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Wide-Format Print 1: Entry-Level

Wide-format print offers traditional sign-makers an opportunity to expand their services and take on new work. Rob Fletcher picks out the latest entry-level kit to aide them on their voyage

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New from Agfa Graphics, the Anapurna H1650i LED is a 1.65m hybrid – flatbed and roll-to-roll – UV LED system

Enter the arena

In recent years, the wide-format print market has seen incredible growth, with companies of all shapes and sizes moving into this sector to take advantage of the work on offer. While this creates more competition, there are still plenty of opportunities for growth in this exciting area.

However, in order to get started, a sign company will need to have the right kit in place, and with wide-format printing, there is a plethora of choice when it comes to entry-level solutions.

Backed by some of the leading names in the print and sign industry, development is ongoing in this sector and new products are coming to market all the time to help those seeking to expand into wide-format. Here, we pick out some of the latest machines and investigate how they can aide sign-makers mobbing into wide-format print.

Quality and reliability

One of the most famous names in wide-format print, as well as print in general, is Epson. Phil McMullin, sales manager of Epson UK, notes that one of the main advantages of digital wide-format over litho, screen and other conventional technologies is that it is more affordable to companies new to the sector and will thus make the transition easier.

“The lower capital cost allows printers to take a reduced risk when trialling a new market or approach,” he says, adding: “The options are broad and many of the entry-level models allow the user to create a range of finished product.

“The advice I’d give to anyone buying an entry-level machine is to buy equipment that is known for its quality and reliability. We sell through our reseller partners that offer expert advice and support, as well as complementary software and equipment.”

Available for under £5,000, Epson’s SureColor SC-F6200 allows users to produce soft signage and textiles such as workwear, schoolwear, fashion and cushions

With this in mind, McMullin draws attention to some of the latest entry-level kit from Epson. This includes the SureColor SC-F6200 for less than £5,000, which he says allows users to produce soft signage and other textiles such as workwear, schoolwear, fashion and cushions. In addition, by adding on vacuum ovens, this offering can be expanded to promotional products such as phone cases, fobs, cutlery handles and jewellery.

For customers hoping to produce indoor posters or point-of-sale (POS) products, McMullin recommends the SureColor SC-T series, which features three models that can be regarded as entry-level devices: the SureColor SC-T 3200, SC-T5200 and SC-T7200.

The four-colour SC-S40600, featured in the Epson SureColor SC-S series, is available for under £10,000 and can produce print for outdoor applications

In addition, for outdoor applications, McMullin says that users should look at the SureColor SC-S series and the four-colour SC-S40600, which can be purchased for under £10,000.

He adds: “This emphasis on short-run, quick turnaround has fostered the move from traditional to digital inkjet technology and we believe there will be a strong future for wide-format in this area. It is a profit-generating route for companies to take.”

O Factoid: Epson spends around €1.5m (£1.4m) every day on research and development efforts. O

The entire package

Another major player in this market is Roland DG, with its TrueVIS portfolio of solutions suitable for print businesses at all levels. Among the products in this range are the SG-300 and SG-540, which, according to Rob Goleniowski, head of sales for the UK and Ireland, “have a track record of unlocking new capabilities, improving productivity and ensuring reliable and consistent quality with every print job”.

Roland DG says its SG-540 can help PSPs unlock new capabilities and improve their productivity

Goleniowski adds: “We have just released a new version of VersaWorks, our RIP package, designed to optimise all elements of the print process. This now comes as standard with all TrueVIS devices and current users can upgrade to the latest edition for free.”

With this, Goleniowski talks about the importance of paying careful attention to the software you use for wide-format print work, in addition to the hardware. He says one of the big pitfalls print service providers (PSPs) make when buying a new printer is that they only look at the printer itself.

It’s vital to look at the entire package, from the ink to the RIP software and avoid any nasty surprises further down the line

Goleniowski expands: “It’s vital to look at the entire package, from the ink to the RIP software and avoid any nasty surprises further down the line. It’s also important to consider the business you want to have, rather than the one you have now.

“It might seem like good financial sense to buy a smaller printer if that’s all you need to satisfy your current customer base, but by investing in something with a wider range, your capabilities increase, and your business is free to grow at a faster rate.

“If something goes wrong, you also need to make sure that the manufacturer can offer a speedy and effective aftercare service. All these elements directly affect the likelihood of downtime and the ultimate profitability of your business.”

Customer retention

Also championing growth in wide-format print is Agfa Graphics, known around the world for its range of solutions. One of the latest additions to this portfolio is the Anapurna H1650i LED, a 1.65m hybrid – flatbed and roll-to-roll – UV LED system.

Bobby Grauf, sales manager for the UK and Ireland, says that the machine’s small footprint and low investment point makes it the perfect production press for PSPs looking to expand their wide-format offering, enhance quality and lower their overall production cost.

Grauf expands: “The Anapurna H1650i LED is a direct derivative of the high-end Anapurna LED Series, and therefore includes all the unique Agfa benefits, such as our Thin Ink Layer Technology that delivers the highest print quality at the lowest cost of ownership in its class. Our workflow solution Asanti has also been adapted to the entry-level segment without losing any of its benefits.”

Agfa’s Anapurna H1650i LED boasts features such as the company’s Thin Ink Layer Technology, which it says delivers the highest print quality at the lowest cost of ownership in its class

In terms of knowing the most effective kit to invest in, Grauf concedes that this is no easy task, comparing the drivers to invest or re-invest in wide-format being as diverse as the solutions that are currently available in the market.

Grauf advises: “There are technical aspects to consider – nothing beats seeing the kit in action – but also financial ones, of course. For the latter it’s of vital importance to look beyond the investment cost and to compare the total cost of ownership of the short-listed systems. And finally, it comes down to trusting the supplier to deliver on the promise.

“Wide-format printing is a fantastic tool to win new business and improve customer retention, as there are so many exciting applications to create with today’s technology. Entry-level wide-format solutions can be surprisingly automated starting at file processing all the way to fulfilment.”

Business versatility

Casting the net wider still and Hybrid Services stocks a range of kit from Mimaki. Brett Newman, chief operations manager, says that the Mimaki CJV150 series printer/cutter offers big footprint savings as well as workflow benefits to users.

With a top speed of over 56sq m/h, the CJV150 is no slouch. It also has a print quality of 1,440dpi, as well as a selection of vibrant, Greenguard Gold-certified inks.

Newman expands: “The CJV150 series comes in four sizes and the 75 and 107 being the smallest are ideal for producing large posters, self-adhesive signage, banners and decals.

The Mimaki CJV150 series printer/cutter has a top speed of over 56sq m/h, in addition to a print quality of 1,440dpi

“Once the print part of the job is finished, the system automatically sets itself up to cut, and thanks to Mimaki’s unique die-cut technology, that can include the backing sheet, enabling high value shaped stickers to be produced.”

In terms of moving into wide-format for the first time, Newman has no hesitation in recommending the market to newcomers, saying this form of print is very much alive.

Newman says: “Investing in wide-format kit enables up-selling and cross-selling, driving customer retention and business versatility. The opportunities are there to be presented to your customers and your printing kit can help you keep them on board and buying more print from you.

“Being able to go to customers with new ideas and solutions and have a positive conversation shows commitment to their business as well as your own.”

Newman’s closing remarks sum up the importance of expanding your business and offering something new to clients. In the modern market, customers expect much more from their PSP or sign-maker; they fully expect you to be able to offer a wide range of services.

While investment in new machinery may prove a stumbling block in your quest to satisfy these demands and add new services to your offering, from speaking to some of the leading brands in this sector, it is clear that affordable kit is out there and will enable you to produce quality work. If you can establish exactly what it is your customers want, and get the right kit to produce these applications, then you can expect to achieve return on investment on kit fairly quickly.

Next time, SignLink delves further into this market to look at the technology that those companies already established in the wide-format print sector can invest in to further their business and move ahead of the increasing competition.


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