Personalisation is a great way to increase ROI
Up Close and Personal
Has there ever been a time when people have been more in love with their possessions? It is all about making sure that their smartphones, tablets, laptops, clothing, accessories and just about everything else they own are flamboyant extensions of their personalities. Everyone wants to be unique in a world where advertisers and the money men want us to be the same.
The process of personalising our belongings used to consist of painstaking use of needle and thread if it was material, and if not, one of those Dyno guns that stamped letters into plastic strips that you could stick to your stuff. Well not any more, now we can run just about any object through a printer or transfer any image to clothing. For sign-makers this represents a massive revenue-building opportunity.
Mimaki is a key player in the personalised printing market with products for both direct printing onto thick objects and dye-sublimation printing onto textile. The company claims that its recently expanded family of UJF desktop LED UV printers have unrivalled versatility and high quality reproduction, which gives printing companies the potential to print to an almost limitless range of materials, objects and substrates, opening up a whole new world of profit making possibilities.
The manufacturers range, distributed in the UK and Ireland by Hybrid Services, has seen tremendous success following the initial release of the UJF-3042 in 2010. This desktop A3 UV printer pioneered its way into the personalisation and gift market due to its capacity to print high quality images direct to rigid substrates combined with its cost-effectiveness on short-runs. This versatile little machine is also able to print onto substrates that are impossible to use on conventional models, such as plastic, metal and wood.
by Hybrid Services, the new Mimaki
UJF 6042 LED UV
items up to 50mm
thick,it can print clear varnish
white ink to
or corporate branded products pop
Since the initial launch, the upgraded UJF-3042FX has been released, adding additional features such as an automatic primer function, which removes the need to manually prime the substrate—where required—and opening up a vast number of substrates to print onto directly. Along with the upgraded machine came the availability of flexible ink for the UJF-3042FX. This first flexible option took the form of the LF-140 ink featuring an extended colour gamut, which is stretchable up to 140 percent and allows for printing onto moldable media such as tablet covers, that requires optimum adhesion.
The Mimaki UJF-3042HG was then launched in 2012, featuring an expanded head height of 150mm, which allows much thicker media to be printed onto. Additional features also include six-colour printing, plus white and clear capability, which produces appealing, high definition output with high quality gradations not easily achieved as readily with four-colour printing. The introduction of a newly developed white ink circulation system also prevents pigment sedimentation. This not only improves the yield of white ink for more efficient consumption and reduced waste, but also benefits production throughput with less chance of wastage of valuable substrates.
“The list of applications for the Mimaki UJF family is extensive; mobile phone covers, acrylic photo blocks, stationery, ceramic tiles, glassware and metal to name a few,” explains Duncan Jefferies, marketing manager for Hybrid Services, who adds: “The primer function of the FX and increased head height of the HG have extended this list even further to include various containers such as jewellery boxes or paint tins as well as larger promotional items.
The newest addition to the family is the larger UJF-6042, launched earlier this month. This A2 flatbed LED UV printer boasts 1800dpi variable dot photo quality output, which delivers highly detailed prints, and a new ball screw type head conveyance mechanism which increases the accuracy of the ink drop placement onto the substrate ”
Jefferies continues: “This kind of high quality capability is usually found only in very high end flatbed printers, and with no minimum run length, coupled with the ability to process variable data, highly profitable short run production of premium personalised objects rapidly becomes palpable.”
Stuart Cole, general manager of Mimaki reseller, Graphic Printing Technologies (GPT), agrees with Jefferies when it comes to the capabilities of this new wave of technology: “Personalisation is a much wider market sector than you would first think. The range of customer applications is massive, and the likes of the UJF is an ideal tool to produce such items. It is affordable, with a good return on investment and it doesn’t take up much space. It is also very easy to use and able to print onto more surfaces than just about any other printer.”
Cole continues: “The small printers are bound to get a bit bigger to fill the void that exists between the A3 machine and the next mainstream size being the JFX1615, which is physically massive in comparison and three times the price. The impending UJF6042 is just such a move, and I know it offers fantastic quality for close quarters inspection. The availability of both white ink and clear ink also add to the diversity capable with the UJF range of printers.”
In addition to the UJF range, GPT also stocks Mimaki’s TPC-1000 dye-sublimation printer and the Secabo range of heat presses for fixing transfer prints to products such as t-shirts and mugs.
Wincanton Print is one company that has looked to personalised print to help boost its revenue and profitability. In order to facilitate its mission, the company has purchased a complete fabric and mug branding solution from GPT, seeing it invest in a Mimaki TPC-1000 and two heat presses from Secabo, one for t-shirt printing and the other dedicated to firing graphics onto mugs.
“Traditionally, we have always been a trade and business-to-business litho printer. However, the directors identified the opportunity to provide a more complete service to customers and deliver a full design and artwork production service.”
“They also wanted to bring in the very best new products,” explains Brian Wood, design and marketing manager at Wincanton Print.
Wood continues: “For Wincanton Print, it is all about being able to offer a complete quality service for customers. We have worked very closely with GPT in order to identify and install a range of systems that allow us to deliver just about anything they ask for. This means we can enjoy not just more business, but greater customer loyalty and retention.”
Print on anything
Roland DG is another key player when it comes to supplying the growing number of sign-makers diversifying into
The Roland VERSA LEF-12 can tackle items up to 100mm
thick and, in what is now becoming an industry standard,
features white and clear varnish ink in addition to CMYK
The VersaUV LEF-12 is its flagship machine in this area, and like its contemporaries features LED curable UV ink. Another of the machines stand out features is that it is capable of printing onto objects up to 100mm thick, which significantly increases the range and complexity of products that can be created.
“Customers can create unique and highly desirable items by personalising phone cases, key rings and pens for example, or adding embossed effects such as Braille,” explains Rob Goleniowski, business manager of sign and graphics at Roland DG UK, adding: “The unit features Roland’s Eco-UV or Eco-UV S flexible UV curable inks, which print four colour CMYK plus white plus clear varnish to achieve a tough, long-lasting and high quality result. The LEF-12 is equipped with LED UV-curing lamps, which instantly cure ink during printing so it can print directly onto plastics, leather, glass, paper and card. And, as with all Roland printers, it comes with Roland’s VersaWorks RIP software making it the complete package for print companies.”
Having continually made a profit from print personalisation, North Tyneside-based LL Promotions purchased an LEF-12 machine from printMAX in August to help expand the business further.
We bought the LEF-12 to offer more to our customers. I hate having to rely on other people, so having the Roland allows us to do a lot more work in house as we can now print directly onto any product due to the UV technology.”
“We personalise a range of products including pens, USB flash drives and phone cases. So far, the Roland LEF-12 has offered the quality and versatility we were after and delivered a new dimension to our promotional product services,” says LL Promotions director, Andrew Cooper.
Invest in success
The machines for printing directly to promotional or corporate products are certainly not as cheap as other wide-format printing solutions pound-for-pound. For their size, they represent a significant investment and sign-makers need to ensure they have a potential market to exploit before taking it on. But, if you are already moving into the world of labels and other small-format items, huge opportunities await in offering personalised print items to customers already buying traditional sign products.
Many of the companies I have spoken to that have invested in this technology have all experienced a reasonable level of success and quite a few have extended their capabilities further with additional purchases, once consistent avenues of demand have been established. The common denominator for many of these sign-makers has been that while it would have been difficult to rely on selling personalised print products as a standalone business, they are easy to sell and can sustainably increase your overall turnover as a profitable sideline.