros have developed shortcuts and techniques to cut ink and paper costs while getting the best prints possible.

Using the Epson SureColor T3170 printer, I'll show you how to not only set up the wide-format printer but to get the most out of it with these proven wide-printing techniques. While the details might vary, these procedures apply to just about every large-format printer.

Don't worry – you won't have to change the way you do business to take advantage of these tips and tricks. They range from previewing jobs before printing them and getting the largest ink modules to arranging the images to save paper, networking the device so that everyone can use it and printing on the right media.

Credit: Epson

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Don't let the T3170's large box fool you – it is a compact wide-format printer that's capable of using flat sheets and 24-inch-wide media rolls. It requires two people to unpack, but rather than using Epson's optional stand, I set it up on a desk in the corner of a conference room.

After I'd removed all the shipping tape and plugged it in, I connected the T3170 to my company's Wi-Fi network using Epson's software. You can also use its Ethernet or USB port if you prefer cables.

Finally, I snapped in the included ink cartridges and installed a roll of Epson 24-inch-wide matte paper. After a 20-minute ink startup procedure, I was printing an advertising poster.

 

It is a fact of modern office life that too much printing ends up in the trash bin. The easiest way to reduce waste is to use the software preview before printing. It shows what the print will look like in full color and allows a final proofing to spot problems and typos.

As with other wide printers, you can set the T3170's print driver to preview every print job before a drop of ink is sprayed. It adds about a minute to the printing process and shows what's will be printed, showing scissors where the cuts will be made.

 

If you print everything individually, you can end up wasting a lot of paper. That's where Epson's Layout Manager comes in, allowing you to combine different images together like a jigsaw puzzle. [Interested in wide-format printers? Check out our reviews.]

After I checked the Layout Manager box at the bottom of the T3170's print driver, I could add other images and arrange them on the same print. Finally, I used it to print two 12-inch-wide banners side by side, cutting paper costs in half.

 

Regardless of the printer, the larger the ink container, the cheaper the printing. The T3170 uses traditional ink cartridges holding Epson's UltraChrome XD2 pigment formulations that come in 26- and 50-ml modules for the cyan, magenta and yellow ink; the black ink comes in 50- and 80-ml cartridges.

The initial ink cartridges that come with the T3170 are good for 8-10 D-size prints. Despite them costing a little more, you should get the high-capacity modules, because they can ultimately save you 11-14 percent compared to the standard-capacity ones. The prints will look the same, but the difference will show up on your bottom line.

Credit: Epson

 

Most wide printers, including the T3170, have several connection options. I like Wi-Fi because it's easy to set up, it allows printing from a wide variety of systems (including tablets), and my office is short on Ethernet outlets. An alternative approach is to use the printer's USB port and attach it to a dedicated computer, which might be good if a specific person is responsible for the company's wide printing.

Not networking the printer, though, misses a huge opportunity to use the T3170 as a shared resource that can eliminate the duplication of equipment. Attaching the T3170 to my network started with the printer's software scanning for my Wi-Fi network and required me to enter the LAN's password. The T3170 did the rest. It took all of three minutes to connect.

 

 

With the ability to print posters, maps, floorplans, banners and even backlit transparencies, the T3170 is a versatile workhorse printer. What you use it for depends on the media you print on.

In addition to the expected plain, matte, satin and art papers, Epson sells clear films, adhesive-backed paper and a light canvas. While the glossy stock is perfect for an advertising poster, you wouldn't want to spend the extra money when you're printing construction plans for a new store.

With the T3170, it took about a minute to change the roll and feed the new media into the printer. Other printers can accommodate two different rolls of media that can be switched with a click.

Be careful: The specialty media can cost five or six times what plain paper stock goes for. If you follow these rules, the output will look great and not break the bank.

Credit: Epson
Brian Nadel

Brian is a technology writer based north of New York City. He writes stories for Business.com, Tom's Guide, ComputerWorld and Scholastic Magazines. He is the former editor-in-chief of Mobile Computing & Communications magazine.