Digital printers - May/June 2018

Digital puts the zing into signage

A photograph of Epson Phil McMullin.
Phil Highton with the Epson SureColour The SureColor SC S60600 printer printing a orange juice bottle The SureColour S80600 new ink drop technology.

Wide format digital inkjet production is a fast and cost-effective printing option and increasingly versatile in the applications and designs it can handle. Epson UK sales manager Phil McMullin explores some of the possibilities.

A cocktail of developments continues to spur the expansion of wide format inkjet technology with print service providers attracted to technology that can enable them to do existing work more efficiently while developing new markets to grow their businesses. Improvements in print head technology, ink formulations, media and higher production speeds have combined to make this a reality.

In 2014 Smithers Pira issued a report on: The future of signage in an electronic world to 2020. This claims that while offset was the dominant printing process for indoor applications and screen for outdoor work, by 2020 inkjet would dominate in both areas of the global POS and signage market.

Sales of digitally printed media have exploded in the past five to 10 years. It is growing at a rate of about 7% per annum. Inkjet has created new opportunities for print service providers and the applications are really only limited by the designer’s imagination. Many brands are using wide format digital inkjet technology for their marketing campaigns. At the other end of the chain, print service providers are constantly striving to produce items faster, for a lower cost without compromising on quality.

Eco-solvent printers

For the past two years Epson’s SureColor SC-S Series, (the ‘S’ stands for signage) has been the number one model in the wide-format eco-solvent printer sector in Western Europe. It has increased its market share from 9% in 2015 to 43% in 2017, according to independent research carried out by Infosource.

The SureColor S series of printers are built for performance and profit. The SureColor SC-S80600, SC-S60600 and SC-S40600 operate with four to 10 colours (including white and metallic) and offer up to 95.3m2/hr single-pass productivity. The Precision Core TFP printheads and GS3 ink enable printers to achieve 1440 x 1440 dpi quality output if required and the variable size ink drop technology works as well on coated and uncoated stocks to give vibrant results.

Inkjet technology has evolved to enable higher productivity, using inks with a faster drying time and the ability to print onto lower grade materials. With improved ink formulations, users can still get exceptionally high quality, vibrant results. Furthermore, prints produced on low cost monomeric vinyl, look as good as those printed onto high grade cast media but produced for a fraction of the cost.

Shorter print runs

Signage doesn’t always need to last for years. There may be some exceptions, corporate branding on a vehicle for example, but even this can be refreshed easily. Most signage applications today are regularly updated to remain topical and reflect current promotions and trends. This has been fostered by competition from digital signage products, which allow messages to be changed instantly. As a result, today there is demand for shorter order cycles for printed signs and more print overall rather than longevity.

Inkjet is versatile; it can print on to selfadhesive media, vinyl, mesh, backlit products, textiles and paper. The SureColor S series of printers can be used for applications as diverse as car and building wraps, roll-ups, pull-ups, backlit, indoor and outdoor signage. Initially ecosolvent inkjet was used more for outdoor applications but as the quality of output has improved, indoor applications are enjoying the biggest growth – and that POS expansion continues.

Epson’s focus on inkjet, which is supported by a Euro 400m investment in new production facilities in Japan and other markets, has been bolstered with a further Euro 185m specifically for developing its PrecisionCore inkjet printhead technology over the next few years.

Colour management software

Epson has built-in good colour management software so users just have to change the profile that’s relevant for the media used and the printer will do the rest. There is no overlaying of colour as there would be for cut vinyl. It is simple, clean and there are no nasty chemicals involved. Epson’s SureColor technology uses ecosolvent inks. Quality is paramount and this has helped secure and build its reputation in this market. In the past year Epson has seen customers switching back from latex to eco-solvent, which is making a dramatic return because of its superior chemistry and vibrant results.

I had never seen such quality on a roll to roll machine, irrespective of whether it was printing on to paper or vinyl

Epson has succeeded in bringing its expertise in the photographic market to bear on the signage sector.

Motion in Leicester, traded in an HP 360 Latex model for its first Epson printer, a SureColor SC-S80600.

“The accuracy is bang on, the quality is outstanding and it has not only allowed us to supply existing customers with almost photographic quality print results but it has won us new business in the backlit and stickers markets,” says managing director Phil Highton.

He approached Darren Walker at Perfect Colours, a company that supplies large format print solutions, for advice when Motion was finding issues with substrate and image distortion using heat-based latex technology. Perfect Colours invited him to view the Epson SC-S80600.

“I had never seen such quality on a roll to roll machine, irrespective of whether it was printing on to paper or vinyl,” says Phil. “It is an eco solvent printer so there was no stretch or distortion issue and its ability to print in nine or 10 colours and achieve 98% of the Pantone range means we achieve a depth of colour that is exceptional and has given us a stand out advantage with duratrans/backlit work and stickers as well as our core business, POS.”

www.epson.co.uk

UV technology expands the range of media possibilities

The Mimakis UCJV300 printer printing a picture of a city 

Wide format solvent printers have been around for almost 20 years and in that time we’ve seen the rise of UV printing, eco-solvent, latex, solvent UV and so on. As exclusive UK & Ireland distributor for Mimaki products, Hybrid Services national sales manager John de la Roche explains how the technology is helping PSPs maximise the opportunities.

The Mimaki UCJV Series brings revolutionary technology to the sign and graphics market using the very latest LED UV cure inks and offering an unparalleled range of applications from one machine and already proving very popular with sign makers, print providers and graphics houses. With Greenguard Gold ink certification and powerful yet easy to use RIP and cutting software included as standard, the UCJV provides broad reaching capabilities for producing profitable and innovative graphics.

For signmakers with restricted space available, the UCJV300-75 is the smallest member of the family, sharing the same innovative feature set as its larger siblings, this 80cm model brings incredible capabilities in a highly compact footprint. Sign & Digital UK held in April was one of the first opportunities to see the smaller Mimaki UCJV printer cutters that officially launch this month. Adding three new widths to the 1.6m model, Hybrid Services showed the UCJV300-75 on its stand. Sharing the same innovative feature set as its larger siblings, this 80cm model brings incredible capabilities in a highly compact footprint.

With an integrated print and cut workflow, the UCJV sports Greenguard certified, opaque white ink in addition to its vibrant, process colours.

Signage applications include backlit textile graphics, decals, banners and PoS

“Of the many talents the new models share with the 1.6m version, the combination of Mimaki’s creative prowess and the flexible LUS-170 inks delivers huge application options including backlit textile graphics, decals, banners, point of sale and other signage.

Expanded range of materials

Introduced in the final quarter of last year and soon to be available in four print widths, the Mimaki UCJV300 is a technologically superior range of printer/cutters featuring low running costs and instantly dry ink, which allows printing to a wide range of materials such as PET film and fabric. Its LED UV curing technology enables PSPs to utilise an expanded range of materials including uncoated print media and many thin film substrates that may be too heat sensitive for latex or solvent high heat fixation systems.

Solutions such as Mimaki’s orange solvent ink and huge range of vinyl printing hardware and even our unique die-cutting technology make a real difference to users around the world.

The flexible LUS-170 UV inks were developed and released at the same time as the UCJV and include opaque white ink in addition to its vibrant, process colours. Combined with an integrated print and cut workflow, the powerful combination of Mimaki’s creative prowess and the flexible LUS-170 inks deliver huge application options including backlit textile graphics, decals, banners, point of sale and other signage.

One of the most highly creative and innovative applications achievable with the UCJV300 is the 4-layer day/night printing offering 'one graphic - two views'. Available on the UCJV300, this process offers an enhanced print capability that allows designers to build layered, transformative graphics for backlit applications.

In addition, the Mimaki UCJV300 is capable of true double-sided window graphics. Using a semi-automated feature within the RasterLink 6 Pro software that’s supplied with the machine, it can easily produce a 5-layer graphic that delivers two completely different images on the same piece of clear vinyl.

www.hybridservices.co.uk

Making your mark in digital printing

A big grey printer with a men using it. 

By now even the most traditional of signmakers must have, at the very least, considered purchasing a digital printer. Quality Print Services managing director Chris Bailey gives a few aspects to consider.

Whether you already have a fleet of printers churning out thousands of metres of banners, posters and other graphics or are looking for your very first digital printer, you must consider what the investment will do for your business within the tangible constraints of space and cost.

In order to help our customers make the right decision, we ask them what it is they want to do and what do they want or expect from a new printer. Do they want something in addition to what they have or are they after a replacement? Is this going to be their only printer or is it an addition to an existing fleet? The answers to these questions very much determine the best route to take.

Most people’s view is that if you only have one machine, an eco-solvent digital inkjet printer provides the broadest possible at QPS we can supply most digital printers with inks from Nazdar. The quality of these inks is as good if not better than manufacturer branded inks and the cost is considerably less. This can make a huge difference to your profit margins in what is already a very competitive industry. Nazdar inks are non-aggressive and help to ensure the longevity of the printheads and other working parts, which helps to keep ongoing maintenance costs down.” www.qualityprintservices.com 28 Sign Update ISSUE 178 MAY/JUNE 2018 range of applications and is therefore a great place to start. If they already have an eco-solvent printer and they have space, they may consider a latex or UV printer as an additional machine in order to provide more potential applications.

Space considerations

If cutting is a requirement for vinyl lettering, labels and many other applications, another consideration is whether to have an integrated print and cut machine or separate printer and cutter.

Again this comes down to space. If there is room it might make more sense to have separate printer and cutter, because while the machine is cutting, it can’t be printing. This could have a major impact on revenue as well as customer responsiveness.

Reduced ink costs can make a huge difference to your profit margins in what is already a very competitive industry

The other important consideration is cost. Both the initial investment in a machine and the consumables and maintenance costs going forward. Most printers come with a manufacturer’s warranty that ties you into their own-branded inks. However, at QPS we can supply most digital printers with inks from Nazdar. The quality of these inks is as good if not better than manufacturer branded inks and the cost is considerably less. This can make a huge difference to your profit margins in what is already a very competitive industry. Nazdar inks are non-aggressive and help to ensure the longevity of the printheads and other working parts, which helps to keep ongoing maintenance costs down.”

www.qualityprintservices.com

The key to business success: diversify your market

a couple of wide format digital printers

Sign makers know about getting their work seen. It's all about using colour, shape and contrast to make their work stand out, get noticed and do their job. Roland DG content marketing executive Paul Kerins explains how adding the right technology to that knowledge will allow you to explore lucrative and creative business opportunities.

Wide format technology has exploded in the past few decades and if sign makers aren't offering these services, their customers will go elsewhere. Many Roland DG users first invested in wide format after seeing the huge demand for printed work. After weighing up the cost of outsourcing it against the price of bringing it in-house, they have found their return on investment to be quick, almost painless - and even fun. Business owners might wonder whether they even need a new printer. It’s easy to rely on familiar or ‘safe’ methods. What they may not realise is that a solvent or UV-LED printer can quickly become the hub of their workshop, adding value to their existing processes.

Meeting fresh demands

A retailer might order a traditionally made fascia sign plus posters for the shop windows, hanging signs, health and safety signage, price stickers, staff uniforms – the list goes on. The right wide format set-up can meet fresh demands, in-house, as they come along.

With any kind of investment business owners need to weigh up the initial cost and resources required. A lack of information can make it seem riskier than it actually is. Printers that deliver high quality output are affordable in themselves and when considered in terms of increased production speeds and workflow efficiency, the time savings add up too and the purchase soon pays for itself.

Systems with remotely managed control systems and network connectivity allow users to work on another machine or even off the premises while the printer gets on with the job. When you look at multifunctional systems such as combined printer-cutters you really get more bang for your buck. Furthermore, there is an enormous variety of substrates onto which you can print with solvent and UV-LED printers, providing even greater versatility.

By bringing print jobs in-house sign makers will regain control over turnaround speeds, workflow efficiency and quality – adding to their bottom line and their valued reputation. This ability to monitor quality is particularly important for corporate clients who demand accuracy in brand colours, logos and styles. Buyers should look for digital wide format printers with easy-touse software and colour libraries containing commonly used brand colours. Digital systems can achieve effects that their brand-conscious customers will demand. For example, logos with colourfades or tints are incredibly easy with digital print and merely having this capability adds value and impact, both for the customer and for the sign maker.

One of the big questions sign makers should ask is whether they can afford not to invest in more advanced print solutions. In a rapidly evolving marketplace, their competitors are also seeking new solutions and reluctance to invest can become a major risk.

Versatility of wide format

A key benefit to going digital is the versatility of wide format printers. There might be half a dozen sign shops in any given town offering point-of-sale and posters alongside signs but maybe only one who offers those services plus vehicle decals or promotional items. Investing in a combined printer/cutter lets sign makers produce everything from banners and vehicle wraps to labels and POP displays.

However, there are no geographical boundaries. Many print providers specialise, using the internet to enable customers – corporate and consumer – to find them. Roland users include specialists in bespoke wall coverings or personalised gifts, printed in-house and shipped to customers across the UK in days or even hours. At the Roland Academy, attendees are coached in both how to use their equipment and how to position their business around it.

Sign makers who are limited by space may be reluctant to add to their workshop, however, some print solutions like the VersaUV LEF-12i are literally desktop systems. These compact printers can expand a business far more than their size might suggest. UV printers that can print CMYK, white and gloss – which can be laid down in layers – allow users to create textural effects onto a dizzying array of materials. Having these abilities is a great way to stand out from the competition and create a unique value-add. The key is to find a solution that can offer versatility and let print businesses offer a broader range of services.

For sign makers interested in wide format, the best advice is to go and see the range of systems available – it might be surprising what they can do.

www.rolanddg.co.uk

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