EFI’s hybrid wide format printers give print centres the flexibility to bring more jobs in-house and develop new service offerings
Enterprise print centres face many of the same challenges as commercial print service providers (PSPs), including the need to diversify their print offering and provide value for money.
Pressure on managers to run in-house print rooms on a more commercial basis raises many questions: Are there new services that I could realistically offer internal print customers? Are there jobs I currently outsource that I can bring in-house? Are there opportunities to extend my services to customers outside the business? What investment do I need to compete with outside providers? What impact will my choices have on broader corporate commitments to cut costs or reduce carbon emissions?
These are the sorts of questions that PSPs have grappled with for years. For many, the answer has been to diversify into wide-format printing, such as billboards, signage, posters, banners, wallpaper and window film.
More than half the 1,200 print professionals surveyed by Infotrends for the 2015 FESPA Print Census expressed an interest in buying digital wide format printing equipment. Of these, almost one in two (45%) said the investment would enable them to enter new markets with new services.
There are many wide format printing technologies to choose from, but the most popular, according to the FESPA Print Census, is UV printing. It was the technology of choice for 27% of respondents, ahead of textile printers (21%), solvent printers (17%), eco solvent printers (16%) and latex printers (14%).
The fastest growing segment of the overall UV printing market is UV inkjet printing. In its report The Future of UV Inkjet Printing to 2018, Smiths PIRA states that the market for UV inkjet-printed products increased from $3.9 billion in 2007 to $6.7 billion in 2012, and is set to grow even more strongly to $15.9 billion by 2018.
The distinct qualities of UV inkjet, notably durable, weatherproof, lightfast output, have made it particularly suitable for outdoor advertising, and this will remain the dominant application. However, as the market expands and new applications are developed, Smiths PIRA expects advertising’s share of the total volume to decline.
LED ‘cool cure’
EFI is a major player in the UV inkjet market. It provides a wide range of UV inkjet printers based on LED ‘cool cure’ technology, and has so far installed more than 500 units worldwide.
One of the big benefits of UV inkjet is that it virtually eliminates VOC emissions by rapidly fixing ink before evaporation can occur. This creates a more comfortable working environment for employees and removes the need to set up printers in specially ventilated areas.
Traditionally, UV curing has been achieved through the use of mercury vapour lamps. EFI UV wide format printers use energy-efficient LED lamps instead.
Cool cure LED technology has a number of advantages over mercury lamps. These include:
Significantly lower power consumption. According to analysis by FOGRA, LED technology offers an energy saving of 82%, compared to mercury-based alternatives. This lowers running costs (as well as CO2 emissions), helping to offset the higher purchase price of UV LED printers;
A maximum temperature of 40°C, which enables a wider choice of heat-sensitive materials to be used; and
Less environmental impact than mercury lamps. This is an important consideration for customers in the European Union, where plans next year to ban mercury from lighting could impact printers that use mercury lamps for curing.
In addition to its VUTEK range, EFI provides mid-level wide format printers that are more suitable for print centres and PSPs that are still finding their feet in a new market and have limited print volumes.
The EFI H1625 (see panel) is an increasingly popular option for PSPs aiming to develop new opportunities in wide format digital printing. It also suits corporate/public sector print centres that want to bring outsourced work back in-house and expand or commercialise their own service offering.
A big attraction is its support for both roll-to-roll and flatbed printing. The flexibility to print on rigid and flexible substrates expands the range of services that can be offered and enables print providers to profit from non-core applications.
Fast and flexible
When Evolution Graphique made the move to wide-format digital printing, co-owner Jérôme Eytier wanted a printer that gave him the option of switching to rigid media, even though, at the time, this represented only a small portion of his business.
After running tests on several machines, he selected an EFI H1625 LED. “We were interested in classic UV curing at first, but LED was a great surprise. It is very fast, which allows almost immediate finishing or packaging, and because it doesn’t heat up, it doesn’t distort the media,” he said.
It is still early days, but Eytier is excited by the possibilities: “We wanted a hybrid machine from the start, even if our needs were initially geared more towards flexible media. Six months later, we’ve begun to evolve. If a client comes in for a poster and sees plexi, PVC and forex panels, beautiful white prints on a black background, printed mirrors or glass plates with a laminated adhesive, for example, then he will get ideas from that,” he explained.
Walding Printers in Linz, Austria is moving into wide-format printing, as part of a strategy to transform itself into a one-stop-shop.
For general manager Josef Rechberger, media flexibility was the key requirement. “As a small business, we cannot assert ourselves on the market through sheer volume; we need to deliver custom solutions. The UV technology of the EFI H1625 with LED curing is the key to being able to print on virtually all media,” he said.
This flexibility enables Rechberger to produce a wide range of personalised output, from posters and banners to interior design elements, such as custom wallpaper, kitchen backsplashes and doors – in run lengths of just one, if required. “Exploiting all the possibilities is now up to our own creativity and that of our customers,” he said.
The possibilities that the EFI H1625 opens up for small PSPs are equally valid for corporate print centres. Quick, on-demand production of banners, advertisements and exhibition collateral might be the primary application of the printer – and essential for cost justification – but as print centres develop a stronger commercial sense, diversification will be key.
Print centres that seek to market their services beyond their existing internal customer base might find that they, too, benefit from the flexibility provided by a cool cure LED wide format printer with the option of roll-to-roll and flatbed printing. According to the FESPA Print Census, rigid materials already make up a quarter of respondents’ wide format output.
Whether you plan to use it to bring outsourced work back in house or to develop brand new applications, the EFI H1625 is worth a closer look.
EFI H1625 At a Glance
- Entry-level to mid-level wide format printer
- LED ‘cool cure’ inkjet technology
- Hybrid roll-to-roll & flatbed printing
- Fast change-over from rigid to roll-fed materials
- Wide range of media supported thanks to top temperature of 40 °C
- Prints direct onto boards up to 3m in length
- Four colour inks (CMYK) and two white channels as standard
- Resolution of up to 1200 x 600dpi
- Eight levels of variable drop greyscale for high quality gradients and solid colours
- Variable print speed, from 7.4 m 2/hour in UltraQuality Mode (1200 x 600dpi) to 42 m 2/hour in Express Mode (300 x 300dpi)
- Supplied with EFI Fiery XF Digital Front End (DFE) for fast, accurate job processing