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Digital Dresses the Dorm

A Campus In-Plant Addresses the Needs of its Student Population

By Kim Crowley

In most colleges and universities, students are not allowed to paint, drill, or puncture dorm walls. Tape and sticky putty are commonly used to mount posters, signs, and pictures. The University of New Hampshire (UNH) Printing & Mailing Services harnesses the power of digital printing and specialized wallpaper to allow students to jazz up dorm rooms without damaging the walls.


New Technology and Capability

UNH Printing & Mailing Services, located in Durham, NH, offers custom wallpaper for dorm room decoration with the addition of a 60-inch Hewlett-Packard (HP) Designjet L25500 printer and HP PVC-free Wall Paper.


The thermal inkjet printer uses HP’s proprietary, water-based latex ink, which produces odorless prints that emit low levels of volatile organic compounds, requiring no ventilation. It prints graphics for indoor and outdoor use and handles media up to 19.7-mil thick.


Initially, Paul Roberts, director, UNH Printing & Mailing Services, was attracted to the printer because of its eco-friendliness. “UNH has a strong commitment to sustainability,” he says.


Julie Pardus-Oakes, manager of prepress and copy operations, UNH Printing & Mailing Services, adds that sustainability is also important to customers. “They feel better about using latex inks and partially recycled paper. Plus HP offers a recycling program where they take back used ink cartridges and vinyl banners,” she explains.


The HP Designjet L25500 was purchased for a specific purpose. UNH annually holds an undergraduate research conference, which requires the in-plant to print hundreds of posters. “Our other wide format printers can’t keep up with larger file sizes, especially in a short amount of time. We wanted to increase the amount of processed posters and make the prices more attractive,” shares Pardus-Oakes.


Roberts says the speed of the printer is important. “It’s probably six times faster than what we were doing. With the research conference, everybody comes in at the last minute, they’re late and in a panic. That’s why we’re here—to help them through it,” he states.


The HP Designjet L25500 offers new services, allowing the print provider to expand into vinyl banners—something seen at universities across the country.


Since installation, the latex printer is used on a daily basis. Vinyl banner orders, projects with grommets, posters mounted on foamcore, perforated vinyl, and banners in retractable stands are all created. “We try not to refer to the HP Designjet L25500 as a poster printer because it can do so much more,” explains Roberts.


With the introduction of HP PVC-free Wall Paper, UNH Printing & Mailing Services now has a way to engage students on campus. The pre-pasted PVC-free wallpaper meets commercial wallcovering standards, is flame retardant, and odor free. In a matte finish, the wallpaper is 7-mil thick with 165 g/m2 weight, and it comes in 54-inch by 100-foot rolls.


“We were looking for ways to connect with the students other than just printing course packs once a semester. They don’t normally have a real need for our services; we mostly service the departments,” adds Roberts.


Spreading the Word

Roberts notes that once the printing staff knew how to use the new printer and work with the wallpaper they were ready to offer it to students. However, there was one catch, the in-plant does not have its own marketing staff or budget.


UNH Printing & Mailing Services enlisted senior marketing students at the university’s business school to help promote the wallpaper to the undergraduate student population. The seniors’ graded project for the semester is to come up with a campaign for selling the custom printed wallpaper.


At press time, this project was in full stride. “We hold periodic meetings with the students, focus groups, and we printed some of their photos on the wallpaper so they could show friends,” says Pardus-Oakes.


The students have planned a few events in the student union where samples are available. “We need to get out there and let people know that we have it,” she continues. “Looking ahead to next year, we’ll be at freshmen orientation and promote to new students at the very beginning of the school year.”


Working directly with the student body helps the printing team connect with their target audience. “We spoke to a developer of the HP wallpaper product. He is working on putting together a downloadable library of images. He was in the same boat; he wasn’t really sure what the college kids want. This gives us a chance to hear students’ input,” explains Roberts.

Selling the School

When the print and mail services department decided to purchase the latex printer, they approached the director of housing, and were given permission to perform a test of the wallpaper application in one of the dorms. They chose one that was particularly troublesome as far as the walls were concerned, with paint chips and holes on both cinderblock and sheetrock walls.


Roberts says the test project was left up in the apartment for two weeks. When it was initially removed some glue residue remained. “It was sponged off and you couldn’t tell that the wallpaper had ever been there,” he adds.


“What was really telling is right next to where the wallpaper was, there was a place where tape had pulled paint off and pin holes from previous tenants. It made a pretty clear statement that this was going to be a better product, in terms of patching up walls in between semesters,” continues Roberts.


One of the first wallpaper projects done by UNH’s in-plant was in a student apartment, featuring vacation photos and images of friends. The project consisted of a 24x36-inch wallpaper piece and several smaller prints. The students were particularly interested in being able to decorate the room with photos of themselves and their friends.


Pardus-Oakes says that the students were pretty savvy and the installation easy. Application consists of dipping the HP PVC-free Wall Paper in water and then applying to a wall. After witnessing the process in action, the in-plant has plans to equip students with buckets and squeegees to assist in installation. Students will be able to borrow them from the copy center with an ID.


Going Up

UNH Printing & Mailing Services is successfully implementing the HP wallpaper product with the help of the entire school. Utilizing all of the resources available to them—from the student body to actual marketing majors—is an excellent way to ensure this new offering takes off. The HP Designjet L25500 allows the in-plant to fulfill their goal of providing eco-friendly products, diversifying their offerings, and achieving higher revenue.


“It is a really interesting and unique thing for the students to have in their apartments or dorms. Once they hear about it, we feel word will spread quickly. Next year will be really telling once we speak with freshmen,” explains Pardus-Oakes.


One of the more ideal advantages of the HP PVC-free Wall Paper media is that it will always be in demand. Every year students need to take posters and pictures off their walls to prepare for incoming freshmen, this cyclical cycle ensures success. Any incoming student looks to personalize their living space. This unique application is a wall-friendly way to do so.

Jan2011, Digital Output

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