Finding New Markets Feature - May/June 2013

Plotter/cutters and PolyDrop 3D doming from Graphtec GB offers wealth of opportunities

Graphtec CE6000-40 Cutter with media

Sign manufacturers are fast migrating to new markets where production machinery already installed for core manufacturing activities can be used to create vital new revenue streams. Nowhere is this more evident than in the potentially lucrative market for print wear and promotional products.

A company that is enabling sign manufacturers to open up new market opportunities is Graphtec GB with its range of plotter/cutters and the PolyDrop 3D doming system.

PolyDose Dispensor




The plotter/cutters that are already being used for mainstream sign and graphic applications can also be used to process a vast range of additional materials used in the print wear and promotional products sector.


Typically these can include materials like flex, flock, vinyl, rhinestone and fabrics used for a wide range of personalised apparel and promotional items and gifts. The machines have been designed for very fine-detail work involving text as small as three millimetres in height, making them particularly suited to the cutting of flock and flex.

Included in the range of Graphtec plotter/cutters are the flagship FC8000 for companies with higher productivity levels, the latest CE6000 that shares many of the same production capabilities but at a lower cost and the Silhouette CAMEO and Portrait desktop cutters.

Phil Kneale

All of the machines feature Graphtec's renowned ARMS (Advanced Registration Mark System) facility that ensures ultimate cutting precision on fine and frequently problematical materials used in the print wear and promotional products industry. Supporting these cutters and enabling brilliant 3D effects to be added is the PolyDrop resin doming system.

Director of Graphtec GB, Phil Kneale comments: "We are witnessing many sign companies, particularly two- and three-person operations, moving into the print wear and promotional products market on the basis that 90 per cent of the equipment installed can be used to tap into this potentially lucrative new business sector."

"Using a Graphtec plotter/cutter, an equally inexpensive heat press and the PolyDrop 3D doming system, sign companies have all that is required to maximise the potential for new business that now exists in the print wear and promotional products sector."

For further information, visit the website or telephone 01978 666700.

Find a niche and exploit it - etch effect films from Metamark

A signmaking business, or any other for that matter, would mark itself as unusual if sales growth were not on its agenda. Growth of course usually involves attracting more work and this key concern represents one of the biggest challenges which small businesses face.

Growth can come from many sources, some easier to get at than others, some attractive, some not so. One thing is for sure though, according to the materials company, Metamark, signmakers today are lacking neither the tools, nor the materials needed to exploit or develop the available opportunities.

An emerging application that produces novel window graphics is enabled by Metamark's etch effect films. These films can be cut and applied, just like coloured vinyl, and they produce a very convincing effect that looks like acid or abrasive-blasted etching when applied to glass surfaces. Metamark's etch effect films can also be printed and the effect this accomplishes is subtle, very attractive and fresh.

tulip window etching

Promoting something fresh and novel is a much easier job than trying to muscle out someone supplying a more established product.

But how to do it?

Metamark says that it is a big advocate of print-based promotions these days. Metamark has a point. The days when the letterbox opened and a torrent of so-called junk mail poured in would appear to be behind us. Today, the focus is squarely on your in-box and if something physical turns up on the doorstep, it's more likely to be read.

A simple leaflet focussed on a single application, is well within the mean of most signmakers to produce, and its printing isn't expensive even in low volume.

Distributing the leaflet could involve little more than a stroll along the high street or a drive around local industrial estates.

Follow up action may be a little more involved and could be a telephone based activity or, better yet, managed in person. Ideally, a personal visit to discuss the possible provision of next-generation window graphics would be undertaken in the company of some samples produced for the very exercise.

Metamark says that it will happily send free-of-charge samples to any company requesting them for the production of promotional material. Metamark will also supply professionally written advertising copy for the same purpose, again free-of-charge upon request.

In pioneering the application of a novel medium, much of the effort applied is missionary- like. New markets don't just spring up out of the ground, they have to be tended and developed. It's not likely that target customers will have seen the type of printed window graphics described above before, and they may need convincing that it will work for them. The rewards though, can be impressive.

Selling printed etch effect graphics into an emerging market is best approached along lines that establishes the medium as representing an improvement on what's gone before. Etch effects are popular, and well understood. The application of print though, enables the basic effect to travel and it suddenly becomes suitable for wider application in venues where it enhances ambience in a unique way.

For more information please call 01483 571111 or visit

Wall covering graphics: Getting the most from your business

In a market becoming ever more competitive, getting in early on new applications could make a huge difference to your business.

Sihl Direct has recently launched its PersoMural range of media designed to help sign-makers exploit the rising demand for wall covering graphics.

Ian Turnbull, Operations Director for Sihl Direct UK, says, "Due to the high dimensional stability and water fastness of Persomural can be hung using everyday wallpaper paste. Lining up patterns after hanging is easy and due to its dry structure it is also easy to remove after use, without any problems. Its high opacity and tight structure enables a perfect covering, even when faced with small cracks and uneven walls.

Wallcovering on display

And the scratch resistance of the PVC-free media makes mounting easy and carefree." The beauty of wall coverings as an application is that there are lots of walls that can be covered. Board rooms, residences and, possibly most interestingly, exhibition stands. Turnbull and his colleagues demonstrated the effectiveness and ease of application of Persomural at the recent Sign and Digital show.

"We printed and applied our own graphics to our stand and if i say so myself, made a pretty good fist of it. This is less expensive than having custom-built exhibition graphics and we could see several more stands with wall coverings this year."

Sihl's Persomural comes in a range of formats, allowing for different types of application. Some already have paste on them and just need water applied, others are the same as normal wallpaper and can be applied using standard paste. "I am no DIY expert, but as long as you are patient and careful, most people can apply wallpaper to a reasonable standard. We are seeing this product increase in popularity and expect this to be a massive growth area in the coming months," Turnbull concludes.

For more information please call 0161 927 9051 or visit

Diversification – A key to success

Mathew Drake

By Mat Drake, Business Manager, Commercial Print, Roland DG

If I was to sum up the prevailing mantra of the industry over the last few years it would no doubt go along the lines of 'diversify or die!'

The statement itself is dramatic and while it is not necessarily true of the whole industry - many sign makers continue to make a good living doing exactly what they do best - there has been a huge amount of discussion in the broader graphic arts industry about the best ways to seek out new markets to improve margins, revenue streams and client base.

Manufacturers of hardware, software, inks and substrates from right across the industry have responded to this positivity and worked very hard over the last decade to ensure that printing companies of all persuasions have the right technologies at hand to grow and diversify their businesses.

From my perspective, nowhere is this commitment more evident than in the wide format sector. There is no doubt we are in one of the more vibrant sectors of the industry, where innovation continues to flourish and be embraced, and as a result the opportunity to diversify and grow is ever present.

Window Graphics using white and Metallic

The short-run label and garment decoration markets are two excellent examples of where sign makers can utilise the inherent flexibility in their current print and cut machine and move into supplementary, high margin sectors, with a minimum of effort and, importantly, cost. The former requires no additional equipment and the latter just a heat press and you're ready.

Its real flexibility like this that also gives the sign maker or printer considerable opportunities for cross selling other products to the same customer and this is critical for two reasons: firstly, you increase your revenue levels per customer. And, secondly, but of equal importance: if you offer a broader range of services, then you lessen the risk of a customer going elsewhere for additional products and then being cross-sold to by your competitors. I often say to customers one of the most exciting things about wide format is you can never assume that what you could produce on the machine this time last year, is 'all' you can produce this year.

The extraordinary versatility of these machines and their openness for new opportunities means they are always effectively designed with one eye firmly on the future. We've actually got examples out there in the field of machines that are nearly a decade old, yet are printing some of the latest, most innovative and creative applications out there.

Create graphics with stand out using new white and metallic Eco-Sol Max2 ink This is because the technology is flexible enough to adapt as the industry's needs change and new inks and substrates become available.

Like hardware companies, substrate and materials manufacturers see huge possibilities for the sector's future. Working closely with companies like Roland, those in the substrate world are investing in and continually introducing new wide format products onto the market and opening up new markets and potential new channels for revenue. Importantly, this investment by both huge international companies as well as a plethora of nimble, new start-ups, means they all see a strong, positive future for this part of the industry.

And, all this has combined to create an increased demand for wide format print as print buyers increasingly see the value of these applications and realise they offer a much greater choice of innovative ways to capture their audiences' attention.

I'm out there every day as part of my role as business manager for Roland in the commercial print sector and there are an exceptional number of creative new applications coming into play every month.

Recently, I saw a sign maker printing on a new, unique adhesive-free graphics substrate that uses a micro suction structure that enables it to stick to flat surfaces without any adhesive. It's also 100% recyclable and can be easily reapplied. This is an outstanding development for those sign markers working in the POS and retail space, where seasonal and sale-based campaigns are the norm.

For all these reasons, in terms of diversification, the wide format market is an incredibly exciting place to be right now, with all those along the supply chain - from hardware and software manufacturers and substrate and ink suppliers to sign makers, printers and print buyers embracing and taking advantage of the considerable opportunities wide format offers.

And, with options like white and metallic inks and 3D textures and layered effects now readily available, as well as highly intelligent print and cut functionality, wide format printers have never been more versatile, and the options for business development more extensive.

At Roland, we're right at the forefront of this industry and have pioneered many of the technology developments the industry now sees as critical to success, such as print and cut, wide-format-specific workflow software and metallic and white inks.lec - braille and embossed text

As a result, we now have one of the widest range of printers separated by width, speed and special print effects on the market today as well as dedicated models such as our LEC series for sector-specific or highly specialised applications. In fact, to keep up with the increase in demand for wide format, we recently introduced our fastest, most versatile printers to date - the Pro 4 XF-640 printer and the Pro 4 XR- 640 printer/cutter. Both have already been very well received by the market and customers and demonstrate to us that the appetite for exciting and relevant new wide format remains on the up.

Moving forward, the prevailing mantra of the industry should be less about 'diversify or die' and focused far more on all the great applications there are out there for new business, and new business that is exciting and profitable. From literally month to month the horizon is changing, getting bigger and presenting more opportunity as new substrates, software and hardware comes onto the market. So, make a point of doing your research, and speaking to your hardware, software consumables partners to find out the latest developments. It could change the way you see wide format technology and transform your business in the process.

For more information please call 0845 230 9060 or visit

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