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Types of Printers: Commercial & Consumer Grade, Offset, Digital

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Before addressing the intricacies of “commercial” printers, a brief overview of common printer classifications is essential to lay the groundwork for further discussion. The global printer market is evolving, with a projected growth rate of 5.1% CAGR from 2021 to 2028, indicating a steady demand for both commercial and personal printing solutions.

Laser Printer / Toner Printer vs. Inkjet Printers

Laser printers, also referred to as “toner printers,” employ a method where a powdered pigment is heated to bond with paper. This process ensures sharp text and graphic quality, making them a suitable choice for professional settings. They are generally faster, with average printing speeds of 20 to 100 pages per minute, more cost-effective over time, and require less frequent refilling, translating to lower maintenance. 

On the other hand, inkjet printers work by propelling droplets of ink onto the paper. They are often more affordable initially: the average price ranging between AUD 50 to AUD 200, which is a suitable range for individuals or small businesses on a budget. They are known for their ability to produce high-resolution images with a rich colour spectrum, making them ideal for photo printing. However, they tend to have slower printing speeds and higher running costs due to the price of ink cartridges, which can add up over time, especially for heavy users.

Laser printers, on the other hand, are priced on average between AUD 150 to AUD 500 for consumer-grade, and AUD 200 to AUD 2000 and beyond. They can be seen as a more cost-effective choice in the long run due to their lower cost per page and longer-lasting toner cartridges despite the higher initial cost.

A4 vs A3 Printers

A3 and A4 paper sizes adhere to an international standard, facilitating compatibility across different regions. In this system, the numerical value is inversely proportional to the size, with A3 being larger than A4. Specifically, A3 is about 71% larger, providing more space for content, which can be particularly useful for documents like spreadsheets or layouts that require a larger viewing area.

While A4 printers are highly serviceable for standard printing needs and are common in many business settings, A3 printers offer more flexibility with the ability to handle larger printouts, catering to diverse printing requirements.

Small vs Wide Format

Small format printers, encompassing sizes up to A3, cater to standard printing needs, making them a viable choice for many businesses. They are compact, cost-effective, and meet the demands of regular document printing, small signage, and standard presentation materials.

Contrastingly, wide format printers specialise in larger print outputs, ideal for banners, posters, architectural drawings, and other sizable materials. They are indispensable in settings where large-scale printouts are a routine requirement, though they demand more space and come with a much higher initial investment.

The price of small format printers can range from around AUD 50 to AUD 200, while wide format printers, due to their specialised capabilities, can cost anywhere from AUD 2,000 to AUD 15,000 or more, depending on the model and features.

Commercial Printing vs Commercial Printers

The terms “commercial printing” and “commercial printers” may seem to refer to roughly the same thing (and it’s true—they are closely related) but there are a couple of nuances to point out.

First off, “commercial printing” refers to the process of producing printed materials on a large scale in a business setting, primarily by professional printing companies. The output generally includes brochures, business cards, packaging, and labels, just to name a few.

“Commercial printers”, on the other hand, can refer to either the professional printing business entity behind the commercial printing, e.g. a print service provider (PSP) or the devices used for commercial printing themselves, which are also known as “production printers”, a term preferred by some.

These printers (the PSP and the devices themselves) are engineered to handle the demands of commercial printing processes and tend to have more high-capacity printing, versatile printing capabilities, and customisation and finishing options than your regular “consumer-grade” printer.

Commercial printing refers to the process of producing printed materials on a large scale for commercial purposes. Again, commercial printing is designed for bulk printing operations, where the objective is to produce high volumes of printed materials efficiently. It aims to achieve a professional level of quality to meet the standards expected in the commercial and corporate world.

Additionally, through economies of scale, commercial printing aims to reduce the cost per unit, making it a cost-effective solution for large print runs.

What is of interest to most businesses is that there are commercial printing devices that are more durable than consumer-grade printers, yet not as costly as production printers. These represent a goldilocks zone of convenience and functionality: a robust solution for the office, while keeping things in-house and under control financially.

In summary, while commercial printers refer to the actual machinery employed in executing these printing tasks, commercial printing denotes the large-scale printing process for commercial purposes. Both are integral components of the commercial printing ecosystem, working in tandem to fulfil the diverse printing needs of the business sector.

Consumer-Grade vs Commercial-Grade Printers

The distinction between consumer-grade and commercial-grade printers correlates to the differing demands between personal and professional printing environments. Here’s how they compare:

Consumer-Grade Printers:

Consumer-grade printers are designed for personal or home office use, catering to individuals or small groups. They are also anything less robust, comparatively, to production printers. They’re generally A4 only, and lack on-site servicing. Here are some defining characteristics:

  • Lower Volume Capacity: They are suited for lower volume printing tasks, making them ideal for occasional or daily small print jobs.
  • Cost: Generally, consumer-grade printers are more affordable upfront, providing a budget-friendly option for those with basic printing needs.
  • Compact and User-friendly: They tend to be compact and user-friendly, with straightforward setup and operation, fitting well in limited space areas.
  • Basic Functionality: These printers often provide basic printing functionality, and while some may offer additional features like scanning or copying, they might lack the robustness and advanced features found in commercial-grade printers.

Commercial-Grade Printers:

Now, commercial-grade printers, on the other hand, are basically as described earlier: they have many if not all of the features designed to meet the rigorous demands of a business or professional setting. They are not exclusively for print service providers. Many businesses, despite printing far less than print shops, very commonly opt for a printer with such capabilities. They also often come with more available and helpful support since they’re so critical to businesses.

Features of note include, apart from the higher-volume capacity compared to consumer-grade printers:

  • Durability and Speed: Commercial-grade printers are typically more durable and offer faster printing speeds than consumer-grade to keep up with the pace of business operations.
  • Advanced Features: They come with a range of advanced features such as network connectivity, higher resolution printing, automatic document feeders, and robust multi-function capabilities, which lend themselves to office settings, particularly.
  • Cost Efficiency for Large Runs: Finally, while they may have a higher upfront cost, commercial-grade printers tend to offer better cost efficiency for large print runs, and in the long-term, reduce the cost per page as the volume increases.

In essence, consumer-grade printers are tailored to meet the modest printing needs and budget considerations of individual users or small home offices. In contrast, commercial-grade printers are a substantial investment geared towards satisfying the extensive, high-speed printing requirements and advanced functionality expected in a professional or commercial setting.


Understanding the various types of printers is crucial for making an informed decision based on personal or business needs. From the cost-effective and high-quality prints of laser printers to the specialized high-volume output of commercial and industrial printers, each type serves a unique purpose. 

Consumer-grade printers offer an affordable solution for everyday printing needs, while commercial and industrial printers cater to professional and large-scale printing demands. 

As the printer market continues to evolve, being knowledgeable about these options enables individuals and businesses to align their choices with their operational requirements and budgetary considerations.

If you’re in the market or would like to learn more, read up on our best A3 printer guide, start thinking about how to choose the best printer for your small office, check out our other blog posts for more insight into printers, or defer straight to our experience and request a copier and printer quotation to save up to 70% on Copiers and Printers through quote comparison.

FAQ: Types of Printers

Professional printers typically use commercial or industrial-grade printers that are designed to handle large volume printing with higher speed and quality. Examples include digital printers, offset printers, and wide-format printers.

A digital printer is a type of printer that captures digital images from a computer and prints them directly onto a variety of media. Unlike traditional printing methods, it doesn’t require a printing plate, making it quicker and more cost-effective for short runs.

A press, often referred to as a printing press, is a device that applies pressure to transfer ink onto a medium like paper or fabric. It’s traditionally used for bulk printing. While both presses and printers serve the purpose of transferring images onto paper, a printer is generally more modern and digital, suitable for smaller runs and more detailed prints.

Offset printing is a printing technique where the inked image is transferred (or “offset”) from a plate to a rubber blanket, then to the printing surface. It’s known for producing high-quality prints and is cost-effective for large volume printing.

The lifespan of a commercial printer varies based on its usage, maintenance, and the specific model, but on average, they can last anywhere between 5 to 10 years or even longer with proper maintenance.

Industrial printers are larger and built for higher volume printing in industrial settings, often with specialised functions for specific industries. Commercial printers are more suited for general business environments with moderate printing needs.

Industrial printers are tailored for high-volume printing in industrial settings, while production printers are designed for high-quality, high-speed printing in a more commercial or business setting.

Inkjet printers use liquid ink sprayed through microscopic nozzles onto paper, while laser printers use a toner cartridge filled with fine powder and a heated fuser for printing. Laser printers are usually faster and have a lower cost per page, whereas inkjet printers provide higher quality photo printing.

Commercial printers are large to accommodate the various components required for higher speed, volume, and quality of printing. They also often have additional features like large paper trays, finishing options, and robust construction to withstand heavy usage.

The most common form of commercial printing is offset printing due to its cost-effectiveness for large runs and high-quality print output.

A recommended heavy-duty office printer is the Canon imageRUNNER ADVANCE DX C5700i Series. These printers are designed to handle high-volume printing tasks efficiently while providing a range of advanced features to meet the demands of a busy office environment.

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Types of Printers: Commercial & Consumer Grade, Offset, Digital

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