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Unforgettable Graphics

Grand Format Application Profiles

By Melissa Donovan

Print service providers looking to increase output with productive printers need to look no further. Faster, cheaper, and better grand format devices, which Digital Output considers 95 inches or wider, create new opportunities for sign shops.

“Inkjet technology is still young but growing,” says Patti Williams, analyst, I.T. Strategies. “It continues to increase a print shop’s productivity, which in turn effects return on investment. Back in the day when printers were only 36 inches wide, it took hours to generate a final print. Over the last 20 years, this technology has gotten faster and wider.”

Advancements in speed and physical dimension allow grand format inkjet printers to target the mainstream screenprinting market. “Previously digital prints were complementary to screenprints, not a replacement. With these new developments, digital printers are able to target high-volume applications as well,” explains Williams.

“Most customers choose grand format graphics as a way to create a high-impact, unforgettable environment for the customer,” agrees Charlie Rueb, division manager, Rainier Displays. “At one time, grand format focused on selling individual products. Today it seems that it is used to enforce an entire company’s brand,” he concludes.

The Old Red, White, and Blue
Bob and Kay Protesto founded Pro Sign Company in 1947 under the name Upper Darby Sign Company, in Upper Darby, PA. The shop grew steadily, and by the 1970s expanded its market to encompass all of the Delaware Valley. In the 1990s their four sons, Bob, Jack, Vince, and Ed took over the business and renamed it Pro Sign Company. By 1997, the brothers outgrew the Upper Darby shop and planted new roots in nearby Downingtown, PA.

In 2007, the brothers once again outgrew the facility and expanded its footprint to 80,000 square feet on 13 acres in Downingtown. Servicing both the East and West Coast, Pro Sign is one of the largest petroleum-specific sign manufacturers on the East Coast. In addition to creating petroleum signage, the shop also offers window, door, and floor graphics; vehicle wraps; canopy and dispenser graphics; banners; interior signage; awnings; building bands; pylon and monument signs; channel letters; and custom signage.

Recently, the shop added two EFI VUTEk superwide printers to its impressive equipment line up. These printers are the QS3200 and QS2000, both of which utilize 3M Graphics Market Center UV inks. The decision to buy the printers was easy. “They feature the ability to change between rigid and flexible substrates in under a minute,” shares Jack Protesto, president, Pro Sign.

65 percent of Pro Sign’s business involves digitally printed products, and about 15 percent of that includes grand format. The company recently created a grand format graphic for Evonik Degussa Corporation in Chester, PA.

A global market leader in specialty chemicals, Evonik Degussa approached Pro Sign’s sister company, Pro Crane, to work in conjunction with the sign company to produce two American flags to display on their 100-foot tall water tower. Evonik Degussa’s goal, explains Amber L. Huffman, sales and marketing manager, Pro Sign, “was to celebrate their presence in the U.S., as well as honor the American spirit by displaying ‘Old Glory.’”

Pro Sign ran each 12-foot, six-inch high by 20-foot wide American flag through the VUTEk QS3200 because of its high quality and low emissions. 3M UV inks were used in the final project. The flag was printed on 3M Controltac Vinyl with Comply Adhesive. This specific 3M media was chosen for its excellent durability against the Northeast’s extreme temperatures and because of a pressure-activated adhesive, no challenges arose during installation. For finishing purposes, Pro Sign chose 3M Scotchcal Luster Overlaminate to provide both extra protection from the elements and to help minimize any glare that could distort the red, white, and blue colors of the flags.

Using a 3M certified printer in conjunction with 3M inks and media benefited both Pro Sign and Evonik Degussa.

“By digitally printing the flags on a 3M approved printer with 3M media and inks, Pro Sign’s finished application was protected under one of the most comprehensive warranties available on the market today,” explains Huffman.

The final outcome was pleasing for both the customer and sign shop. “This project is one that we would do time and time again. It gave our company great visibility, and was a true testament to our larger than life capabilities,” adds Huffman.

For the Fishes
John Rhodes, president, Colorchrome Atlanta, is no stranger to the graphic arts market. After high school he worked at a professional color lab that printed wedding and portrait photographs. During breaks from college, he returned to the same color lab to offer his services. After graduating from the University of Georgia, Rhodes worked at a large commercial photo lab for three years. In 1983 he founded Colorchrome Atlanta, based in Atlanta, GA.

“When I first started the business it was me, one 24-inch photo processor, and two enlargers. We’ve grown slowly over the years and now have approximately 20,000 square feet of operating space with 30 employees. We produce graphics for a wide variety of clients including retail, trade show, exhibit, dŽcor, food and beverage, and corporate,” shares Rhodes.

Rhodes did not join the grand format movement right away. According to him, the initial image quality of grand format devices was not up to par. Several years later Rhodes considered the image quality up to Colorchrome’s standard and purchased his first ten-foot wide printer.

Today 15 percent of the shop’s output is grand format. Most is printed on an Hewlett-Packard (HP) Scitex XL1500. The 16.4-foot machine prints on both vinyl and fabric using solvent and dye-sublimation inks, respectively.

ABC’s Extreme Makeover: Home Edition uses wallpaper printed by Colorchrome on the HP Scitex XL1500. “Designers create a theme for a room, where the walls will be covered in graphics of some type. They send the files to us and we lay them out to fit the walls and then print hundreds of square feet of wallpaper in just a day or two. A few weeks later we get to see the finished product on TV,” explains Rhodes.

Colorchrome also works with The Georgia Aquarium on a regular basis. Promotional and decorative self-adhesive graphics are created for the aquarium’s exterior surfaces. Retractable, two-sided banners are used for sidewalks surrounding the outside of the building.

Recently, Colorchrome printed several thousand square feet of custom designed wallpaper for walls located on the outside of a theater on the second floor of the aquarium. The space is used for patrons waiting to view the theater’s various cinematic attractions.

Because aquarium spectators would view it very closely, the wallpaper was printed on the HP Scitex XL1500 in eight-color at high resolution. “We were able to achieve and maintain great color consistency with the HP printer,” says Rhodes.

From creation to installation the project took only a few weeks, with little to no challenges. “We produce a lot of this type of large graphic, so I guess we learn to identify issues before they become problems,” admits Rhodes.

School Pride
Seattle, WA-based Rainier Displays is an international manufacturer of fabric and display products. The company serves the sport, retail, commercial, industrial, and exhibit industries. Back in 1997, Rainier purchased its first printer, a 3M Scotchprinter. Today 90 percent of the shop’s work is considered large format. A range of large format printers including EFI VUTEks, HPs, and Durst Image Technology US LLC’s Durst Rho 351R, Rho 800 Presto, and Rho 320R printers help get jobs done.

Rainier is synonymous with academic establishment and athletic stadium grand format graphics. “With over 1,000,000 square feet of graphic applications currently in place in over 50 universities and sport complexes in the country, Rainier continues to be a proven leader in well designed and engineered stadium graphics,” explains Rueb.

Indiana University, located in Bloomington, IN is one of those academic establishments. In June 2008, Rainier was contacted to meet with university heads and discuss design options for Memorial Stadium. The stadium is best known for housing the Indiana University Hoosier football team.

Rainier’s design concept centered on the school’s history and slogan “Defend the Rock.” After a design and bid process, the Rainier team took four weeks—from production to installation—to deliver the university a finished product.

Over 18,000 square feet of material was printed using the Durst Rho 351R on Arlon, Inc.’s DPF 8000 vinyl with cast laminate. The Durst Rho 351R was used to print the graphics because of its speed, quality, and consistency. According to Rueb, the only challenge Rainier encountered during this project was time. “We had to completely design a concept starting from sketches on a napkin and then manufacture by a very difficult installation due date,” he explains.

Currently, signs depicting legendary Hoosiers such as Antwaan Randle El, Anthony Thompson, and George Taliaferro are on display, hanging on high levels facing the stadium parking lot. Inside, the stadium walls are decorated with graphics that commemorate the university’s many bowl appearances; honor Terry Hoeppner—head coach of the Hoosiers from 2005 to 2006, who died from brain cancer in 2007; and tout the slogan “Defend the Rock.”

Get Noticed
Grand format output is one of the most noticeable types of signage a print shop can produce. Not only does size factor into these eye-popping graphics, but image quality as well—which is not compromised despite the fact that a 95-inch print is generally viewed from a far distance.

Location is key when it comes to grand format. Notable areas to display include sporting venues, large buildings, or tall water tanks. “Customers like grand format output when they have the place to display it. In many cases the bigger the image is the more it will be seen and the more attention it will get. Big images are great on the sides of buildings, in malls, or at outdoor venues,” concludes Colorchrome’s Rhodes.

Captivating graphics are not to be forgotten. The unique grand format output discussed here is certainly memorable. Sign shops can utilize grand format graphics to their advantage. This type of printed output attracts potential customers not only to the advertised product, but to the print provider as well.

Mar2009, Digital Output

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