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Super Wide-Format

With large-format and super wide-format print regarded as among of the most impressive applications, Rob Fletcher looks at some of the latest print technology in this sector

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Agfa’s new Jeti Tauro H3300 UHS LED has been aptly nicknamed ‘The Beast’

Hitting the bullseye

Due to their incredible size and presence, both large-format and super wide-format print applications cannot help but capture the attention of passers-by. Be it banners that adorn the high-street, colourful building wraps that engulf entire office blocks, or even oversized flags carried out onto sports fields, these types of jobs come in all sorts of wonderful shapes and sizes.

However, when it comes to actually producing large-format and super wide-format print work, this is no easy task. Having the space to install one of the gigantic machines required to print the application is one thing, there then is the challenge of piecing together the print, delivering it to the location and also installing the piece.

O Factoid: The longest digitally printed photograph measures 109.04m long and was produced by Canon Deutschland, Oberstdorf Tourismus, Oberstdorfer Fotogipfel and Ilford Imaging Europe in Germany in September 2020 O

For those skilled businesses that take on this work on a regular basis, and those looking to make a move into the market for the first time, we have picked out some of the lastest print technologies that will help make these gigantic applications stand out more than ever.

Adapt to change

Jane Rixon, business development manager for large-format at HP, says as the market for super wide-format print is so vast and varied, there are always areas of high demand. Over the past year in particular, Rixon says interior décor has been particularly prevalent, due to people spending more time at home and are looking to improve the environments around them.?

However, as people begin to return to offices, Rixon says HP is also seeing demand for more welcoming and attractively designed workspaces, as well as the signage needed to enforce social distancing and ensure people feel safe. 

“One thing last year taught us was the need for flexibility; we need to be ready to adapt as the market demands change,” Rixon says, adding: “Having an affordable, large-format printer such as the HP Latex 1500, which can print a wide variety of applications, will ensure the print-service- provider (PSP) can offer the full range of services to their customers and won’t lose out on jobs to competitors with large format solutions.?

One thing last year taught us was the need for flexibility; we need to be ready to adapt as the market demands change

“For example, applications like One Piece wallpaper are increasingly popular and, with HP Latex offering the highest level of GreenGuard gold certification and low VOCs, PSPs can be confident that the finished product can be applied in any area, whether this is in schools, hospitals or at home.”

The HP Latex 1500 is capable of producing a wide range of applications

Aside from the HP Latex 1500, HP also offers another 2m x 3.2m roll-to-roll printer in the form of the HP Latex 3600, which, likes its sister model, can print on a host of substrates and benefit from a range of sustainability measures.

The HP Latex 3600 can print on a host of substrates and benefit from a range of sustainability measures

“Select HP Latex devices use the HP Eco Cartons made with recyclable cardboard material, reducing the amount of plastic used in traditional cartridges by 80%,” Rixon says.

“For the 3.2m devices the outer packaging of the ink cartridge is cardboard which can be recycled locally with a free take-back programme for the inner ink bags and printheads via HP Planet Partners, this means there’s no need to send old cartridges or printheads to landfill.”

Rixon goes on to advise that PSPs looking to purchase this sort of kit should also look to invest in quality workflow software and finishing solutions in order to “maximise ease of use, tackle exciting applications and optimise profits”.

“Remote management software such as HP PrintOS has proven indispensable to PSPs this past year, helping them stay on top of production, even when away from their printer, and guiding them to make data-driven decisions to ultimately increase profits,” Rixon says.

“HP’s range of super wide machines are JDF enabled, meaning different manufacturers and nature devices can interoperate together, making it easy for PSPs to take on new workflows.

“As online ordering becomes more common within the super wide space, a web-to-print workflow such as HP’s wallArtSuite becomes especially important for cutting the need for third-party solutions by radically improving profitability and reducing turnaround time.”

Flexible operation

Another manufacturer that specialises in large-format work is swissQprint, and its UK sales manager Steven Pridham says applications in this sector are “extremely varied”.

“Print-service-providers need to be extremely flexible in terms of applications and workload. While the need to satisfy core contract work is still ongoing, adding more applications, in general, is a key growth potential for super wide-format printers,” Pridham says.

“Offering the flexibility and efficiency to expand the range of capabilities – possibly from a single platform – is key to profitability and service expansion in today’s erratic market.”

For those seeking to move into super wide-format work, Pridham says that despite there being a great deal of work on offer in this sector, great care should be taken when it comes to selecting the type of kit to work with.

“Our customers’ experience shows that for traditional printing houses investing in this area, they see turnover, as well as profit margins, grow,” he says, adding: “This in turn prompts further investment and an opportunity to move away from more cumbersome and less sustainable print processes.

“Additional benefits include a wider customer base, a broader application set and the potential to drive market demands. This secures stability in revenue streams and will reduce the negative financial impact if a downturn in demand happens in one market.”

Looking at the latest technology available from swissQprint, Pridham points to the new Karibu S. Billed as the speed model of the company’s Karibu dedicated roll-to-roll printer, the new Karibu S is designed for high performance in 24/7 operation.

A special printhead configuration makes the most of the possible printing speed, which can be as fast as 330sq m/h, and Pridham says that even when running at this speed, the device delivers “astonishingly sharp text and images”.

The new Karibu S from swissQprint has a top speed of 330sq m/h

“The two roll-to-roll printers complement our range of flat-format printers that are known for their versatility, precision and cost effectiveness,” Pridham says, adding: “There are five models each featuring a modular design to match any requirements in terms of productivity and application scope.

“When choosing a platform and supplier, it will pay out to have a user-friendly system as well as dynamic application and technical support. This will enable an easy transition and a smooth enjoyable journey to securing new business and profits.”

Return on investment

Elsewhere and Agfa has noted an increase of activity across a wide variety of sectors in recent weeks, with Bobby Grauf, sales manager for inkjet in the UK and Ireland at Agfa, highlight new opportunities for sign-makers and wide-format printers.

“The easing of lockdown restrictions is the main driver in the short-term, but there is also more print work being re-shored to the UK from Europe and further afield,” Grauf says, adding: “Longer term we note that more and more companies are readying themselves for new applications and longer digital print runs.”

For those companies seeking to move into the super wide market, Grauf acknowledges that at first, the investment may look beyond the reach of smaller wide-format users. However, once companies look at the savings in terms of running cost, he says they will soon discover that the return-on-investment based on existing work is much shorter than they think.

“That is even before we look at the opportunity of attracting more jobs due to the increase in capacity and flexibility,” Grauf says.

“Every investment in this area needs to be well thought through and demands a thorough understanding of what you want to achieve. With that in mind, Agfa has partnered with Profitable Print Relationships (PPR) to help our customers build sustainable sales and marketing strategies that deliver.

“PPR’s programmes through Agfa are tailored to the customer’s size, resources and needs, and come at no additional cost when combined with an investment in Agfa Inkjet systems.”

Casting an eye towards the super wide-format print technology options available from Agfa, Grauf says its latest releases have very much focused on the high-end segment. New launches include the Jeti Tauro H3300 UHS LED, which, aptly nicknamed ‘The Beast’ is a 3.3m-wide hybrid press running at over 600sq m/h.