Print Speed VS Print Quality: Which is More Important?

When producing print, the question of quality is key. What quality should I produce, what quality is the customer expecting, what quality is appropriate? The answers to these questions are not always what you’d expect. Print with the emphasis on speed and run the risk of the work being rejected or reprinted, produce with quality settings and tie up the printer’s capacity for unnecessary amounts of time.

It would be great if we could print at lightning speed and still achieve crystal clear quality, but reality doesn’t work that way, at least not for now. In fact, selecting productivity settings over quality is not even a bad thing – as you’ll learn, sometimes it’s better to print higher volumes than it is to print ultra-sharp quality.

First, what do we mean by quality?

– It’s not all about the printer
Whether you focus on resolution, dots-per-inch, halftone screening or droplet sizes, in general, when we speak of print quality, we refer to the printer’s ability to reproduce an image accurately and with clarity.

As a business owner, you should consider other factors which fall under the category of quality. Is your adhesive vinyl applied without creases or bubbles? Does your printed output stand the test of time without fading or rubbing off? Can your employees accurately follow a customer’s brief without making mistakes or taking obvious shortcuts?

When we consider the service you offer, many customers might not have the same trained eye for colour accuracy. They probably won’t be able to spot a blocked ink nozzle without being told about it. They don’t care about the size of the ink droplets as long as you can satisfy their needs. They just want good products from a reliable company in a timely fashion and at competitive prices.

– Quality VS Speed
Practically speaking, if the printed output is designed to be seen from a distance – for example, with banners or billboards – a focus on photographic style reproduction and smooth colour tone would be unwarranted – you could even get away with some minor banding depending on the job. You can print these products at high speeds and produce a high volume of work, whilst keeping your prices competitive for the customer and maximising the production capacity of your print equipment.

In some applications, like hoardings for building sites, which require an additional stage in the production, printing speed becomes even more critical, and quality is more likely to be sacrificed to keep your business profitable. When you need to laminate the vinyl and apply it to a rigid board, the lead time for the job extends with every panel you need to produce.

What factors impact quality?

As a print service provider, your printer is the heart of your business and it’s an important investment decision to make. You should look for high-specification print heads with a good reputation for reliability and longevity, always ensuring the print nozzles fire correctly and accurately.

You should also look at the overall build quality of the device and ensure that the media is handled well and stays in place while the printer does its job.

2. INK
The quality of your ink will determine the overall quality of your printed images as well as their durability. If you want to ensure consistent results across time, without constant recalibration and unexpected surprises, it pays to use only ink certified by the manufacturer of your device. While cheaper inks might save you money today, the long-term impact could be catastrophic for the future quality of your service and the reputation of your business.

Higher-grade inks are also more likely to feature additional performance characteristics such as colour consistency and optimal drying, enabling faster finishing and shipping.

Not only does this speed up production and offer faster turnaround times, but it reduces the chances of accidental smudging or contamination. Of course, with technologies like UV ink, this is less of a concern as the ink is cured instantly with UV lamps built into the print carriage.

As with hardware and ink, with media, you get what you pay for. For temporary signage jobs, you can get by with a budget option, but for more permanent solutions, or high-profile jobs for larger clients, it pays to invest in media you know will show the print off to its best potential. It’s also important to use the right media for the job and ensure that it will withstand the environment into which it is placed.

Always ensure that your source imagery is of a high enough resolution, especially when printing larger applications. Vector-based graphics and text can usually be scaled without any loss in quality, but raster images like photographs have an upper limit after which the pixels become clearly visible. In the latter case, the highest print quality can even be detrimental and can expose imperfections with much greater clarity.

Don’t overlook the importance of regular maintenance and periodic service checks. Nine times out of ten, a chronic issue in print quality is the result of an insufficient head cleaning schedule rather than the device itself. A quick and simple maintenance cycle lets you keep your print heads and nozzles in top condition without impacting productivity.

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