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Wide-format Print Part Two

As competition in the wide-format print sector continues to heat up, Rob Fletcher looks at some of the latest technologies that can help your business gain an advantage in this busy market

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HP attracted huge levels of interest in its new R Series technology at The Print Show 2018

Speculate to accumulate

When it comes to technologies in any area of the sign-making and wide-format markets, it is no secret that commitment to investment is key if your business is to remain competitive. And as more companies move into areas such as wide-format print, this attitude is perhaps more important than ever.

Companies active in the wide-format print sector are lucky in that manufacturers are bringing to market new kit on a regular basis. Barely a week goes by that we do not hear about an upgrade to existing machines or the launch of a new model, with each release pledging to offer bigger and better things to the user.

In the second of a five-part special series on the wide-format print market, SignLink takes a look at some of the latest options available to the industry and how this technology can help your business grow.

Take your time on tech

Among the many leading brands in this market is HP, which has a whole host of options on offer to businesses active in wide-format print. Phil Oakley, regional business manager, large-format printing for the HP Graphics Solutions Business, says that while companies do not necessarily need to invest constantly, what is important is considered and comprehensive investments for the long term: investments that offer innovation and versatility.

“Too often, companies invest in replacement technology that does not offer them the diversity needed to grow or retain profits,” Oakley says, adding: “Decisions on replacement tech must consider factors such as cost of operation, reduced cost of sale and improved time to market – as well as whether the device will enable the business to expand in to new sectors in the future.

“Even in the short-term, investing in technology that drives new and different conversations with brand owners is critically important for healthy ROI.”

In terms of new kit from HP for the wide-format market, Oakley picks up on the R Series, which has proved incredibly popular since its launch last May and its UK exhibition debut at The Print Show in September of last year.

“HP invented Latex technology 10 years ago and is now on its third generation of ink formulation for our roll-fed devices,” he says, adding: “On the R Series; we have reinvented HP Latex ink to offer unparalleled quality and versatility on both flexible and rigid substrates.

“We will continue to innovate to support our customers: firstly through our overarching brand strategy, secondly via transformation of applications and ink technology; and also through unrivalled operating efficiency via HP’s PrintOS.”

As to where HP plans to go from here and what we can expect from the digital print innovator in 2019, Oakley advises industry members to keep an eye out for announcements related to the soft signage market textile applications.

Development

Another digital print heavyweight leading the way in wide-format development is Epson. Phil McMullin, sales manager, ProGraphics, at Epson UK, explains that the manufacturer is committed to bringing new kit to market, highlighting how the company spends some $1.5m (£1.1m) on research and development every working day.

Epson says its latest generation SureColor S series has set new standards in terms of both performance and image quality. Pictured: the flagship S80600 model

McMullin says the benefit of this means that Epson can react to the changing demands of the market and provide its customers with the kit they need to succeed. He comments: “Previous examples of how this huge investment can help print businesses is evident in the Epson SureColor S series range of eco-solvent printers.


The current range shows advances across the board compared to both previous Epson devices and other brands

“The current range shows advances across the board compared to both previous Epson devices and other brands – enhanced image quality, more productivity, less user intervention, improved reliability, increased flexibility and critically lower running costs and TCO.”

McMullin says the latest generation SureColor S series from Epson has set new standards in terms of both performance and image quality. The flagship S80600 model boasts a ten-colour ink set that delivers 98% of Pantone’s colour gamut.

The Epson SureColor S80600 model has a ten-colour ink set that delivers 98% of Pantone’s
colour gamut

McMullin adds: “By leveraging our knowledge and experience from the photo market we have delivered virtually photo realistic print quality at production print speeds. Epson owns its own print head technology and its own ink chemistry so any printer coming from the Epson stable is designed from the ground up for maximum performance, reliability, quality and ease of use.”

Access new opportunities

Delving further into this expansive market and Mimaki is also focused on new technologies that can help customers succeed. Hybrid Services is the exclusive distributor of Mimaki in the UK and Ireland, and chief operations manager Brett Newman says new investment in wide-format hardware can bring new revenue streams and business opportunities for sign-makers and print providers.

Newman expands: “Mimaki’s new wide-format printers offer ever more creative capabilities as well as significant speed and productivity enhancements. This makes responding to jobs that are more creative or that are required more quickly easier, utilising new features and production capacity.


O Factoid: Hybrid Services has been the exclusive distributor of Mimaki kit in the UK and Ireland since 1996.O



“Equally, being able to offer new products to existing clients makes customer retention simpler – something that’s ever more important in the current climate.”

With this, Newman draws attention to the UCJV Series of LED UV printer/cutters, which have proved a hit with the wide-format market. Newman highlights the ink set that he says opens up many creative opportunities, easy to use software and varied applications.

Hybrid Services says the ink set on the Mimaki UCJV Series of LED UV printer/cutters help to open up a host of creative opportunities to users

Mimaki has also recently introduced a clear ink for the UCJV300 Series, which Newman says also places users into the prototyping and packaging environment.

Newman says: “Utilising flexible UV inks that cure instantly allows customers to quickly print and deliver the finished product without waiting for drying. The UCJV printers also feature white ink, enabling users to produce brilliant colours on transparent, coloured or metallic substrates.”

Also new from Mimaki is the TS55-1800 dye-sublimation printer. Newman says this 1.9m transfer paper printer is ideally suited to companies producing soft signage, retail graphics, fashion and sportswear and benefits from a winning combination of low running costs and high productivity.

Mimaki recently introduced a clear ink for its UCJV300 Series, which the manufacturer says will help users to access the prototyping and packaging environment

In addition, visitors to Sign & Digital UK in April will have the opportunity to see a new metallic ink for the mid-format Mimaki UJF-7151plus flatbed LED UV. Newman says this an example of the cutting-edge technology Mimaki is known for.

Newman adds: “Mimaki’s reputation as an innovator in the wide-format sector has resulted in a continuous stream of new products – be it hardware, inks or software – in recent years, all targeted at assisting print companies with growth and diversification.”

Increase profits

Another manufacturer with options available in this market is Xanté. Melinda Malinoski, marketing coordinator at Xanté, says that sign-makers and wide-format print companies that commit to quality investment can expect to build and increase new revenue steams, through offerings they were not capable of doing in the past.


At Xanté, we are always looking at developing new products to bring to market that can make any print shop more efficient, and increase both profits and revenue

Malinoski says: “At Xanté, we are always looking at developing new products to bring to market that can make any print shop more efficient, and increase both profits and revenue.”

With this, Malinoski draws attention to the X32, a wide-format device that she says can print on basically any substrate measuring 3 x 2ft and up to 11.6” thick. Malinoski also highlights how the machine has a relatively small footprint at 8 x 4ft, making it a flexible solutions for users.

Available from Xanté, the X32 is a wide-format device that the manufacture says can print on almost any substrate measuring 3 x 2ft and up to 11.6” thick

In addition, the new X32 runs with Xanté’s Iqueue software, which Malinoski says gives the users the ability to control key aspects of the print production process, including control imposition, colour management and variable data.

While it is no secret that the level of competition in wide-format is on the increase, the opportunity to grow and expand your business in this creative sector is huge. However, in order to capture the most profitable contracts and ensure you remain one, or more, steps ahead of your competitors, you have to be willing to invest in new kit.

As set out by some of the sector’s leading manufacturers here, new technology brings with it advantages that older machinery simply cannot offer. By taking this kit on board, you can keep up with the ever-changing demands of the market, and both retain existing customers and attract new clients.

Next time in this special series, SignLink will delve even further into the market and look at how investing in new flatbed technology can allow your business to take on more work in certain sectors of the market. Don’t miss the June edition of SignLink for this piece.


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