Wanting to expand home-based business.

Jason Bieda

New Member
Hello all, I am new to the forums and would like to reach out for some advice. I currently have a small home based business that I make decals, signs, and I also do alot of HTV on garments. I want to expand and get a large format printer to make bigger signs for indoor's and outdoor's. I don't have the finances to buy a brand new Roland or Mimaki, and I don't want to lease either. I've been looking on ebay, marketplace, craigslist, etc... What would be a good entry level printer to look into that's not going to break the bank. Please help.
 

Billct2

Active Member
Unless you are very handy and tech savvy buying a used machine without any kind of support or warranty is dicey. I have purchased used/rebuilt printers
that came with a manufacturers warranty, I would look at something like that.
 

Jason Bieda

New Member
Unless you are very handy and tech savvy buying a used machine without any kind of support or warranty is dicey. I have purchased used/rebuilt printers
that came with a manufacturers warranty, I would look at something like that.
Any suggestions as to where to look other than ebay, craigslist, etc...? Also, what brands to focus on and which ones to stay away from?
 

unclebun

Active Member
Mimaki and Roland are entry level. There's basically only one level. It's the price of entry. Either you need to jump in with both feet and be a real sign shop, or be a hobbyist.
 

ikarasu

Active Member
If you cannot afford a new printer.... sub everything out to a wholesaler until you can.

There are astronomical costs to using a printer that you're probably unaware of. Most printers last 2-3 years until they start to have problems depending on use... So if you buy a used one, odds are within a year something will go wrong and you'll be out another grand or two bringing in a tech and repairing the machine... is that something you can afford / set aside money for? Heck... if you ruin a head on certain models, you'll be out 5K.

You need to be running your machine a few hours everyday to make the investment worth it. And if youre only printing once a day or once every few days, you do not want a solvent or UV printer - solvents need to run constantly or their heads dont last long... UV tends to need a lot of cleanings and that wastes more ink than youd be making.

If you're set on getting a wide format, I suggest getting an entry level latex new. You can buy a brand new Latex 115 for $7000. a decent used solvent would cost you around 5k. I'd rather a decent solvent than a 115 if I'm being honest... but buying used is a crapshoot, you may get a lemon.

so again... I say go with outsourcing. You should be able to make a decent amount and it'll get your feet wet in wide format. Once you see the customer base is there...and only once you see that, buy a printer. By then you'll know the volume and it'll help you decide on latex VS solvent.


Keep in mind, you need a laminator also, so theres another few grand. If you plan on being one of those shops that doesnt laminate, you'll be out of business within a year or two... so I suggest saving yourself the headache and not even buying the equipment.
 

MikePro

Member
define "break the bank".
...By the time you get the cheapest printer available, and rip software to operate it... and a laminator to add quality/longevity to your product, then you're already in the $10k+ range. But if you're shopping on ebay & facebook marketplace, then best to decide how much you're willing to lose....and just toss it out the window right now, and save yourself shipping costs.

mimaki, epson, roland, HP, gerber... those names are all still around because they all produce great machines, each with their own quirks.
 

Texas_Signmaker

Very Active Signmaker
The above posts are spot on. Cheapest printer / laminator combo will be HP latex 115 for around $10-$12k all in.

I would start out by outsourcing if you can't come up with the $$. I started out that way an figured when I had enough $$ I'd buy. What I realized is that even though I could of justified buying a printer years ago, I still outsource because I can't justify the loss of TIME that babysitting a printer costs.
 

Jason Bieda

New Member
Ok, on to my next question...I have the opportunity to get a regular wide format HP inkjet printer. All my research I've done on it was if I want to make signs, I'd only be able to make signs for indoors as the ink will either fade away in a couple of weeks or wash away. If I laminate it with a clear over layment would it last longer? Would this be something worth my while to dabble with to get started?
 

Texas_Signmaker

Very Active Signmaker
Ok, on to my next question...I have the opportunity to get a regular wide format HP inkjet printer. All my research I've done on it was if I want to make signs, I'd only be able to make signs for indoors as the ink will either fade away in a couple of weeks or wash away. If I laminate it with a clear over layment would it last longer? Would this be something worth my while to dabble with to get started?

Are you making indoor or outdoor signs? What exactly are you trying to do??
 

Billct2

Active Member
That sounds like an aqueous HP Designjet, which I am very familiar with. A great machine for posters and interior work and a poor machine for exterior work. You will have to use coated materials designed for aqueous printers. You will need to laminate everything except posters. Even with lamination it will not last long outdoors and is not suitable for anything other than a flat sign panel. The suggestion to outsource is the best option for someone with your circumstancves
 

OhioSigns

Member
Outsourcing sounds like your best option until you are ready to invest at least 15k in a decent printer, laminator, materials and consumables.
 

unclebun

Active Member
Ok, on to my next question...I have the opportunity to get a regular wide format HP inkjet printer. All my research I've done on it was if I want to make signs, I'd only be able to make signs for indoors as the ink will either fade away in a couple of weeks or wash away. If I laminate it with a clear over layment would it last longer? Would this be something worth my while to dabble with to get started?

Just no. Unless you have a big market for posters or doing photo enlargement, there's not really a sign-related reason to have a water based inkjet. You cannot get the prints to last outdoors no matter what you do.
 

netsol

Member
Hello all, I am new to the forums and would like to reach out for some advice. I currently have a small home based business that I make decals, signs, and I also do alot of HTV on garments. I want to expand and get a large format printer to make bigger signs for indoor's and outdoor's. I don't have the finances to buy a brand new Roland or Mimaki, and I don't want to lease either. I've been looking on ebay, marketplace, craigslist, etc... What would be a good entry level printer to look into that's not going to break the bank. Please help.


jason,
it seems i will be the minority opinion on this post.
i have done very well on ebay and craigslist, but i have a tech background.
whenever you look at a used piece of equipment, there is a risk/reward calculation
you have to keep in mind that any time you break down, cash flow stops (or you fall back on one of those wholesale printers everyone is recommending)
these machines can be FRUSTRATING for a neophyte

to my thinking, if you don't have some in house printing you kiss rush jobs goodbye.
TO ME this means i lose the potential of forging a longtime relationship with that client
i also think a potential client will take me more seriously if they see we have inhouse capability. (this is not a swipe at our design only members, it's just not for me)
i think it is harder to grow that area of the business without in house printing capability

i would say, watch craigslist (much better deals can be had on craigslist) and ebay
build relationships with merchant members, but print in house the jobs that make sense
 

signage

Member
If working out of a house most areas will not allow customers to come and see you, you have to work as though you are a contractor, not walking customers and not many people stopping in. jm02c
 

MikePro

Member
if your intention is to have indoor/outdoor/versatility on a budget, stick with solvent/ecosolvent/latex printing.
dyesub & aqueous & UV printing have their uses, but I'd hardly recommend them for your first purchase.

Your best bet is to get in touch with a company/sales rep. that would ultimately be your supplier for inks/consumables and have them walk you through your options... or at the very least, wait until all this quarantine stuff relaxes and attend a trade show or a local showcase to see wideformatprinting in action, first-hand, so you can pick some brains while you discover which direction you see yourself going.

It would be a shame to just "pull the trigger" on a cheap printer you found online, just to find out that you can't even order inks, printheads, or service parts for it without having to start another thread on an online forum to have people attempt to explain how to make your lemon print money.
...buuuut if you're feelin' tech savvy, and want to dig thru old threads and learn how to restore a printer.... I've got a 54" solvent printer in storage near milwaukee for $1k cash and i'll point you in all the right directions'. ...but heads up, it could cost you up to $3k & 20+hours of research/service to get it printing, and would still not have near the speed & quality of prints that a newer ~$10k printer would offer.
I still wouldn't recommend it, nor try to pitch it as a valuable way to kickstart your printing ventures, considering how much time/effort would be involved.
 

Gino

Premium Subscriber
Judging by many of the things you wrote and some of your misguided questions, it seems you have the heart to do it, but not any knowledge to go beyond what you're already doing. Most anybody can do the printed garments and small signs, but to do what you want, you should have some first hand experience and you're gonna get that with hands-on learning at a sign shop. U-tube just won't cut it, not if you wanna be professional about it. I would suggest you try getting a part-time job at a local sign shop and be honest with the owner of your intentions. Who knows, he/she might help you and the two of you could help each other as time goes on. Otherwise, you're gonna be someone constantly asking questions and not really learning, but just mimicking.
 
Last edited:

Reveal1

Member
jason,
it seems i will be the minority opinion on this post.
i have done very well on ebay and craigslist, but i have a tech background.
whenever you look at a used piece of equipment, there is a risk/reward calculation
you have to keep in mind that any time you break down, cash flow stops (or you fall back on one of those wholesale printers everyone is recommending)
these machines can be FRUSTRATING for a neophyte

to my thinking, if you don't have some in house printing you kiss rush jobs goodbye.
TO ME this means i lose the potential of forging a longtime relationship with that client
i also think a potential client will take me more seriously if they see we have inhouse capability. (this is not a swipe at our design only members, it's just not for me)
i think it is harder to grow that area of the business without in house printing capability

i would say, watch craigslist (much better deals can be had on craigslist) and ebay
build relationships with merchant members, but print in house the jobs that make sense

Given the reasonable cost of new equipment in the entry level space and warranty considerations, buying a used piece of equipment just doesn't make sense unless you have an experienced operator familiar with maintaining that specific piece of equipment. Otherwise Netsol your post is spot-on regarding the benefits of having some type of in-house capability. Our split is roughly 65/35 in-house/outsource. (Netsol, you might want to have a tech look at the shift key on your keyboard.)
 

binki

Premium Subscriber
Why not source the prints? There are plenty of trade only vendors here as well as suggestions from other members.

We have sourced with various vendors and also have a 30" VersaCamm for the smaller work. Keep in mind you have to pay a chunk of change for media and consumables and it will take a while to get paid for all that material but you will have to pay up front or within 30 days for it. And just try to pick up a 50" roll of banner material by yourself. I dropped a 30" on my foot a few weeks ago and it didn't feel good. Without some type of lifting equipment I wouldn't get a bigger machine. Also keep in mind if you get a delivery you might have to unload it yourself from the back of a trailer that doesn't have a lift gate.
 
Top