Large format hardware creates a variety of opportunities for photo labs. The option of creating extra large photos is a sell point, but the ability to print on a wide range of substrates is also enticing to the everyday consumer.
"It’s amazing what labs are printing on these days—glass, doors, fabric—and they’re highly durable prints that can handle abuse from people and weather," states Michael White, sales manager, Agfa.
One trend in large format printing is printing directly to certain substrates with near-continuous tone products while maintaining the quality found in traditional photo lab equipment. "Traditionally, there’s a lot of extra labor associated with getting the images onto different kinds of substrates, whether they’re rigid or roll," shares Tom Giglio, national sales support manager, Océ North America.
"In retail, substrates used in this situation range from media such as .060-inch thick polystyrene to 2-, 3-, and 4-mil PVC. Those are the two main types of point of purchase (POP) signage followed closely by a third, which is printing second surface to clear acrylic."
"An Océ division makes substrates for roll goods," Giglio continues, "but as far as rigid substrates go, one company we use is Alcan Composites USA, which makes everything from foamcore to PVC to outdoor signage board. Elmer’s Products, Inc. recently entered the market. They bought the art company, Bienfang, who manufactures matte boards. Elmer’s reinvented its product for wide format," notes Giglio.
"Satin photo paper continues to be one of Hewlett-Packard’s (HP) best sellers. But I’m seeing a trend toward a variety of both high and low end papers. We have photo paper called HP Everyday, which offers slightly lower performance with a much better price point. That type of paper really took off. I was actually quite surprised," admits Ben Wolf, creative segment market manager, HP.
"On the flip side, I see huge diversity in cotton rag and fine art papers, and a great deal of experimentation on the higher end. Whether it’s an increase in the adoption of specialty papers or people looking for new outlets, I'm not entirely sure yet," admits Wolf, who is often asked whether a particular paper will work in a HP printer. "Our general recommendation is, ‘If it fits, try it out.’"
Unique advertising—whether it’s for business or to publicize a local bake sale—can be spiced up thanks to large format. Your local photo lab probably offers these enticing substrate options.
Next week, end users discuss their experiences with photo lab equipment.