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Wide-format Print Part Two

Companies established in wide-format print face increasing competition from newcomers. Rob Fletcher looks at how investing in new kit can help secure business longevity

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Businesses are looking at ways to remain profitable in a high competitive industry

Plotting a profitable path

Much has been said and written about the opportunities for growth for sign-makers within the wide-format print market, and while this may be true, the rising number of companies moving into the sector has created increased competition with the businesses already establish in this area.

For this reason, being able to stand out above others in this crowded market is more important than ever. If you are able to offer something that the company down the road cannot, you are more likely to not only win that job, but further work, and indeed customers, in the future.

This second article in a special series of features focuses on how established wide-format print businesses can ensure their long-term future in the market, as well as the various equipment that is available to help them to enhance their service offering.

Investment is key

One of the leading manufacturers present in the wide-format printing market is Epson, offering a wide selection of solutions to both established companies and newcomers to the sector.

Phil McMullin, sales manager ProGraphics at Epson UK, says that as wide-format technology has progressed massively in the last decade, with some manufacturers continuing to make rapid advances, it is important for companies to invest to ensure they can offer the best possible services to their customers.

Phil McMullin, sales manager ProGraphics at Epson UK, says companies must invest in new wide-format kit to ensure they can offer the best possible services

“Print quality on Epson eco-solvent printers for outdoor graphics is now almost a match for many aqueous ink sets,” McMullin says, adding: “Ten years ago, the zebra prints (banding) came free with every solvent printer. Now you can take advantage of the extra flexibility of an Epson solvent printer without sacrificing quality.

Print quality on Epson eco-solvent printers for outdoor graphics is now almost a match for many aqueous ink sets

“Not only has the image quality improved dramatically, production of these high quality images is now at print speeds users could only dream about in the last millennium. Combine this with the substantial reduction in overall running costs from Epson, then you have a compelling reason to consider investing in the new technology.”

O Factoid: Epson invests almost $1.5m every working day into research and development efforts  O

McMullin goes on to say that while some companies may argue running older kit may be more economically beneficial, in reality, when extended warranty costs and ad-hoc call out charges are factored in, this may not be the case.

“A new Epson SureColor S Series printer has two year’s full manufacturer’s warranty, so there are no repair costs to cover,” he says, adding: “Couple this with the fact that ink prices on the latest units are around 35% cheaper and the printers use around 15% less ink, you can see that there are significant savings to be made for any company that is printing on a regular basis.”

With this in mind, McMullin draws attention to the Epson SureColor S80600, the manufacturer’s latest generation eco-solvent printer designed for outdoor graphics, but also capable of plenty of other applications such as wallpaper, décor, textile, window graphics and POS.

Epson’s SureColor S80600 is designed for outdoor graphics, but can also produce wallpaper, décor, textile, window graphics and POS

McMullin says: “Big advances in print quality, colour gamut, productivity, ease of use, flexibility, reliability and running costs make it the product of choice for sign-makers serious about large-format print.”

Productivity boost

Another of the heavy-hitters in this market, HP, also has a number of options on offer to sign-making companies that are seeking to bolster their wide-format arsenal. Simon Nuvoletta, marketing manager for the UK and Ireland, picks out a number of suitable solutions for business on the lookout for growth.

First up are the 3.2m HP Latex 3600 and HP Latex 3200 machines, which he says support higher volume printing and an improved monthly duty cycle. Nuvoletta expands: “The HP Latex 3200 is a great fit for large companies to produce a wide range of applications with high productivity, in high quality for retail/outdoor advertising, events/exhibitions, vehicle graphics, and interior décor.

“The HP Latex 3600 is designed for even larger companies needing long-run, uninterrupted printing. It can handle production peaks of up to 35,000sq m per month and is ideal for dedicated application production, such as banners, backlits, wallcoverings, and retail or event signage.”

HP says its HP Latex 3600 machine can support higher volume printing and an improved monthly duty cycle

Nuvoletta says that HP Latex technology is also making waves in the wallpaper market, picking out both the Latex 1500 and 3000 series printers. According to Nuvoletta, demand for luxury wall coverings is increasing year on year, and manufacturers are keen to keep up-to-date with the latest trends but also offer designers new fabrics and special effects in short runs.

According to HP, its Latex 1500 printer will help users meet an increasing demand for luxury wall coverings

Nuvoletta adds: “HP Latex 1500 and 3000 series printers offer robust multi-roll functionality and overnight, un-manned printing with easy monitoring using the HP Latex Mobile application.

“With the unrivalled translucency of HP Latex inks, versus traditional surface printing (very opaque), and with the capability of printing on a variety of paper backed fabrics and textured cloths, the end results are truly stunning.”

Meanwhile, the HP Latex R-Series is a hybrid printer that Nuvoletta says is ideal that for direct printing onto a range of rigid and flexible materials, explaining that applications such as retail, outdoor signage, window graphics, events and exhibitions, decoration and car wrapping are a possibility with this device.

Nuvoletta adds: “The R-Series portfolio is ideal for companies with a growing range of customers, from small home-based businesses, to established chains and much larger corporate organisations – spanning across a range of sectors including retail, charities, education, manufacturing, hospitality and more.”

Cut to the point

Aside from wide-format print machines, sign-makers in the market would also be well advised to look at other kit, including plotting and cutting technology. This is where suppliers such as Granthams can help, stocking a range of kit from leading brands such as Summa.

Kirsty Reader, general manager at Granthams, highlights the Summa F1612 in particular, as it is the smallest model in the series and would fit in most sign-makers’ workshops. The device utilises a 1,600 x 1,200mm conveyor belt with vacuum bed and media advance clamps, which allows users to run larger boards or sheets without compromising on the footprint.

Granthams says the Summa F1612 cutting and plotting machine would fit in most sign-makers’ workshops

Reader expands: “The cutter comes with a drag knife as standard but offers a wide range of different tools, which expand the capabilities from everyday self-adhesive vinyl all the way up to the likes of MDF, acrylic and foam PVC. We would usually provide a better insight into a package price upon completion of a private demonstration, where we would run through all the different tools and your target applications.”

As to why flatbed cutters are important to sign-makers seeking to expand their wide-format offering, Reader says: “The main benefit of the flatbed cutter is in its unparalleled precision. The substrate being trimmed never moves – the vacuum holds it securely in place. Only the computer controlled cutting head travels across the sheet, and as the ‘eye’ routes along the cut-path, it’s as accurate with the hundredth board as it was with the first.

“It is also incredibly quick; if you’re always trimming similarly sized panels out by hand using something like a bench cutter or cutter bar, having a flatbed cutter will greatly increase your throughput. A flatbed vinyl cutter is a master of many applications.”

While it is true that the wide-format print market is becoming more crowded and, as a result, increasingly competitive, by ensuring that you have the best kit in place and can deliver the highest quality of work to your customers, you can look forward to a healthy future.

For those sign-making companies that are on the lookout for their next wide-format print investment, then they would be well advised to consider a visit to the combined The Print Show and The Sign Show later this year. Taking place from September 27th to 29th, the two events will be co-located inside the same hall at the NEC.

The main advantage of this co-location is that sign-making companies active in more than one market will be able to view solutions for various parts of their business. So, while examining the latest in sign-making technology, visitors will also be able to cross the hall into The Print Show to also find out what is new with wide-format print.

Wide-format print will again form a key part of The Print Show this year, with organisers promising some of the leading names in this market. Early editions of the floorplan show that the likes of Vivid Laminating Technologies and Grafityp will be among the exhibitors at The Print Show, bringing with them solutions for wide-format print and finishing. Expect more announcements from organisers over the coming months.

The next feature in our special series looks at how further investment can help take your business to the next level. Look out for the next instalment in SignLink August.

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