Andrew Hall, marketing manager of OKI Systems UK, explains how the new generation of large format graphics arts printers is opening up new opportunities for diversification and a rapid return on investment
As the markets in which they operate become more and more competitive, every commercial print provider is looking for new revenue streams and new ways to differentiate their business and stand out from the crowd.
At the same time, customers are demanding, or producing, ever more creative designs, putting pressure on the graphic communications industry to provide high quality results with maximum visual impact.
To help achieve these aims, print providers need reliable large format graphic arts printers that deliver brilliant colour, photo-quality detail and lasting, durable results on a wide range of media for both indoor and outdoor applications.
Any solution should make shorter run lengths, faster turnarounds and high output quality more profitable – and that means maintaining productivity and avoiding costly downtime – whilst also enabling providers to satisfy the ever growing range of customer-driven demands.
Inside and Out
Demand for printed material that will be displayed outdoors poses particular challenges, as sunlight, pollution and other weather conditions cause outdoor signs, banners and vehicle wraps to fade and degrade. To ensure customer satisfaction and repeat business, outdoor media and ink need to be robust enough to withstand these environmental factors.
In the past, the need for stronger, and often potent, inks meant that print providers had to have different machines for indoor and outdoor applications. In a confined indoor environment, certified low odour inks are critical and because prints will be viewed close-up, it is essential to have high resolution output and accurate print registration.
Print businesses also faced problems with colour quality. Typically, colours weren’t strong enough to be lit from the back, which ruled out many indoor applications, such as exhibition posters and displays. Nor were they dense enough for applications like wallpaper printing, especially as colour density tended to deteriorate when printing at high-speed or towards the end of a mass production campaign.
For exhibition and other work, such as building wraps, photorealistic prints were not yet possible and, as the industry had primarily focused on outdoor work in the past, neither were the fine detail and small lettering needed for indoor applications.
What can be done
In light of these challenges, is there anything print services providers can do to deliver the high-quality output increasingly required for large format graphic arts applications?
Yes there is. Recent developments in the large format printer market mean that, for a relatively affordable outlay, print shops and small and medium-sized businesses specialising in this type of printing can now significantly widen their portfolio and open up new revenue streams, leading to a fast return on their investment.
It is now possible to print indoor and outdoor orders on the same machine using low-colour, eco-solvent SX inks that provide the right print quality and UV stability for outdoor use, whilst also being low odour-certified for use in an indoor environment.
Colour quality is no longer an issue either – at least not for the most innovative of these devices, which, by combining high viscosity inks with advanced print heads, are able to maintain accurate density for vibrant colour and sharp photo quality detail.
Industrial high-frequency greyscale print heads increase the quality and reliability of the printer and print results; high ink pigmentation creates saturated prints for backlit applications; and innovative Dynamic Drop Printing (DDP) technology accentuates fine details and delivers smooth gradients and rich, glossy colours, even at high speed.
Allied to these advances is support for a wide variety of substrates, including wallpaper, fleece, canvas, textiles, whiteback, blueback, poster paper, photo paper, clear or transparent film, backlit PVC, PET, film light box paper and hard PVC.
New applications include light frames for technical textile and backlit materials; over-floor graphics; point of sale (PoS) and point of presentation (PoP); wallpaper; posters; window graphics with clear or transparent film; banners and signs; art reproductions; department store displays; exhibition displays; and many more.
Durability of output means print businesses can also explore markets for outdoor media, from customised vehicle and building wraps to banners, signs and awnings.
All business sectors have their ups and downs. Not so long ago the large format printing industry was in danger of turning into the dinosaur of the commercial print world, beset with a raft of environmental and performance challenges. Today, thanks to the latest technological advances, that’s all changed.
Armed with the latest technology innovations, large format printing businesses can face the future positively, confident in their ability to meet the demands of an increasingly competitive market and to capitalise on a growing array of profitable opportunities.