By Rob Goleniowski, Business Manager - Sign & Graphics, Roland DG
As we head rapidly towards the summer of 2013, the industry is definitely moving through a period of evolution not revolution. It's part of the natural cycle of any industry, but evolution doesn't have to mean that forward movement is significantly curtailed or slowed. In fact, quite the opposite is often the case.
Evolutionary periods are critical as they provide focus for manufacturers and time to assess the market and consider trends and how those trends are impacting on technology and the way customers use it. Revolution on the other hand, can often create distraction and can be counter-productive if not managed well, as everyone tries to chase the next big thing, with huge resources being drained into new, 'revolutionary' products.
It is actually evolutionary periods where the big improvements in technology often come as small incremental changes join together to make a big difference to a customer's production ability and commercial success. And, it is exactly this strategy that is behind the launching of two new 64 inch Roland machines in just the last nine months.
In September last year, we launched our SOLJET PRO4 XR-640 into the UK market. The 64 inch printer/cutter has been a great commercial success so far. At the time, it was the industry's first printer/cutter to offer so much power and versatility, and had been designed to maximise profitability when producing banners, signage, POP, decals, labels, vehicle graphics, backlit displays, building wraps, package prototypes and photographic reproductions.
The XR-640 is available in both seven and eight ink configurations and compatible with Roland's latest Eco-Sol MAX 2 ink technology. It comes with a choice of nine ink colours – CMYK, light magenta, light cyan, white, metallic silver and light black, delivering an expanded colour gamut and the ultimate in print quality and colour reproduction.
These new high-density inks, when combined with the power of the XR-640, have provided sign makers and designers with the tools to unleash their creativity and develop exciting and profitable applications. And, although considered an evolutionary, rather than revolutionary product, the XR-640 was a strong step forward in terms of productivity, print head technology and substrate flexibility.
This was followed up earlier this year, when we also launched our new 64-inch SOLJET PRO4 XF-640 printer, which had its first official outing at Sign & Digital UK in April.
Those who missed it there will be able to see it at the FESPA exhibition in the ExCeL centre in June. The new XF-640 is Roland's fastest wide format printer to date and in our view has significantly raised the game in terms the speed and quality. The XF-640 incorporates next generation dual print heads, runs at a maximum print speed of 102m²/hr and is an ideal high production machine for a host of durable, high quality outdoor and indoor applications including signs, banners, vehicle wraps, window graphics, POP displays, exhibition show graphics and posters.
The new machine also benefits from a redesigned take-up system and pinch roller system, and like its cousin, the XF-640 is also compatible with Roland's Eco-Sol MAX 2 eco-solvent inks, has an expanded colour gamut and fast drying times to further boost production. The machine's dual mirrored CMYK ink configuration also virtually eliminates banding, assisting with clean and consistent colour imaging.
Perhaps the best example of all in the wide format sector of a product that has gone from revolution to constant evolution is our VersaCAMM family of printer/cutters. When we introduced the VersaCAMM in 2003 it was a true revolution in wide format printing and is now the world's most popular wide format printer. When launched, the VersaCAMM's print and cut functionality transformed both the way the industry thought about wide format printing and what a wide format printer could be used for. And, in the ten years since its launch, it has continued to evolve year on year to meet the needs of our customers, meaning even today, it remains on the cutting edge of wide format printing and the machine of choice for many sign makers and printers.
The VersaCAMM has always been set at a price point that provides an outstanding return on investment but without compromising on innovation. All machines in the family, from the SP-300i/540i to the VS series strike a beautiful balance between speed and quality and most importantly just keep going and going. Confidence is a critical factor that must sit behind any investment in technology, because if you trust the technology supporting your business, you'll have the confidence to drive it forward. The VersaCAMM has given thousands of sign makers exactly that for over a decade.
With the launching of the XR-640 and XF-640, we now have one of the most extensive portfolios in the market, from the entry level BN-20 desktop printer and VersaCAMM SP-i and VS series through to the VersaArt™ RE-640 production workhorse and right up to the VersaUV LEC Series for high end proofing and package prototyping, 3D and layered effects and textures. But succeeding in today's highly competitive and ondemand world requires so much more than just great technology. It's also about everything that's wrapped around it, and key to that is the right levels of service and support and on-going education to ensure your company keeps abreast of trends so you can maximise your return on investment.
This has always been a central tenet of our philosophy at Roland and can be seen in our market-leading RolandCare service and support packages as well as our extensive Roland Creative Centre in Clevedon and our Roland Academy in Walsall College which is now into its seventh year of educating the industry.
For me, today's wide format market is an inspiring place to be, and it's the outstanding marriage of technology and people that have made it so. It's fast moving, innovative and forward thinking, with a level of creativity that is only limited by our own imaginations. And, healthy competition aside, we're all working towards the same goal - to get wide format to the top table of the printing and graphics industry. A quick glance outside at all the bold and vibrant signs, POS and banners and creative vehicle and building wraps that span any city would suggest we're already there.
For more information please call 0845 230 9060 or visit www.rolanddg.co.uk