Bloomingdale Signs By Tomorrow of IL got its start as modest, family-run vinyl sign shop. What began with one computer; three employees—husband, wife, and son; and a 15-inch Gerber Scientific Products, Inc. plotter has, through the digital revolution, transformed into a printing powerhouse.
"We jumped onto the digital bandwagon earlier than most and started growing," says Gary C. Schellerer Jr., VP, operations and the son of company’s founder.
Today, the 35 employee company spans two facilities boasting 25,000 square feet of space with twelve production digital printers including two Océ Arizona 600s, two Hewlett-Packard (HP) Designjet 5500s, two HP Designjet 9000s, a NUR Fresco, the HP Scitex XL1500, and an HP Scitex FB6100 printer. In addition to its print capabilities, the firm recently purchased a MultiCam, Inc. router with the MultiVision Digital Registration System to augment is finishing department, which also includes three laminators, heat welding, sewing, and vinyl cutting.
This line up came in handy for a recent job on behalf of a major tennis tournament held at the HP Pavilion in San Jose, CA. The mandate included a blend of traditional signage plus a variety of creative and innovative displays, shares Schellerer.
To make things more interesting the artwork came in much later than expected and very close to the date when the graphics were to be delivered. A total of 5,000 square feet worth of graphics were produced, shipped, and installed in just four days. These kinds of time frames are "extremely typical," says Schellerer. "The graphic suppliers are the last link in the chain to get the job done. Any delay along the chain usually ends up in our lap."
The company went into 24/7 mode to meet the deadline. Schellerer worked with the creative team behind the stadium signage in the past so the files were to specification. "Having a design team that works with all the major platforms gives us the ability to make changes to files very quickly. If we had to constantly go back to the agency, it would put us way behind," he explains.
What was notable about the project besides its sheer volume was the variety. Among the more unique applications were a series of stair risers, column wraps, and what he dubbed Toblerone kiosks—self standing, triangular displays nicknamed for the Swiss chocolate candy they resembled. The kiosks displayed branding and directional information and were printed on half-inch PVC and routed into shape with the graphic bleeding so that it could be wrapped without exposing the edges.
Advertisers try to find every place possible to put branding, says Schellerer, "and the more unique the location, the more likely it is to draw attention."
The stair risers were printed with the HP Scitex XL1500 on Avery Transit film. "We loaded up three, five foot rolls and the file came in as a single page. We used ONYX PosterShop to do the tiling and to preview how the risers would print."
The risers were laminated with a floor graphic pebble texture laminate and hand-cut into strips, and then labeled so the installers could properly place them on-site. The project also involved "turning tables into tennis balls" by routing out circular vinyl pieces with the company’s Graphtec America, Inc. FS5100 60-inch plotter.
A team of six 3M/UASG-certified installers flew to San Jose, CA to complete the installation. Complicated installations are more difficult when working off of third party measurements and site surveys, this proved no exception. "A few of the measurements we were given were off." Working around the clock, Schellerer’s team reproduced several of the displays and flew them out to CA, where the designers met them at the plane.
According to Schellerer, "It’s part of our responsibility as print service providers to make our customers aware of the industry’s new ideas and some of the new and creative ways they can place graphics. When we have something introduced to us we take it to our customers."
Aside from the bragging rights, pushing the boundaries is also a business driver. "Anything that’s different gains more attention. Our ability to introduce those ideas to creative professionals puts us in the spotlight." It also makes work more enjoyable. "We’re creative people. We enjoy doing something different every day and we enjoy the trial and error of new applications."
Look for a full feature article on innovative grand format in the September print issue of Digital Output.
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