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Retail Decor from BGI Graphics

Print Directly to Rigid Material

By Kim Crowley

We print on rigid materials all day, every day,” states Kristian Carson, president, BGI Graphics, Inc. Carson bought the now 20 year old company two years ago and continues to make technological investments, especially in the field of rigid material printing.

Located in a 30,000 square foot space in Paris, ON, Canada, BGI primarily manufactures permanent interior retail signage and dŽcor systems. “This includes any of the visual components that customers see at both high and low levels within a store—the extrusions that hold all of the signage, point of purchase (POP) ticket rails, freestanding floor merchandisers, plastic fabrication for displays, and acrylic,” says Carson.

Utilizing rigid substrates cuts costs, addresses environmental concerns, and creates an aesthetically appealing product. “Most permanent signage is on rigid substrates because it looks better. There’s some dimension, which offers integrity for the panels,” he admits.

Rigid Workshop
BGI uses several large format roll-to-roll printers from Hewlett-Packard, Mimaki USA, Inc., and Mutoh America, Inc.

When Carson first purchased the company, roll-to-roll printers were used to print rigid application graphics, creating added time and material costs to a project. After printing, the graphics were mounted and then laminated to a separate rigid substrate.

“It was a no-brainer at that point,” he says. It was time to upgrade to a device for printing straight to a rigid substrate with the goal of eliminating the time consuming and often tedious mounting and laminating steps.

New flatbed equipment includes two EFI VUTEk QS3200 flatbed printers and a QS2000. “We’re now saving on labor and challenges in the field, with delaminating issues and that sort of thing,” Carson admits.

Direct to rigid printing also addresses some of BGI’s environmental initiatives.

“The equipment enables us to print to the edge of our material. So when we order from the mill, we have the material cut to size. There is no wasted energy trimming pieces out and fewer off-cuts to recycle. This is an attractive benefit,” notes Carson. Any leftover rigid material is sent back to the substrate distributor for recycling.

Rigid substrates from Alcan Composites USA Inc. make up much of the shop’s backroom. “We have a lot of success with Alcan’s Dibond product,” notes Carson. Additional products include Alucobond, Fome-Cor, Gator, Sintra, and Structa-Board.

Dibond is a rigid, durable aluminum composite material consisting of two thin, pre-painted sheets of aluminum bonded to a solid polyethylene core. The material’s unique composition makes it about half the weight of aluminum. Alcan Composites offers the material in 13 standard colors, including five metallic shades.

Home Improvement
The Home Depot Canada is a repeat customer of BGI’s. Durability is a key challenge in home improvement retail. Due to traffic and the floor-level location consumers may lean against display units, which could cause material wear. Rigid boards are excellent substrates for this type of environment.

For example, a recent laminate floor display featured pressure-sensitive flooring products with color-matched images on display panels. It allowed consumers to handle the product and learn about do-it-yourself or installation projects around the house.

Another project for The Home Depot Canada supported the Kitchen Design Center. A contractor-supplied cabinet was decorated in various image panels featuring product offerings.

The display showcased a kitchen makeover from concept, to layout, design, and purchase. It included lifestyle shots and header signs to grab the attention of consumers. Rigid substrates were essential to this project because the display material was assembled in-store.

Both the flooring and Kitchen Design Center displays were printed using the VUTEk QS3200 printer, with UV mid-solvent inserts, and cut to size on a Gerber Scientific Products, Inc. SABRE overhead router.

A typical project using the EFI VUTEk printers, Gerber Router, and Alcan material sometimes involves additional finishing steps. Graphics are beam sawed, trimmed out with various extrusions or wall hanging systems, and are cold- or heat-bent.

Beauty of a Display
Another BGI customer, Simmons Bedding Company Canada, needed a display fixture to highlight the unique features of its Beautyrest Black luxury mattress. The company sought a more cost-effective solution than importing fixtures from its U.S. parent company, which is based in Atlanta, GA.

BGI’s original design utilized wood and matte metal components. A second prototype used Alcan Dibond Brushed Silver in about 95 percent of the four-foot tall unit. Graphics were directly printed onto Dibond using the VUTEk QS3200 and QS2000 printers. The Dibond was then machine-shaped with the SABRE router and cold formed in assembly.

Using Dibond instead of wood and metal resulted in reduced weight—from 78 to 24 pounds—as well as reduced material, shipping, and manufacturing costs. “The Dibond created a valued solution in the areas of fabrication, cosmetics, weight, and cost,” explains Carson. “At the end of the day, we proposed a nicer unit with a lower cost in all areas, while still being eco-conscious.”

“The new Dibond unit weighs less than the original prototype, which is an important factor in shipping fixtures to retail stores located through out Canada,” comments Paul Bognar, president, Simmons Canada.

Shop Challenges
Even with additional flatbed printers, BGI still faces some challenges when working with rigid substrates. “We can’t find large enough sheet sizes, so we spline sheets together and book match them,” explains Carson. Book matching is corresponding the grains or graphics of two boards and then seaming the components together.

Many rigid substrates are available in up to five- by ten-foot sheets. Much of the graphic work that BGI does is eight- by 20, 24, or 32 feet. Careful book matching and seaming is required to produce output in these sizes. With some applications, the company overcomes this challenge by utilizing roll-printed fabric and a banner frame system.

Overall Carson believes flatbed technology has come a long way. “We are now at an advanced state as far as digitally printing on rigid substrates goes. Before there were challenges to printing on materials like acrylics. Equipment vendors have overcome this with new inks and more,” he adds.

According to Carson speed is the next advancement in the flatbed segment.

BIG Moves for BGI
Investments in flatbed technology allow BGI to make big moves towards future success. Forward thinking changes like these ease retail dŽcor production, and ultimately allow the company to take on more work.

“We continue to meet the challenges of our clients through innovative solutions that set a new, high-quality standard for retail signage,” says John Kennedy, operations manager, BGI Graphics.

Using direct flatbed printing for the majority of their projects streamlines workflow, reducing labor time, and increases production. It minimizes cost of materials and allows BGI to offer a product that is lightweight, attractive, durable, and environmentally friendly.

Nov2009, Digital Output

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