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Entry-level Wide-format

Getting started in the sign and print industries could not be easier nowadays with lower costs and hybrid machines. Jo Golding shows how opening the door could lead to so much more

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Investing in new machinery could see you propel your business forward for the better

Open the door to more

For someone looking to get started in the sign or print industry who wants to buy their first piece of wide-format kit, the choices available can be overwhelming. So, if youhave ever thought about branching out and picking up your first wide-format printer, look no further than this feature to guide you through it the entry-level options. Some of them are on display at The Print Show this September and some have great offers available on them right now – so read through if you do not want to miss out!

First to EFI. Ken Hanulec, vice president, inkjet marketing, says: “EFI wide-format LED hybrid printers offer the ultimate in flexibility, because they are capable of printing roll-to-roll, flexible sheets and rigid substrates in a single footprint. The changeover from flexible to rigid materials is fast, and, with the combination of LED-curing and hybrid printing, they will allow to provide a wide variety of substrates and applications to your customers.”

This is great news for ‘newbies’ as you can produce so many different products with just one machine (it will also save you valuable money).

In terms of advice for new printers going forward, Hanulec recommends: “Aside from having the capabilities to print on flexible and rigid media, having the ability to print white ink would be the next big differentiator. It allows you to print onto clear, coloured, metallic, and wood grain substrates, for example. It’s also important to take advantage of all the training offered when you purchase your printer to learn about all of its capabilities. Then it’s up to using your creativity to come up with new applications and to add value to every print job.”

Aside from having the capabilities to print on flexible and rigid media, having the ability to print white ink would be the next big differentiator

EFI has helped out even further by creating a wide-format printer selector guide on its website, under its ‘EFI Wide Format Printers’ category. The guide goes through questions you should ask yourself to find out what your requirements are, explaining that an investment in an entry-level wide-format printer allows printers and sign-makers to “produce more work in-house, eliminating the need to outsource while retaining control over both the process and the customer”.

EFI’s H1625 LED is a mid-level production printer designed to maximise image quality

Check it out for yourself, as well as machines such as the EFI Pro 16h for print professionals who want to grow their offering, the EFI H1625-RS for those who make to make more efficient roadway safety signs and mid-level production printer EFI H1625 LED.

Complete print provider

Rob Goleniowski, head of sales – UK and Ireland at Roland DG (UK), says that those taking their first steps into sign and print, need to think about a few vital things. He comments: “Your future customers will demand quality and precision in a timely fashion, so it’s vital that you can deliver this if you want to get repeat business and grow your reputation.

“You’ll also need to consider the long-term running costs from power consumption to the cost of ink to make sure you get a rapid return on your investment. Breaking into a new career is challenging enough without the steep learning curve of a complicated machine, so you’ll need something that’s simple and user-friendly, letting you get up and running as soon as possible.”

Breaking into a new career is challenging enough without the steep learning curve of a complicated machine, so you’ll need something that’s simple and user-friendly

Goleniowski highlights the Roland TrueVIS SG series as the ideal entry-level solution: “Trusted by print professionals around the world, the TrueVIS range is reliable and hard-working, and you’re almost guaranteed to fall in love with your new printer! At a very affordable £7,999 for the SG-300, its attractive price point is just the icing on the cake.

“If you have the space for it, you can invest only £2,000 more on the wider SG-540. Although this pushes your initial spend up, the wider range of applications means that you can recoup your investment even faster. Today’s customers aren’t just looking for a banner or some wall vinyls – they’re on the lookout for a complete print provider.”

The Vinyl Guys’ Alex Liggett with his Roland DG TrueVIS SG-540 – the machine that allowed him to transform his business

Goleniowski believes diversifying your portfolio is the best way forward: “You can gain a competitive advantage by curating a wide portfolio of different applications and making it as visible as you can. There’s no better way to do this than to start with your own business. Print your own business cards, decorate your workshop with vinyl wall art, hand out stickers as freebies, brand your van with decals or, if you’re feeling very adventurous, you can experiment with a full vehicle wrap.

“These are just a few of the additional products you can tempt your clients with, but there are countless others. Do some research and see what applications your competitors are creating.

“Competing on range and price is a good start, but if you want your business to go all the way, you need to provide exceptional quality and attentive service. If there’s one thing that unites all Roland users, it’s their love of print and time and time again, this passion for the job shines through in the service they deliver to their customers. Showing enthusiasm and a willingness to go above and beyond is a lot easier when you know you have a printer you can rely on to produce excellent results. In the end, this positivity will rub off on your customers and they’ll be happy to return to you again and again.”

Roland customer The Vinyl Guys did exactly this – turning a back room sideline job into a fully functioning print and sign business in just a few years. The company purchased the TrueVIS SG-540 in 2016 after being impressed with it at The Print Show. The print and cut machine transformed his business and they have never looked back. Roland DG has loads of customer success stories on its website to hopefully inspire you to take those first steps.

Go for quality

“One of the great advantage of digital wide-format over litho, screen and other conventional technologies is that it is so affordable,” says Phil McMullin, sales manager of Epson UK, continuing: “The lower capital cost allows printers to take a reduced risk when trialling a new market or approach. The options are broad and many of the entry level models allow the user to create a range of finished product.

“For instance, the SureColor SC-F6200 can be used to produce soft signage but could also open up opportunities to diversify into textiles such as workwear, schoolwear, fashion, cushions and so on or, with the addition of a vacuum oven, promotional products  including phone cases, fobs, cutlery handles and even jewellery.”

The SureColor SC-F6200 comes in at under £5,000. For those wanting to produce indoor posters or point-of-sale there are even less expensive options with the SureColor SC-T series. Three models that would be regarded as entry level, and priced from £1,700 up, are the SureColor SC-T 3200, SC-T5200 and SC-T7200. For outdoor applications users should look at the SureColor SC-S series and the four-colour SC-S40600 can be purchased for under £10,000.

For outdoor applications Epson recommends its SureColor SC-S series and the four-colour SC-S40600 can be purchased for under £10,000

McMullin says: “The advice I would give to anyone buying an entry level machine is to buy equipment that is known for its quality and reliability. We sell through reseller partners who offer expert advice and support as well as complementary software and equipment. They represent Epson knowing we invest around €1.5m a day in R&D to remain at the forefront of technology. Epson manufactures the chassis, print heads and inks so that they work perfectly together for top print results.” 

Smithers Pira put the split between indoor and outdoor signage globally at 72-28% percent respectively. It anticipates the volume of signage to reach 11.17bn sq/m by 2022 with a total value of $42.13bn.

“Sign-makers do have competition from electronic signs which has switched the emphasis from longevity of printed output (particularly for outdoor applications) to rapid turnover with an emphasis on image quality. This often revolves around the key holidays such as Christmas, Easter or Halloween but can also be related to topical events such as major sporting fixtures or elections. 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.”

Heatwave offers

Finally, Hybrid Services weighs in on the topic, with Brett Newman, chief operations manager at Hybrid Services, saying Mimaki’s range has a few standout products that are relevant to new entrants to the sign or print industry.

Newman says: “Firstly, the multi-award winning Mimaki CJV150 Series of integrated printer/cutters offers huge bang-for-buck. The range comprises four different width machines, each sharing common functionality that delivers an intuitive and easy to use workflow for producing printed and cut products such as stickers, labels and shaped signage – as well as standard roll fed graphics including posters, canvas, backlit output and many more wide-format applications.

O Factoid: The Print Show, taking place from 18th to 20th September at the NEC, Birmingham, will have on display a plethora of entry-level wide-format kit, such as the Mimaki UCJV300 Series LED UV printer/cutters on Hybrid Services’ stand. O

“Starting at just £6,995 for the 800mm wide CJV150-75, the range goes right up to 1.6m and includes everything you need to start a business, including RIP software and a very neat plugin for popular graphics packages such as Corel DRAW and Adobe Illustrator.

“Hybrid will also be showing the brand new smaller sizes of the UCJV300 Series LED UV printer/cutters. Offering all the features of the CJV range, but utilising Mimaki’s latest LED UV inks, this family of machines adds in the ability to print to an even broader range of materials, fast drying times and some neat creative features as well. Head down to The Print Show for an early look this September!

Hybrid will be showing their new smaller sizes of the UCJV300 at The Print Show

“Running until the end of September, Hybrid has a series of ‘heatwave offers’ this summer that see big savings on selected CJV150 and UCJV models, so it’s a great time to consider investing and bagging extra value or a substantial discount at the same time.”

Newman says in any business, it is important to differentiate. “Once you’ve won a customer’s business, we can’t stress how important customer retention is, so offering new products to existing customers is a great route to adding revenue streams,” he explains, adding: “Expand your product range and your customers will start to see you as the ‘go to guys’ for any of their printing needs, and with hardware like the Mimaki CJV and UCJV Series so adept at producing myriad applications, it’s only down to the imagination of those running the machines as to where they stop!

“For the customer buying vehicle graphics – sell them keyrings, wayfinding signage for their car park, high vis jackets with their logo on or safety stickers for their warehouse. The customer that buys posters from you for their staffroom could benefit from a canvas print for their boardroom, a pull up banner for their training room or a window graphic for their reception area. Equally, the school you’re supplying banners to may also require floor graphics for their playground or games hall, stickers for their pupils’ books or two-way graphics for their glass doors.”

Newman concludes with some wise words that’ll see you build a strong customer base: “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. Differentiate by saying ‘yes’ to your customers and you’ll rapidly become an invaluable partner that they turn to for every printed job – and even ones they’d not even thought about!”

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