7 Pieces of Equipment You'll Need When Starting a Printing Business

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A small-scale printing business startup requires $2000-$10,000. However, with planning and frugality, you can start on the lower spectrum. The goal is to start with basic items, then upgrade according to clientele requirements. 

Whichever the business scale, you need the following essential equipment when starting a printing business. 


1. Printing System

The pillar of your business, a printing system consists of a printer and color copier. The type and size of the two depends on the scale of the startup. For small scale, an inkjet, laser, and a small printing press should work. 

Inkjet printers work best for vinyl prints such as signs. Laser variants, on the other hand, is a handy business card printing machine, while an offset press gives large volumes of high-quality prints. If you plan to print on fabric, invest in a screen printer.


2. Computer and Design Software

High chances your clients will need design and editing services. Invest in computer, editing and graphic software. However, note that the software is resource-intensive. Consider a medium to high-end computer with powerful RAM and a high-end graphics interface.

The choice of design software depends on the target client. Simple desktop programs work for business cards and posters. You, however, need to invest in costlier specialized software for graphics. 

Research on compatibility, applications, and ease of use. Note that some of these require training and lots of practice. You wouldn’t want trial and error designs for a client’s official business cards.


3. After Print Finishing Equipment

After printing, you need to prepare and finish the material as per the customer requirements. 

Common finishing equipment includes the cutter, drill, and stitcher.
  • Guillotine-an adjustable paper cutter that cuts stacks of sheet paper to a pre-determined size. Depending on the size of your printing business, and work volume, invest in manual, semi-automatic or automatic variants. The manual types are cheaper and do suffice for a startup.
  • Paper drills-bores holes in paper stacks ready for binding. Common variants include single and three-hole drills in table-top of free-standing models.
  • Paper stitcher- folds a wire pool into staples for stitching raffle tickets, booklets and multiple-sheet documents. The spool offers better results than preformed staples due to adjustable depth depending on the stack width

4. Binding Machines


A binding machine combines multiple sheets of paper into a single and sturdy stack. The choice of binding method dictates the angle of orientation, ease of sheet separation, and durability. Common types include-


  • Comb binders-cheap and effective. Ideal when starting out on a limited budget. Comb binders offer an easy and convenient way to sort, add or subtract sheets
  • Wire binders- less restrictive than other binders. Allows you to lay the documents flat and turn the sheets a full 360 degrees
  • Unibind- consists of a steel spine at the back of the book cover. The spine allows paper edges to sink into a heated glue.
  • Perfect bound- glue-based with a sturdy spine. Perfect bound is common in most paperback books

The comb, wire and strip lamination methods work for small printing shops, plastic, and wire for medium work volumes, and strip options for legal binding. Comb and wire binding suffice for low cost binding, while thermal versions, though costlier, enable you to offer high end services at a higher rate. To save on cost, pursue a combo binding system that integrates a number of binder types. 

Also, though the initial system may be affordable, consider the accessories such as spines, resin, and plastics as they add on to the cost of the operation in the long run.


5. Laminator

Lamination protects sensitive documents from moisture, wear and tear by adding a clear film on the surface. Lamination protects and enhances the appearance of IDs, certificates, advertising materials, and outdoor signage. 

You can either choose between thermal or pressure-sensitive lamination. The latter is more common and offer better protection, and is used on material not sensitive to heat. The laminator width ranges from 15-65 inches. For a small print shop, the 15-30 inch type should be enough.


6. Accounting Software

A printing business involves a series of small but high-volume transactions. It is easy to lose track of workflow and payments, especially for small projects. Accounting software helps you quote, record, invoice and track transactions and, depending on the choice of software, track inventory and stock.

You can either choose a stand-alone program or an online version. The former, though always available, can be cumbersome in terms of support and upgrading. Online based software, though always updated, poses the risk of unavailability in time of intermittent or total internet unavailability, or data breach. 

A handy investment is a software that integrates with your website for easy online order processing.


7. Supplies and Inventory Required When Starting a Printing Business

You need material and suppliers to work with and complement the equipment. Invest in high-quality paper, cardstock, fabric, laminate, and ink to start off. In most cases, supplies and material are supplied as compliments to the equipment. 

For example, color cartridges for the copier. However, ensure you list out the necessary items for purchase. You wouldn’t want to run out of ink or paper in the middle of a lucrative printing project.


How to Cut Costs 

  • Purchase printers and printing equipment inventory in bulk
  • Invest in production boosting technology such as LED curing systems
  • Research on equipment inter-compatibility before buying
  • Reduce on material wastage, especially paper, fabric and ink
  • Invest in a solid maintenance schedule for your equipment
  • Lease your equipment or buy second hand. The benefits include; regular updates, discounted maintenance, convenient access to state-of-the-art equipment, and tax savings
  • One way to save on inventory and supplies is to invest in digital equipment. This sort tends to have fewer miscellaneous components

You’re Ready to Start a Printing Business

For a stable, well-rounded stint, the above 7 pieces of equipment should do. Do note that you do not need to invest in high-end variants of printers and printing equipment. Planning, research, and frugality frees up capital for other costs required when starting a printing business such as rent, licenses, and advertising. 

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