Should I do my own wide format printing or outsource it?

Category: General Published on Jan 05 2015

This is a question many print shops get asked throughout the month. As you look at buying your own equipment and evaluating if it’s worth investing in or not. The answer is not as simple as you think it is, in fact the answer is large bound to how your business best works.


The reality is that the cost to print per sq foot, which is how print costs are calculated, are often much higher than people realize. Many companies see the cost of their wide format or architectural printing and think it’s worth getting their own equipment rather than spend a couple of hundred dollars a month outsourcing it. But that is not always the case, in fact many times the long term benefits of outsourcing your prints, can end up being drastically cheaper than doing it in house.
Here are some things you need to keep in mind, the quantity of how much you print is the largest determining factor in if it’s worth it or not. If you are printing several thousand square feet a month and you can have a full time person manning the wide format printer, chances are it’s cheaper for you to do it in house than it is to outsource. If on the other hand you print a much lower quantity, then printing your architectural prints in house become questionable.

Let’s say for arguments sake that your local print shop charges 25 cents per square foot to print your architectural prints. That means that a 6 sq foot page will cost $1.50, and a set of 10 would cost you $15. Most printers that you purchase will have an average print cost of 19 cents per square foot. That does not include the cost of the printer itself or maintenance it may need. It also does not include the time needed to stand over the printer, the cost of having to do re-prints because the printer gets jammed etc.

Basically the estimated running cost of a wide format printer is assuming that every print is perfect, that the paper is perfect, and that you fully use every ink cartridge and so on. The reality is quite different, if you have ever had a wide format printer, you know it is. They jam, they break, paper is not 100% so you have to reprint over and over again. If in a set of 10 pages, one page has to be reprinted, the cost of printing that architectural set goes from $19, to 20.9 cents. If you have to reprint two pages it goes to 22.8 cents per page. That of course does not include any time you have to put into it. This is just your raw material cost.

So printing in house if often a great option, but many times people do not accurately understand the true cost of printing in house. We often assume that printing it ourselves is cheaper and better, when in fact in fact, many times outsourcing your print can end up saving you a lot. Think about the last invoice you got from your wide format print shop, did it include any mis-prints, jams or other costs that may have occurred? Probably not, it only included the actual set your ordered.

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